These are by no means a comprehensive list of books I own or have read; but are ones that I own and have read that related to my work. Sharing in the hope of finding new ones to read and sparking interesting and productive conversations.
A Pattern Language - Architect Christopher Alexander’s most well-known work; also inspired a generation of programmers working on Object-Oriented Programming. Focuses on common patterns in architecture and the built environment, and how to use them to create livable spaces.
Chambers For A Memory Palace - A series of letters between two authors on the topic of place-making.
Experiencing Architecture - Collection of examples of architectural design throughout human civilization.
How Buildings Learn - Stewart Brand’s classic text on how the usage of buildings changes over time.
How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit - Provides a framework for understanding architecture both as a form of art, and an everyday occurrence that enables people to live comfortably.
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth - Fuller’s seminal work on our relationship to the Earth and how we can build in a healthy way.
R. Buckminster Fuller: World Man - Fuller’s previously un-published 1966 Kassler lecture at Princeton University School of Architecture
The Language of Cities - An exploration of what cities are; how we live with and identify with them.
The Poetics of Space - Discusses how humans relate to common spaces (attics, cellars, drawers, living rooms, etc).
The Timeless Way of Building - Another Alexander book; this one focuses on the idea that the best living spaces and built environments are built organically based on common human needs.
Tools of the Imagination - A collection by the National Building Museum covering 250 years of design tools and technologies for builders
Towards a New Architecture - Le Corbusier’s manifesto advocating for modern architecture.
Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design - An approach to understanding what computers can and cannot do, and that relationship to human cognition and language.
What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason - Philosopher Hubert Dreyfus’ 1972 manifesto argues that disembodied machines cannot achieve consciousness.
Society of Mind - Marvin Minsky’s text on his theory of natural intelligence.
The Computer and The Brain - Johnny von Neuman’s last published (and unfinished) work covering the nature of the human brain and its relation to computational machines.
Visual Computing - Two Silicon Graphics, Inc. alumni discuss computers’ ability to generate and display images, and that relationship to art and human psychology and perception.
Computers and the Imagination : Visual Adventures Beyond the Edge - Examination of how computers have transformed visualization.
Image Objects - Chronicles the history of the field of computer graphics through the stories of several objects that played a part in its history.
A Biography of The Pixel - Alvy Ray Smith, co-founder of Pixar; tells the story of how computers can be used to display images.
Code as Creative Medium - Golan Levin and Tega Brain provide pedagogic exercises for instructors teaching creative coding.
Maeda @ Media - Designer and artist John Maeda shares his work combining computer programming and graphic design from his days working at the MIT Media Lab.
The Storm Of Creativity - Covers the stages of the creative process, with examples from practicing artists, architects, poets, and others.
Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s groundbreaking work on “psychology of optimal experience”.
Creativity - Csikszentmihalyi’s follow up book; on the nature of creativity.
Art and Fear - Moving meditations on “doing the work” in the face of loneliness or discouragement. Directed towards young artists early in their career, but the lessons are all equally applicable regardless of your domain.
B is for Bauhaus - Wide ranging work on the objects and concepts of modern design
Design as Art - Artist and Designer Bruno Munari makes the case that all of the designed objects that people use should be beautiful, functional, and accessible.
Designing for People - A classic work providing an overview of Industrial Design.
Digital Design Theory - A collection of essays from the 1960’s to the present covering the intersection of technology and design.
Thoughts On Design - Graphic designer Paul Rand makes the case that all areas of design should simultaneously be useful and beautiful.
Notes on The Synthesis of Form - Yet another Christopher Alexander book; focused on evolutionary design.
The Beauty of Everyday Things - Japanese folk-craft pioneer Soetsu Yanagi similar to Munari, that everyday objects that people use should be created with reverence and respect.
The Language of Things - A work exploring the common traits between beautiful objects such as “…an iPhone, an anglepoise lamp, a Picasso, a banknote, an Armani suit…”.
