As dedicated but typically distracted readers, we often wonder what titles our friends and colleagues are reading—and wishing we had the time to take in the books ourselves. Summer gives us an opportunity to play catch up, and a chance to ask around for recommendations. In our continuing tradition of gathering summer reading lists, we consulted several of our inspiring collaborators from the design projects and programs we’ve been involved in over the past year. The polled include our fellow participants in “Implementing Impact! The Business of Social Design,” a one-week workshop on design for social impact, presented by the School of Visual Arts Impact: Design for Social Change program; our partners in <codr>, an app we helped create as part of the 12-Week Prototyping Bootcamp for educators and technologists, presented by EDesign Lab and 4.0 Schools; and our teammates in Design/Relief, the AIGA/NY initiative to help areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Here’s what we’re packing on our e-readers this summer (you can also find the books on our bookshelf.)
John Bruce, Forward Mapworks
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi. Capra wrote the seminal book The Tao of Physics back in the 1970s.
Alicia Cheng, MGMT. design
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber.
Design as Art by Bruno Munari.
The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.
Amy Findeiss, Blank Plate
Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design by Liz Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers.
Legible Practices: Six Stories About the Craft of Stewardship by Helsinki Design Lab (Bryan Boyer, Justin W. Cook and Marco Steinberg).
Design for Services (from the “Design for Social Responsibility” series) by Anna Meroni and Daniela Sangiorgi.
Keledy Kenkel, Urban Assembly Maker Academy
With some favorite passages from the books:
Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson.
“Failed networks kill ideas, but successful ones trigger them.”
“Programming rewards the experimental, curious mind.”
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. On when she experiences weightlessness: “When I get back to my room to review my notes, I find that I’ve written nothing of substance. I wasn’t so much taking notes as testing my Fisher Space Pen. My notes say: ‘WOO’ and ‘yippee.’”
The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts by Neal Bascomb. The book’s subject, Amir Abo-Shaeer, on engaging his classes: “Students are on the Internet these days, and information’s free. If we teachers don’t move beyond being fountains of information, and instead focus on experiences, we’re losing touch with what students need. They’re sitting in class thinking, ‘I can look this stuff up on Wikipedia right now.’ They can’t look this experience up on Wikipedia.”
Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.
The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer by Seymour Papert.
Navit Keren, Huge
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald.
The Silkworm (A Cormoran Strike Novel) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).
Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman.
Neuromancer by William Gibson.
A Social History of Dying by Allan Kellehear.
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick.
Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? by Judith Butler.
Danah Nassief, Danah Nassief Design
I read a lot of non-fiction or historical fiction. Here are my top four books from the past few months:
Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson.
The Digital Diet: The 4-Step Plan to Break Your Tech Addiction and Regain Balance in Your Life by Daniel Sieberg.
The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East by Andrew Scott Cooper.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan.
Mark Randall, Worldstudio
I like travel books and just read To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey through West Africa by Rick Antonson. Several years ago I made a trip similar to the one in this book, so it was nice to go back there—even if only on paper. I am eager to return to Mali, I love it there. Once the political situation dies down.
Anthony Schloss, Red Hook Initiative/Digital Stewards
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’m not a fantasy buff. But I cannot stop reading this.
Cambria Martinelli Skvarka, 4.0 Schools
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel.
Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.
Renoir, My Father by Jean Renoir. A portrait of Auguste Renoir by his son, Jean Renoir. It’s fascinating, about end of 19th-century France, and it draws such a humble portrait of the painter, (who was) such a simple, no B.S., hard-working, lower-middle-class spirit by choice—almost a rural spirit, a man all about craft, for whom art and life were inseparable.