Books I’ve read in 2016

A short summary

reading-books-2016 (Image: Moyan Brenn via Flickr)

This are the books I’ve read or listened to in 2016. If reading books is not your cup of tea, you might be interested in listening to some of these UX Design Podcasts. If you understand German, please consider subscribing to my own UX Podcast.

Books I have read or listened to in 2016

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Verdict: Great book. Must read.
Comment: Better than Sapiens (see below). Fun to read. Thought-provoking.

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between. (Amazon)

Why We Fail: Learning from Experience Design Failures by Victor Lombardi

Verdict: Great book.
Comment: Not a super new book. I almost missed this one (would have been a shame since this book is really good). Contains many good examples.

A logically written book that will aid all product designers,project managers, product managers, general managers, and marketers in their quest to create useful and profitable product offerings.The book offers valuable lessons learned through failure and the common sense solutions to succeed. (Amazon)

Validating Product Ideas by Tomer Sharon

Verdict: Great book. Must read.
Comment: One of my favorite books in 2016. Good examples. Written for product managers it is also an interesting read for designers and researchers.

Want to know what your users are thinking? If you’re a product manager or developer, this book will help you learn the techniques for finding the answers to your most burning questions about your customers. With step-by-step guidance, Validating Product Ideas shows you how to tackle the research to build the best possible product. (Amazon)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: Reminds me of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I think Harari is better.

Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it. Us. We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens? (Amazon)

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton M. Christensen and Taddy Hall

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: You know I am a big fan of Clayton Christensen. UX colleagues should read this.

The foremost authority on innovation and growth presents a path-breaking book every company needs to transform innovation from a game of chance to one in which they develop products and services customers not only want to buy, but are willing to pay premium prices for. (Amazon)

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

Verdict: Good book.
Comment: Could be shorter.

The premise of this book is great: instead of trying to avoid obstacles or complaining about them, embrace adversity and learn to thrive in spite of it. The first few pages were like an inspiring halftime talk from a football coach, and they had me excited and ready to take on the world.  (Amazon)

Strategize: Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age by Roman Pichler

Verdict: Good book.
Comment: Easy to read. Good topic. Not much new stuff for senior UX people. Good for junior POs. My podcast interview with Roman Pichler (German).

Using a wide range of proven techniques and tools, author Roman Pichler explains how to create effective strategies and actionable roadmaps to help you maximize your chances of creating successful products. (Amazon)

Mapping Experiences: A Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams by Jim Kalbach

Verdict: Great book. Must read.
Comment: For UX folks this really is a book you must own. Very useful. Podcast interview (German): AKW089 Mapping Experiences.

Customers who have inconsistent, broken experiences with products and services are understandably frustrated. But it’s worse when people inside these companies can’t pinpoint the problem because they’re too focused on business processes. This practical book shows your company how to use alignment diagrams to turn valuable customer observations into actionable insight. (Amazon)

Design Sprint: A Practical Guidebook for Creating Great Digital Products by Richard Banfield, C. Todd Lombardo and Trace Wax

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: UX colleagues should know what a Design Sprint is and how to run one. This book is a very useful introduction to this topic.

With more than 500 new apps entering the market every day, what does it take to build a successful digital product? You can greatly reduce your risk of failure with design sprints, a process that enables your team to prototype and test a digital product idea within a week. This practical guide shows you exactly what a design sprint involves and how you can incorporate the process into your organization. (Amazon)

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Innovation by Harvard Business Review, Peter Ferdinand Drucker, Clayton M. Christensen and more.

Verdict: OK book.
Comment: an interesting read if you are into innovation, Design Thinking and product development. Some stories and examples are captivating. Contains some JTBD related articles.

If you read nothing else on inspiring and executing innovation, read these 10 articles. We’ve combed through hundreds of articles in the Harvard Business Review archive and selected the most important ones to help you innovate effectively. (Amazon)

Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand

Verdict: Great book.
Comment: Contains timeless Design principles. Very easy to read.

One of the seminal texts of graphic design, Paul Rand’s Thoughts on Design is now back in print for the first time since the 1970s. Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. (Amazon)

UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want by Jaime Levy

Verdict: Good book.
Comment: I am still not a super big fan of the term “UX Strategy”. But the book is ok. Jaime gives many examples and for everyone interested in UX, reading this book is not a waste of time.

User experience (UX) strategy requires a careful blend of business strategy and UX design, but until now, there hasn’t been an easy-to-apply framework for executing it. This hands-on guide introduces lightweight strategy tools and techniques to help you and your team craft innovative multi-device products that people want to use. (Amazon)

Mastery by Robert Greene

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: A powerful book filled with many interesting ideas and strategies. I will have to re-read this book to get even more out of it.

Around the globe, people are facing the same problem – that we are born as individuals but are forced to conform to the rules of society if we want to succeed. To see our uniqueness expressed in our achievements, we must first learn the rules – and then how to change them completely. (Amazon)

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones

Verdict: Good book.
Comment: Muda, Kaizen, Toyota Production System (TPS) … those are very interesting topics for product people. Specify value and line-up value creating actions in the best sequence, conduct these activities without interruption and try to be more and more effective. That’s Lean Thinking. Isn’t this what we all strive for?

