Books for Generalists

If you’re a generalist like me, you’re probably curious about every subject imaginable, so finding books to read is never a problem. And since your reading list is probably already long enough to cause anxiety, I’m capping this list at ten books and will try to surface titles that aren’t on every other designer’s list.

Note that your local public library should be able to get any of these books for you. (I ❤️ libraries!) Many of them will even be available online, in both text and audiobook formats, via the excellent Libby app.

Now, on with the recommendations…

Four Thousand Weeks book cover

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

by Oliver Burkeman

💭 Four Thousand Weeks is an unexpected and welcome rejection of the cult of productivity and optimization. Burkeman encourages us to be precious with the scant time we have on this planet (~4000 weeks) and to renounce the value that society bizarrely places on joyless urgency. Philosophy geeks will appreciate the nods to existentialism and phenomenology. Burkeman even manages to weave the idea that "we are time," from Martin Heidegger's challenging classic Being and Time, into the text in a digestible way.

How to Be an Antiracist book cover

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

💭 One measure of a great book is its ability to change your thinking on a subject, such that the new way of thinking seems obvious after reading it. Kendi has done that with How to Be an Antiracist. He helped me understand the difference between being "not racist" and being "antiracist." He has also crystalized the idea that an individual can be racist or antiracist at any moment, depending on their behavior, and that sometimes racist actions are required to combat racism (which makes those actions antiracist).

On Caring book cover

On Caring

by Milton Mayeroff

💭 An essential philosophical essay on the nature of caring. That is, what it means to care for one another. [More thoughts on this book coming soon.]

Punished by Rewards book cover

Punished by Rewards

by Alfie Kohn

💭 [Thoughts on this book coming soon.]

Range book cover

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

by David Epstein

💭 The only book I've found on the benefits of nurturing a broad, integrative point of view in an increasingly specialized world. I wish Epstein would have spent more time on the stories of modern professionals navigating work-life in generalist roles. Still, as is, it greatly impacted my understanding of the value of generalism as an approach to life.

The Art of Possibility book cover

The Art of Possibility

by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

💭 A handbook for understanding the value of re-framing our day-to-day existence and the challenges we face along the way. [More thoughts on this book coming soon.]

The Humane Interface book cover

The Humane Interface

by Jef Raskin

💭 [Thoughts on this book coming soon.]

User Friendly book cover

User Friendly

by Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant

💭 [Thoughts on this book coming soon.]