The Best of Book Club
A list of the most impactful books I’ve read over the last year-ish
“It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” — Epictetus
For the past few years I’ve kept an evolving list of books I had been reading, had finished or would (hopefully) get to soon.
Here is a brief summary of the most recommendable books from the list:
Managing Humans, Michael Lopp
Managing Humans is a management book from the refreshing perspective of an engineer. Lopp (rands) shares personal stories about learning to engage with and manage different types of humans, with insights you can apply asap.
Lopp addresses the problem of throwing employees who are not trained (nor want) to manage people into the business of people management, and proposes two separate paths for engineers to take; managing code, or people. The takeaway being that Management isn’t the only way to grow in your career. Alastair Simpson covered this in his talk at the O’Rielly UX Conference as he helped establish two parallel tracks for designers at Atlassian, insisting that career growth as a designer doesn’t always have to mean a move to management.
The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman
I don’t know why it took me this long to finally read this book. I have more highlights and notes in this book than any other.
At it’s simplest level, the book focusses on practicing Human-Centered Design (HCD) by ensuring that products fulfill actual human needs while being understandable and usable.
- Design for human error and provide meaningful structures
- Mental models represent the user’s understanding of how things work, are inferred from the device, ui and perceived structures (signifiers, affordances, constraints and mappings), and help them predict the effects of and interaction.
- Solve the correct problem
The Four Hour Body & The Four Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss
Specifically in the Four Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss outlines a framework for meta-learning that you can apply to any skill you want to learn. He provides a framework for breaking down skills into the minimal learnable units and developing systems for effective learning.
Here are my key takeaways from the two frameworks, DiSSS and CaFE
- Deconstruction: Break the skill down into the smallest learnable pieces
- Selection: Find the minimum effective dose (MED) or ~20% of the pieces that will deliver the biggest result for the least amount of time spent. (Similar to the MED Tim outlines when weightlifting, where you want to spend the minimum amount of time under tension that will deliver the strongest results before encountering diminishing returns).
- Compression: Fit the entire skill onto one page, requiring elimination of options and relentless prioritization
- Encoding: Developing systems and using mnemonics to remember key information
Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky
Written by Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and the 99u, this is a book written for creatives to adopt a bias towards action. This was the precursor for the Action Method, a system for task management including, the digital platform , now defunct, and the paper version which I still use daily.
Key Takeaway: Having ideas is easy. Taking action on them is what matters.
The One Thing, Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
The book is based around the question; “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Balance is overrated; Success and growth happen in the extremes
- Focus on and complete the single most important task that you can do today to achieve results
- Applying Pareto’s Principle, or 80/20 (similar to the MED in the Four Hour Chef & Four Hour Body) to your work, where you focus on the smallest percentage of activities/tasks that deliver the largest percentage of results
- Utilizing goal setting, time blocking and practicing discipline to create habits
Sprint, Jake Knapp
The famous GV Sprint! Jake Knapp outlines the 5 day GV Sprint process for rapidly prototyping and testing ideas, and creating short feedback loops to continually iterate on solutions before spending time in development.
No matter what size your team is, you can apply the framework from Sprint to quickly generate and validate solutions for any size problem.