January books

I love to read and since I read a lot I may as well share some recommendations or friendly warnings (or simply list books I’ve read for future reference). This may or may not be UX related, and it’s very likely that if I manage to write about books every month, there will be comic books, sf & fantasy and some random stuff.

So here we go:

Designing Devices by Dan Saffer

A handy little book that neatly summarizes the whole design process and provides a short history of devices. I came across it after completing the Design Practice module at UCLIC where we had to design a device, and the first thought was “I wish I had read it earlier”. For those familiar with the process, the book can serve as a quick reminder, and for those making their first steps it can be a good starting point as it covers all the basics and encourages further exploration. It is short, cheap and worth reading.

Designing for Emotion by Aarron Walter

This book was recommended to me by a friend who said it was “the best design book [he has] ever read”, so I had quite high expectations. Unfortunately, it disappointed me. It’s not that this is a bad book, it’s just that there’s nothing new in it for me. I read Emotional Design by Don Norman (and liked it, although the part about robots was rather meh), I read Neuro Web Design by Susan M. Weinschenk for the UX Book Club and I’m currently in the middle of the Affective Interaction module at university – so there really wasn’t anything I didn’t know already. If you’re totally new to the topic, then go and read it – emotions in design are important. DfE shows a lot of practical examples, which is a big plus (although most of them didn’t convince me and I’m not quite sure why), and is rather short and to the point. But if you’re familiar with emotional design or affective computing, then you can skip it.

Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski

A really good book: interesting, practical and nicely written – I really liked the author’s writing style. Web form design has been waiting on my To Read pile for over a year now, and now I’m eager to read it. Mobile First presents some useful stats (and I’ve already quoted them at work) and really good examples that explain the main points. The only issue I have with it is the title itself – I don’t agree that mobile should be first; we should focus on all devices simultaneously, with the strongest emphasis on the device our audience uses the most. But that’s kinda obvious and I’m taking it literally, right? Anyway, read it. Now. And watch these videos.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It’s 2044 and the Internet has been replaced (absorbed?) by one enormous virtual reality. Everyone’s on OASIS because the real world sucks. When the creator and owner of this system dies, a quest for his fortune starts: whoever solves his puzzles coded in the virtual world and finds his Easter Eggs will get his fortune and gain control over the whole system. The twist? The guy was obsessed with the world of his youth (the 80s) and its pop-culture – so to succeed, egg hunters need to share his obsession.
I really liked the book. Not only because it’s full of references to the world of my childhood and is aimed at geeks (Dungeons & Dragons! Tolkien! Back to the Future! Blade Runner! Obscure old computer games!), but also because the story is engaging, characters are interesting (yay for Art3mis!), and the whole thing flows nicely. However, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns: main characters are irritatingly lucky at times, deus ex machinas are flying low couple of times, and, well, I know everyone likes Cory Doctorow, but seriously?! Anyway, it’s still an entertaining thing to read, especially if you like pop-culture, geeky stuff and/or the 80s. And it looks like the movie is coming in 2014.

~Falka, 9 February 12