The Laws of Simplicity - John Maeda discusses how good design can sometimes involve making complex things simple to use and interact with; and may involve removing things rather than adding new features.
The Shape of Design - A meditation on the pleasure of making things for others.
Visual Thinking - Rudolf Arnheim argues against the idea that language goes before perception, and makes the case that artistic creation is a method of perceiving the world.
Audio Cyclopedia - A book from my grandfather (a radio broadcast engineer of 50 years)’s library; everything you could want to know about all variety of audio equipment.
Dictionary of Electronics - Very handy desk reference.
Engineer’s Notebook: Integrated Circuit Applications - A classic text (also from. my grandfather’s library) written by the legendary Forrest R. Mims III.
Understanding Electronics - Another, more introductory textbook outlining theory through understanding practical components
Grob Basic Electronics - A standard electronics textbook.
- A Small Matter of Programming - A sadly out of print book exploring the difficulties around end-user programming and application development. (You should absolutely tell Stripe Press that you would like to see them re-issue this, by the way…)
- Abstracting Craft - Another sadly out of print book I was lucky to snag at a used bookstore. Focuses on computation as a medium for working and crafting in, rather than a set of tools.
- Affective Computing - The creator of the term, MIT Media Lab academic Rosalind Picard, expands upon her foundational text on the subject.
- Computational Interaction - A collection of papers about the area of study of the title; using machine learning, signal processing, and control theory to improve interaction between humans and computers.
- Cybernetic Creativity - Discusses the nature of creativity and its relationship to computation.
- Designing Interactions - The Bible of the field; extensive interviews and analysis of practitioners and products.
- Enchanted Objects - David Rose imagines a more humane version of the Internet of Things, where everyday objects can anticipate and serve our needs.
- Interface Culture - Wide ranging work tying today’s computer interfaces to Victorian novels, early cinema, and Medieval urban planning.
- Interfacing Thought: Cognitive Aspects of Human-Computer Interaction - Chapters on the relationship between human cognition and the use of computers.
- Leonardo’s Laptop - Far reaching work calling for people to expect more from their computers; causes the reader to wonder what da Vinci may have been able to accomplish with a computer.
- Mindstorms - Seymour Papert’s classic work on making computing accessible to children.
- Plato and The Nerd - Discusses how computers, given their powerful ability to simulate the real world, can evolve a co-partnership with their human creators.
- The Best Interface Is No Interface - Golden Krishna makes the case that interfaces should disappear; a call to arms for ambient computing.
- The Humane Interface - Jef Raskin (father of the Macintosh project at Apple) outlines the qualities of what good user interfaces look and behave like.
- Tools for Thought - Howard Rheingold discusses the pioneers of computing who believed in the field’s potential to transform and enhance human thought and capability.
Finite and Infinite Games - A bit of a Silicon Valley trope; but one of my favorite books. Encourages the reader to think of our interactions with others as positive-sum (an infinite game; where the goal is to keep playing) and a finite game (zero-sum, where the purpose is to “win” in finality).
The Craftsman - Beautiful meditation on craftsmanship across a variety of disciplines - the desire to a job well for it’s own sake.
On Photography - Susan Sontag’s evocative collection of essays on the philosophy of photography.
Understanding a Photograph - John Berger once again with a series of essays on the history and nature of photography as a new medium for artistic expression.
Why Photography Matters - Meditation on how photography is not only an artistic medium, but also a way to know about the world around us.
Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought - Barbara Tversky makes the case that “movement and our interactions in space, not language, are the true foundations of thought”.
Supersizing the Mind - Andy Clark argues that the act of thinking is not just confined to what happens in our head, but also in the way we move and interact with the world and objects around us.
Where the Action Is - Delves into the psychology underpinning Human-Computer Interaction.
Gesture and Speech - Demonstration that the hand and brain work together to shape cognition.
The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture - Overview of how the human hand has shaped our cognitive, emotional, linguistic, and psychological development.
Hand and Mind - Shows that gestures do not only impact what people say, but also inform how people think.