Instead of constantly reinventing business models, lean thinkers go back to basics by asking what the customer really perceives as value. The next step is to line up value-creating activities for a specific product along a value stream while eliminating activities that don’t add value. Then the lean thinker creates a flow condition in which the design and the product advance smoothly and rapidly at the pull of the customer. (Amazon)

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: How do organizations make specific choices about their future? This is a question Designers should ask more often. How do answers to the above question influence our work? Food for thought.

Strategy is not complex. But it is hard. It’s hard because it forces people and organizations to make specific choices about their future—something that doesn’t happen in most companies. Now two of today’s best-known business thinkers get to the heart of strategy—explaining what it’s for, how to think about it, why you need it, and how to get it done. (Amazon)

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach by Martin Reeves and Knut Haanaes

Verdict: OK book.
Comment: Boston Consulting Group based research on developing and experiencing strategies. Different strategic approaches are presented. I had a hard time getting into this book. Will have to re-read it again.

Executives are bombarded with bestselling ideas and best practices for achieving competitive advantage, but many of these ideas and practices contradict each other. Should you aim to be big or fast? Should you create a blue ocean, be adaptive, play to win—or forget about a sustainable competitive advantage altogether? In a business environment that is changing faster and becoming more uncertain and complex almost by the day, it’s never been more important—or more difficult—to choose the right approach to strategy. (Amazon)

The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management by Peter Drucker

Verdict: OK book.
Comment: The book contains great insights and there is stuff to learn from this book. But it felt exhausting to wade through this reading.

Father of modern management, social commentator, and preeminent business philosopher, Peter F. Drucker analyzed economics and society for more than sixty years. Now for readers everywhere who are concerned with the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society, there is The Essential Drucker—an invaluable compilation of essential materials from the works of a management legend. (Amazon)

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Verdict: Good book.
Comment: What are biases of intuition? Is it important to understand errors in judgment, choice and decision making? What are flaws of intuitive thought. Framing, priming, anchoring, halo effect, probability, base rate, uncertanty … This book covers a lot of topics and comes with many examples (I soon got confused and was looking forward to finishing this book).

The phenomenal New York Times Bestseller by Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow offers a whole new look at the way our minds work, and how we make decisions. (Amazon)

Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything by Peter Morville

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: Peter has a wonderful writing style. Easy to read and to understand. Thinking about information is like going back to school (with everything we know now). Information Architects should read this book. Other product people should probably read it too.

This is a book about everything. Or, to be precise, it explores how everything is connected from code to culture. We think we’re designing software, services, and experiences, but we’re not. We are intervening in ecosystems. Until we open our minds, we will forever repeat our mistakes. In this spirited tour of information architecture and systems thinking, Peter Morville connects the dots between authority, Buddhism, classification, synesthesia, quantum entanglement, and volleyball. (Amazon)

The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence Through Leadership Development by Jeffrey Liker and Gary L. Convis

Verdict: Good book. Should read.
Comment: The only way to understand our products is at the gemba (an activity that takes management to the front lines). And WTF is Lean Leadership? Well, Designers can learn a lot from this book. So get off Slack, stop writing yet another should-designers-code rant and read something valuable for a change.

This great book reveals the secret ingredient to lean success: lean leadership. Not only is it a pleasure to read, but it is also deep and enlightening. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in lean: it s both an eye opener and a game changer. (Amazon)

Reading right now

Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice by Anthony W. Ulwick

Why do so many innovation projects fail? What are the root causes of failure? How can they be avoided? Since 1990, Tony Ulwick has pioneered an innovation process that answers these questions. In 1999, Tony introduced Clayton Christensen to the idea that “people have underlying needs or processes in their lives, that they are addressing in some way right now”—an insight that was to become Jobs-to-be-Done Theory. (Amazon)

Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray

Why do some people succeed at change while others fail? It’s the way they think! Liminal thinking is a way to create change by understanding, shaping, and reframing beliefs. What beliefs are stopping you right now? (Amazon)

How I benchmark books

First of all, let me tell you that I hate reading! Well, I have to rephrase this: I hate learning through reading. It’s slow and super painful for me. It’s so hard to find time to read and focus for an hour or so. Reading is hard work.

Verdict: Great book. Must read: Great storytelling and presentation. Widens my horizon.
Verdict: Great book: Good presentation. I learned a lot reading this book.
Verdict: Good book. Should read: This book is not boring and provides good value.
Verdict: Good book: An entertaining read with partly new or for me useful content.
Verdict: OK book: I did learn one or two things reading this book.
Verdict: Not my cup of tea: I had a hard time getting value out of it. Probably my fault.

About Jan (501 Articles)
Informationsarchitekt und Konferenz-Veranstalter (IA Konferenz, die Konzepter-Konferenz:, MOBX Mobile UX Konferenz:, Podcaster und Twitter Addict. Geboren in Prag, sesshaft in Berlin.

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