I think you can tell a lot about a person from the books on their shelf… uh… in their e-reader.

Why We Work by Barry Schwartz

Why We Work

The book covers an interesting and growing theory for how intellectual advancement has changed the landscape for how we work. in a nutshell, Schwartz is saying that most workers do better work and feel happier when they believe that they are contributing to something larger than their wallet. When the most mundane of jobs is approached with a sense of purpose and engagement it can be a source of joy… in theory.

My issue with the book is that it seemed to repeat the same chapter over and over. It made the same point regardless of the fact that the same exact story was told in the previous chapter. More of an essay than a book. IMO


Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories by Gojko Adzic & David Evans

Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories

This is probably the most useful book I’ve read in the last year. Anyone that works on an agile software team and has to deal with user stories in any way needs this book. Whether you’re on the owner side, the management side, or on the development team there’s a tremendous amount of detail in here.

One of the great things about this tiny manual is that it goes through each of the common pitfalls of writing user stories and connects appropriate solutions. It goes through the consequences of the various solutions because, unlike many books out there, this is written from a very “been there, done that” point of view.

The last thing I’d point out is that this is not a book for developers, managers, or CEO’s. It’s for all of them. I mean that the writers have taken the time to point out what every stake holder needs from user stories in order for the project to succeed. For instance, Adzic and Evans go through why owners love scope creep but then explain why and how it’s a healthy part of the cycle. While a lot of these books are about blame, this one is way more about reality and getting across the finish line without falling into common traps.

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda


John Maeda is a designer and teacher with a long career in both areas. Like me, he’s come to the “less is more” strategy when it comes to building application interfaces. Unlike me, he’s managed to break down this approach into some basic “laws” that someone can apply to design, teaching, life, and more. The book is a very short and easy read with some poignant talking points for getting project owners to focus on fewer features with higher impact rather than stacking countless features into a confusing experience.

There’s an accompanying website at to supplement the 2010 publication.

Hooked, How To Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal & Ryan Hoover


“…one-third of Americans say they would rather give up sex than lose their cell phones.” – Nir Eyal

It’s not very often that I’ll write about a book before I’ve read it. In fact, this will be the first time. That just goes to show how excited I am to finally get my copy of Hooked. Three months ago I had the luck and privilege to spend a few hours with Nir Eyal at the New Relic office in San Francisco. He was giving a presentation based on the research he’s done at Stanford. It’s this research that Hooked is based on and he rocked it. Being a huge fan of Chris Nodder (Evil By Design), the findings in Hooked resonated with me instantly. What made me a fan was how Eyal managed to boil down his findings into a simple yet precise set of recognizable and repeatable patterns. In this way Eyal has taken Nodder’s work a step further. Check it out!

Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam


An good intro to general design thinking and a superb guide to the visual communication process. Seems to be geared toward business people that need to make presentations rather than creatives or designers but there’s certainly plenty in there for both.

My only criticism is the number of pure anecdotes. I’d say half the book is Dan telling us stories about what happened some time ago and how it related to a very basic point.

Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde


I’ve been a sketch note fan for a year or two and even taken a class at General Assembly. Nothing has been as informative, helpful, and inspiring as Mike Rohde’s big long sketch note.

I’ve used the technique for the usual lecture/meetup but also adapted it into my basic ideation process. It’s much faster to brainstorm and test with pen and paper than in Balsamiq or Sketch.

Having the notes also allows me to convey concepts, go back to ideas, or invite stake holders to contribute to the same notes.