6 Books to Read to Understand Us
True experts—the Elon Musks, the Neil deGrasse Tysons, the Serena Williamses of the world—spend most of their time either (a) practicing their discipline or (b) studying their discipline.
Here’s our crack at the “studying” part: Six books that explain (almost) everything we do. Here are the books that introduce you to what we think about, what we debate, what we experiment with, and what drives us to create something worthwhile.
After a summer spent reading thrillers on the beach, think of this as your less-fun-but-far-more-interesting Autumnal Reading List.
1. Don't Make Me Think
Discipline: Information Architecture
Author: Steve Krug
This was a no-brainer. This has become the everyman’s entry into the world of designing for the web, recently updated (as all internet-focused books must be) with information about mobile design. This is accessible, fascinating stuff—a great primer on the things we spend all day thinking about.
Recommended by: Mike Steckel
2. The Servant Leader
Discipline: Leadership & Management
Author: James A. Autry
From the description: “Leadership is a calling. And servant leadership—the idea that managing with respect, honesty, love, and spirituality empowers employees—helps individuals answer that calling … It helps leaders nurture the needs and goals of those who look to them for leadership. The result is a more productive, successful, and happier organization, and a more meaningful life for the leader.”
Recommended by: Nick Weynand
3. Project Management for Humans
Discipline: Project Management
Author: Bret Harned
There are (almost) as many methods for managing a project as there are projects. Some methods have snazzy names like “agile” or “waterfall.” Others use complicated software. Still others depend on simple index cards pasted to the wall. But the best methods—i.e., the project management approaches that are most likely to produce winning results in a timely fashion—consider the human element.
Recommended by: Carly Hohl
4. Design is a Job
Author: Mike Monteiro
Don’t let the title fool you. Yes, this book focuses on design, but more than that, it describes what agency life looks like. For better and worse, working in a creative agency has its own rhythm, processes, and culture. This book nails it. (And it’s a quick read!)
Recommended by: Rachel Clemens
5. Fierce Conversations
Discipline: Discovery, Research
Author: Susan Scott
As recommender Andrea Richeson puts it: “Our business is built from dialogue, research, and understanding. We take what we learn and offer strategic solutions. This book urges us to thoroughly examine data, supports a healthy curiosity, encourages us to tackle challenges, and helps us build better relationships with each other and our clients.” Highly recommended.
Recommended by: Andrea Richeson
6. Writing With Style
Discipline: Branding, Copywriting
Author: John Trimble
This slim, lively guide to writing first appeared 30 years ago. With two new editions since, it’s become even more relevant to the modern writer. Whether you’re composing an email, a national marketing campaign, or an entire brand, you need to have a voice—a strong point of view. And no book I can think of explains exactly how to do that better than Writing With Style.
This isn’t a reference book, per se, but it shouldn’t leave your desk for long. Written with verve and full of strong opinions based on real experience, Writing With Style is a go-to reminder whenever you’re generating words—or ideas.
Recommended by: Andrew Buck