Autumn book edit: What I read in fall 2018

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If I step into a bookstore, I will leave with a book. Guaranteed. My to-be-read pile is outrageous, but my justification is that I always have something to read! There’s no shortage of options. I’m constantly upping my books-read-per-year goals, and the best trick I’ve learned is to carry a book around with me everywhere. It’s a good reminder to read instead of immediately (and unconsciously) clicking into Instagram.

Tomorrow marks the first official day of winter, which means a fresh reading list and even more new stories. This fall I read 12 books, which averages out to four books per month. There was a wide variety of topics this season, but in reviewing this list, it’s clear that I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction (11/12 of these books are non-fiction). Below are my reads from autumn; titles in bold are my highly recommended picks.

1.      Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella

Microsoft has been working to turn its culture around ever since Satya Nadella became CEO. Interested in learning more about this culture shift, I found this book to be an interesting inside look at the company and where its priorities are currently. Overall, a good look at how huge companies like Microsoft have an important role to play in society now and in the future.

2.      Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt

This book gave such a humorous and rare inside look at what it’s like to be a speechwriter and work at the White House. David Litt worked on President Obama’s speechwriting team, and in this book, he shares his journey from campaigning to working with the President. As a writer, I found this type of behind-the-scenes so satisfying and insightful.

3.     The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

This book is insightful for every human. Our minds play tricks on us even when we think we are aware. Authors Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris share learnings from their psychological experiments and studies over the years, explaining how our minds and intuitions often deceive us. I wrote an article about my learnings from this book if you’re interested in how our illusions relate to design.

4.      When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

The concept of doing things at times when it makes the most sense for how you personally operate is fascinating to me. I ultimately want to get to the point where I understand myself so well in this regard that I’m maximizing what time I do certain things throughout the day. Daniel Pink’s When touches on this concept, but I found it to be a little overgeneralized. It felt as though he pulled general ideas and compiled them into a book. Still an interesting read, but I wasn’t blown away.

5.      The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard wrote this beautifully written book about what life is like being a reader. Sometimes it feels absurd to be a writer, and she captures those feelings in her short stories.

6.     The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

This deep dive into confidence was such an empowering read. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman explore what confidence means and how and why women struggle with self-doubt. We aren’t in a fixed psychological state, and even though confidence is partly influenced by genetics, we do have control over our confidence and how we feel. Enlightening and well-researched.

7.     Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes

Kat Holmes used to work at Microsoft as the Principle Director of Inclusive Design, but now works at Google to further their inclusive design mission. In her book, Mismatch, she shares ways to design more inclusively, and educates readers on what inclusive design even is. Though I work in UX, I learned so much and felt even more empowered to design inclusively.

8.     I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

I went to see Steve Martin and Martin Short on their tour this past year for An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. After the show I felt compelled to learn more about Martin Short. I have already read Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, so I wondered if Martin Short also had a memoir. He does, and it’s one of the best things you’ll read (or in my case, hear, since I “read” this book as an audiobook). Though you could read his book, listening to it is 1000x better because Martin Short reads it – and when he’s reflecting on characters he’s played over the years, he does the actual voice of his characters. Sometimes he sings. It’s a treat.

9.      Without You, There is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim

In this book, Suki Kim goes undercover as an English teacher in North Korea, and she managed to come back to America without being discovered. She gives an unfiltered, vulnerable, and quite frankly, unbelievable recount of her time living there. A fascinating look at what life is like there for privileged young men getting an education. It really is a different world.

10.   The Magnolia Story by Joanna and Chip Gaines

I haven’t yet met someone who isn’t a fan of Joanna and Chip Gaines. They’re building an empire and it’s inspiring to watch. Though I don’t watch their show and I’m not a superfan, I am always entertained watching interviews of them. I picked up The Magnolia Story to learn more about how they got their start. I still can’t believe that they already had most of their children and a business by the time TV came calling. This book is a fun, quick read if you’re into Fixer Upper.

11.   The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I browsed a local bookshop for about 30 minutes before stumbling on this gem. The story is about a Housekeeper who takes care of a Professor who only has 80 minutes worth of memory. He can remember things that happened before 1975, so his mind is resetting every hour and twenty minutes. There’s a good amount of math in this book, but it’s woven into the story in a beautiful way that is still enjoyable for those who aren’t big math fans. The relationship that develops between the Housekeeper, her son, and the Professor is sweet, and the story is a good reminder of the impermanence of life.

12.   Real Food, Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It by Larry Olmsted

Real Food, Fake Food by Larry Olmsted is a truly haunting and eye-opening book. It’s scary where the state of our food industry is, and how hard it is to get decent, real food. As consumers we have to be diligent about understanding where our food is coming from, and what it’s really made of. Labels and packaging are all meant to be vague and confusing. Olmsted explains the truth behind real food such as olive oil, Parmesan cheese, beef, wine and champagne, coffee, and more, and how what we’re being sold may not truly be what we think we’re buying. This book was a good reminder to educate myself on what I’m purchasing, eating, and supporting. You vote with your dollars.

What books did you read and love last season?