Here’s a short list of some of the great books I discovered this year. Fiction:
- The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin: Both are honest, bold, exciting, and soothing. And they’re science fiction too.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon: High adventure around the comic books industry (?!). Everything that Chabon has ever written is now in my reading list.
- Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell: Here Mitchell doesn’t rely on the epic strokes and technical fireworks of Cloud Atlas, but in small-town teenage introspection. Doesn’t matter –the result is just as powerful.
- Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Brilliant explorations of the character, hopes, and disappointments of the people that society often chooses to ignore.
- Heat, by George Monbiot: Neatly presents the huge problem of global warming, and shows how a 90% greenhouse gas reduction is technically possible through national and international policies.
- Beautiful Code, edited by Andy Oram and Greg Wilson: A great recent push towards bringing a sense of craftsman pride to software development. Every programmer has written, or stumbled upon, beautiful code –in this book, some of the most talented describe their findings. (Disclosure: Greg Wilson, one of the editors, is a colleague and friend of mine.)
- Origami Design Secrets, by Robert Lang: I haven’t gone through it all yet, but this is probably the most accessible and insightful guide to learn the theory behind origami (yes there is one).
- How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand: The first shock this book gives is how much buildings change over time. The second shock is how much those changes can be attributed to the functional needs of its inhabitants. It’s been said many times, but there are lessons here not just for architects, but for designers of all kinds.