My Top-5 List

of my Top-5 Lists of 2014

The books, movies, TV series, podcasts & apps I liked the most this year.

I. Books

The books I usually enjoy to read, make me re-think about topics I believed I knew all about from a very different, enlightening or unexpected point of view. And these are the ones I enjoyed the most this year.

Published in 2011.

1. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal

“No mom, I'm not wasting my time playing videogames. I’m just acquiring the skills to start a revolution”! Well, personally I'm not a serious gamer, but I think McGonigal passionate and deeply optimistic writing helped me discover the bright side of gaming. And I liked it!

Published in 2013.

2. Who Owns the Future?, by Jaron Lanier

Are free (or freemium) products & services that spy on you, collect huge amounts of your personal data and then sell them to advertisers the only viable business model on the internet for the 21st century? Lanier argues against this prevalent assumption and although his alternative proposal didn't quite convince me, I was surprised by the density of insightful descriptions and great ideas that this book contains. Truly a must read for anyone like me who dreams a different, more human-centered capitalism.

Published in 2014.

3. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

An inspiring and thought-provoking book you should read with a critical mind, but read nonetheless, especially if you are (or planning to be) an entrepreneur. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb said about the book: “When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe, three times. This is a classic.”

Published in 2014.

4. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Will robots take our jobs in the future? That is the question my friend! And in my opinion this book had masterfully laid down the ground rules for the great debate of the upcoming decades.

First published in 1993.

5. Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes In The Age Of The Machine, by Donald A. Norman and Tamara Dunaeff

Insightful lessons on the importance of a human-centered (vs. the very often dominant and deeply flawed machine-centered) approach to product design and life in general. An excellent follow-up to The Design of Everyday Things from an exceptional teacher. IMO, this book should be read from all of us who create products that aim to make people's lives better.

II. Movies

There are so many good movies which came out this year that I haven't seen yet, but so far these are my favorites.

1. The Wind Rises, by Hayao Miyazaki

The final work of a grandmaster. Moving, inspiring and his most personal one. Thank you for everything Hayao Miyazaki!

2. Gone Girl, by David Fincher

I feel that Fincher found the perfect partner in crime (Gillian Flynn) for this excruciating portraying of marriage.

3. Nightcrawler, by Dan Gilroy

Dark, restless, creepy, gruesome and… so real. This is the dark side of the society of the spectacle and you definitely have to see it.

4. The Theory of Everything, by James Marsh

I don't know what’s more extraordinary about Stephen Hawking, his theories or his (up until recently unknown to me) life. The movies pays its respects to a brilliant scientist and a truly inspiring personality in a wonderful way.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy, by James Gunn

This movie was soooo FUN to watch, I just couldn't leave it out of my top-5 list. Pure space awesomeness!

III. TV Series

‘Cause there is no better way to kill your free weekend than a good series to binge-watch!

1. Game of Thrones: Season 4

Winter is coming, what else do you want me to say? Watch out for spoilers!

2. Halt and Catch Fire: Season 1

I can't think of a better series for tech nerds like me. I’m afraid that the final scene of episode 9 will haunt me for the rest of my life.

3. The Newsroom: Season 3

The final season of Aaron Sorkin’s journalistic utopia was nothing less of what I had been expecting for. I really enjoyed watching this show.

4. Hannibal: Season 2

Stunning cinematography, exceptionally portrayed characters and, oh boy, the crime scenes in this series were like paintings of Hieronymus Bosch!

5. Fargo: Season 1

Great actors, great script, great direction. And Malvo is such a badass character. Nuff said!

IV. Podcasts

Podcasts have changed my everyday life the past few years, I can't even imagine how I would survive commuting every day to work without them. And these are my favorite shows and the episodes I bookmarked this year.

1. Planet Money: A Bet On The Future Of Humanity

This is my favorite podcast, period! And that’s one of my favorite episodes of the show so far, about a “famous” bet between a biologist and an economist, and an optimistic point of view for humanity that common sense and our most basic instincts tend to ignore.

2. 99% Invisible: Good Bread

Almost everything around us is designed, and this podcast explores the design decisions that shape our world today. In this episode, a very interesting story about bread and the way we think about it has changed through time.

3. StartUp Podcast: How Not to Pitch a Billionaire

Alex Blumberg, a radio producer for This American Life and co-founder of Planet Money, left public radio a while ago to make his own startup, Gimlet Media. And guess what: he records all this experience in a podcast series called… StartUp. This is the first episode of the series and it’s hilarious and at the same time so educative!

4. Reply All: We Know What You Did

Reply All is the second show from Gimlet Media, this time hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who previously created TL;DR, another one of my favorite podcasts. In this episode they talk with the guy who created the first pop-up ad. Listen it through the end.

5. New Tech City: The Other Ed Snowdens

New Tech City, the show hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, is all about how technology is changing our lives and it has so many great episodes that it was difficult to choose one. But this episode is probably the one that made me think a lot about a topic most of us would like to ignore: privacy in the digital age.

V. Apps

As a designer of an app myself, this year I tried a ton of them and these are the ones I liked the most.

iOS & Android

1. Facebook Messenger

Without a doubt, this is the best, most intuitive, elegant and fun messaging app out there. Making it a stand-alone app was the best decision they took in Palo Alto this year.

iOS & Android

2. VSCO Cam

By far the best photo-editing experience for smartphones, and the one I was happy to see Instagram copying so shamelessly on their latest updates.

iOS & Android

3. Elevate

What’s not to like about this app: a brilliant idea and an exceptional execution. Emotional design at its best, me thinks!

Only on iOS ($4.99)

4. Voice Dream Reader

This is a life-changing app for me (and for many others). I was a lazy, and easily distracted reader, and it made me a much more advanced one. It worths every cent!

iOS & Android ($3.99)

5. Monument Valley

I told you I’m not a serious gamer myself, but the weekend I spent lost in this amazing Escher-ish world will be totally unforgettable!

So, these are all my time-wasters for 2014. Happy holidays everyone and I wish an awesome 2015 to all of you!