Some recommended reading

The organizers of this year’s TED Conference invited me to share some favorite books for their on-site bookstore, which is always one of my favorite parts of the TED experience. They call on a broad and diverse group of speakers and attendees to help curate, and the selection is always incredible.

To me, there is nothing better on a Friday night, after a long intense week, than dropping by the bookstore and buying a stack. Then coming home to just read, chill, think, and explore.

My curation philosophy for this collection was to examine what makes us humbly human, our gift of being able to shape the world through design, and ultimately why we can, in fact, have a positive impact in and on the world. Have a look.

The Principles of Uncertainty
Maira Kalman
We live in a completely unpredictable world, where things are topsy turvy, where life is often unexpected and frankly often what we didn’t wish for. Maira Kalman so beautifully explores this topic through a set of visual essays, many of which appeared in her New York Times blog. I find these compelling explanations of the world we live in inspiring!

When Things Fall Apart
Pema Chodron
A Buddhist meditation on the toughest parts of life. Pema teaches us that the hardest moments in life require that we lean into them, not shy away from them. And in leaning into them find truths about ourselves and the world around us that prove invaluable. A heady, sobering book for certain, and yet one that at its core is optimistic about humankind’s ability to forgive ourselves, accept impermanence, and simply be in the world around us.

The Art of Possibility
Ben Zander
Ben is a conductor, but really, Ben is an expert on what makes people tick…aspire…and rise to the occasion to be truly great. This ditty is a wonderful and fast read that gives you a belief in your own capacity for greatness.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Bill McDonough
This book changed the way I think about design, sustainability, and our responsibility.

Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud
Without a hesitation or second thought I offer up Scott McCloud’s excellent Understanding Comics. While on the surface (or cover) it’s about comics, it’s really about visual storytelling and visual thinking. Enlightening and entertaining for anyone from 10 to 100.

My Ideal Bookshelf
Thessaly La Force
I love the selection of characters, the peek inside the brains of so many people I admire, the beautiful illustrations. It’s a true delight to read and own.

Super Normal
Naoto Fukasawa
Naoto Fukasawa is Japan’s Jonathan Ive. This is a collection of everyday objects he has gathered and exhausts as super normal—meaning, honed their very essence. When you read this, you’ll never look at a plain object the same way again.

Ways of Seeing
John Berger
This book changed the way I look at the world. Literally. Figuratively. Meaningfully. Worth every square inch.

Press Here
Herve Tullet
The book is a funny commentary on the human brain and how it works. Such a simple book, but I am delighted by how it gets you to appreciate the childlike joy of exploration. Press here. Do that. Delight in life.

Design, Form and Chaos
Paul Rand
Paul was a mentor to so many of us. His work at IBM still stands above as the standard to beat. I worked with Paul at NeXT Computer—the error between the Steve Jobs eras at Apple. Paul was our grand visionary of the NeXT brand. May he rest in peace.

Design as Art
Bruno Munari
This ditty is an oldie. But still some of the most interesting writing on design, creativity, and life. I constantly go back to it for inspiration.

Artful Making, What Managers Need to Know about How Artists Work
Robert Austin
A research-based framework for encouraging organizational creativity and innovation.

Intimate History of Humanity
Theodore Zeldin
A history of human thoughts and feelings told through personal vignettes—after all, sometimes the best way to understand the making of the future is to look at the creation of the past.