The books I read in 2017 perfectly illustrate where my head was at last year. They're a sign of what my learning priorities were, and what inspired me. In this retrospective article I'm not going to give a review any of these books, but rather I'm going to talk about the effect they have had on my habits, skills, outlook and attitude.
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying - Find it on Amazon
Having read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying towards the end of 2016 I was already well aware of Marie Kondo. The difference between the two books, for me, was that the first offered more of a story about what led Marie Kondo to create her tidying method, whereas the latter illustrated guide was more practically orientated.
I have never got rid of as much of my stuff as I did after reading both books, and I don't regret giving anything away. The most remarkable habit that this book has left me with is how I fold my clothes. I now seem to be more meticulous about how I put my clothes away, and there is more ritual than chore about this traditionally mundane activity. I really enjoy the sense of mastery I feel around organising my things. For context, I share a limited clothes space with my partner, and these methods have allowed us to stay worry free when it comes to storage space.
Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley & David Kelley
Unleashing the creative potential within us all - Find it on Amazon
Over the last few years I have developed a bit of a fanboy affliction for IDEO, a global design organisation that was founded by one of the book's authors, David Kelley. Having first heard about this book at an event about getting into UX design, I read this book to help me get out of the creative malaise I felt myself slipping into at the time.
This book really helped me feel brave about the career choices I made last year. It was a catalyst for my switch from product management to UX design. The anecdotes it offers are inspiring and the activities are really fun and helpful. In particular, the mind mapping activity allowed me to get a much clearer picture of what I wanted from my career. Despite the fact I made quite an effort to become a product manager, this mind map made it clear to me that I really wanted to be a designer - and so I went about making that change to my life.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
A fable about revolution and it's inevitable failure - Find it on Amazon
As someone who designs technological products, George Orwell's 1984 had a profound effect on me. In part, I feel it serves as a warning for how misuse of technology, particularly with regard to self-surveliance, could backfire on us.
The rise and fall of the Soviet Union wasn't something I studied at school, but Animal Farm drew me into the difficulties of that era. It is a great story that helped me understand a complex and at times toxic political situation. There are always going to be people around that are more knowledgable when it comes to history and politics, but George Orwell's writing still inspires me to be more aware of the political and technological world around us.
The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
A Handbook for Living - Find it on Amazon
This book has given me enormous comfort during some turbulent times. The ideas around compassion and kindness to the people around you, love for yourself and for the world around us may seem fluffy, but this is a book that continues to teach me.
I've read this book twice now, and both times it has offered me perspective when I needed it. It reminded me about the importance of trust and care (for those around you as well as yourself).
Since I first read it in 2011, this book has helped me to lay some solid foundations in my life that have helped me get to where I am now. By reminding myself of those ideas, with the added context of some more life experience, I hope will help me take my ambitions further forward.
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich - Find it on Amazon
I initially heard of Tim Ferris when attending a course on Product Management, and for a good while wondered what the fuss was about. It wasn't until I stumbled on a YouTube video about evening routines that I suddenly became fascinated with his process and how he thinks.
This is probably the first business book that I truly studied, notes and everything. The lure of the new-rich lifestyle is extremely tempting to me, and I wanted to understand more on how Tim managed to separate himself from his day-to-day business to being travelling around the world non-stop for 15 months while maintaining his income. Tim's structure of Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation will help me one day, first I just need to start working on that passive income idea...
The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma
A Spiritual Fable about Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny - Find it on Amazon
There are some books that act as anchors for me, so that when life seems to get a bit overwhelming, they act as a way to bring me back and get some perspective. This book is one of those for me.
This fable is essential for anyone that is into self-improvement and self-mastery. When I was trying to make another career change last year, and the process was tiring and my future seems ill-defined, this book helped me think of the structure I wanted to live my life by. I hope it helps you as much as it has me.
The User Experience Team of One by Leah Buley
A Research and Design Survival Guide - Find it on Amazon
Of all the books I read in 2017, this was probably the most important. I was working in a product team as the only design voice in the room, while simultaneously trying transition into UX design. This book helped me develop a structure to my work, helped me feel like less like an intruder and create a toolkit that I now take to clients.
In fact, I would go as far to say that this book was my BIBLE - without getting to sentimental, it has had a big impact on my life. I studied this book front to back and it helps me to continually deliver high-quality design work to my clients. After i finished the book I thanked Leah Buley on Twitter - and she replied 😉
Published by: Stephan Metcalfe in Blog Article