Hands - Discusses the evolutionary history of the human hand, including its relationship to tool-making and tool-usage.
Metaphors We Live By - Presents the idea that metaphor is a basic building block to how people understand ourselves and the world around us.
The Medium is The Message - Seminal work by Marshall McLuhan on “The New Media”.
The NewMedia Reader - Collection of foundational papers and texts on early computing, interfaces, and associated media and technologies.
Tools for Conviviality - Ivan Illich makes the case for access to tools that enable personal fulfillment, not just productivity.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man - McLuhan’s discussion of hot and cool media, and their relationship to the humans that created them.
Electronic and Experimental Music - Traces the history of music made with machines from musique concrète to hip-hop sampling.
Embodied Music Cognition and Mediation Technology - Presents an argument that embodied cognition provides a framework for thinking about the tools that we use to make and create music.
Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany - Covers the history of the iconic German electronic band, including discussion of their broader impact on more mainstream music and culture.
Musical Gestures - Collection of essays on the relationship between gestures and music.
- An Introduction to Information Theory - Explanatory work on the field without the heavy math.
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software - Explains how computers work from a bottoms-up approach; from the hardware level up to the application layer.
Geek Sublime - A software engineer discusses the relationship between programming and Sanskrit.
Hackers and Painters - Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Grahm’s series of essays on the nature of hackers and their relationship to their work.
Working in Public - Nadia Eghbal researches the motivations of open-source software development
Operating System Concepts - “The Dinosaur Book”; textbook on operating systems.
The C Programming Language - Classic Kernighan and Ritchie text.
Learn Objective-C on the Mac - One of my first programming books; how I learned to first write iOS software
The Design of the Unix Operating System - Provides an overview of the internal structure of Unix and its relationship to the computer programmer.
Concepts of Programming Languages - academic textbook on programming language theory
A Mind at Play - Biography of the Father Of Information Theory, Claude Shannon.
Bootstrapping - Chronicles Douglas Englebart and his work at the Stanford Research Institute that culminated in The Mother of All Demos; which ushered in a new era of how people thought about using computers.
Crystal Fire - Chronicles the history of the transistor; from its origins in research, to invention, to impact on everything in our world today.
Dealers of Lighting - Covers the sweeping technological achievements (and foibles) of Xerox PARC.
Make It New: A History of Silicon Valley Design - Dives into the history of the relationship between designers and the nascent technological hub that would become known as Silicon Valley.
Showstopper! - The story of a team at Microsoft’s journey to ship a brand new Operating System - WindowsNT.
Steve Jobs - Walter Issacson writes about the life and work of Apple co-founder Steven P. Jobs.
In the Beginning Was the Command Line - Sci-fi author Neil Stephanson takes us on a tour of how we used to use computers prior to the GUI.
Peripheral Vision - Tells the story of collaboration between visual artists and computer scientists at Bell Laboratories.
Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder follows a team at Data General racing to get the Eclipse MV/8000 computer to market.
The Big Score - Michael S. Malone writes a sweeping tale of the origins of Silicon Valley from the founding of Hewlett-Packard to the rise of Apple.
The Little Kingdom - The first book documenting Apple Computer.
The Media Lab - Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand shares a window in the Media Lab during a residency at the institution.
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Storey - Michael Lewis’ chronicle of Silicon Valley Legend Jim Clark.
The One Device: The Secret History of The iPhone - Members of the original iPhone team share their stories.
What the Dormouse Said - An exploration of the relationship between the 60’s counterculture and early computing pioneers.
An Essay on Typography - A short work by Eric Gill argues that a “a good piece of lettering is as beautiful a thing to see as any sculpture or painted picture”.
The Elements of Typographic Style - Defines several typographic terms and concepts, as well as surveys the field for five and a half centuries of history.
Thinking with Type - Visual guide to typographic concepts; underscoring typography’s role in visual communication.
Typography: A Manual For Design - Swiss typographer Emil Ruder’s visual guide to typographic concepts.