Friday, January 13, 2006

2005 - the year in books

While I'm on a roll, here's my reading list from last year. I'd meant to write up full reviews, but instead will just give a quick note on some. Highly recommended books in bold. (and yes, they are all associates links, so maybe I can make myself latte money :-).

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman (started in '04, finished in '05). 3/5
  • System of the World by Neal Stephenson (started in '04, finished in '05) 4/5
  • Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. Awesome book. 5/5. Must buy. Go now.
  • Difficult Questions about Video Games by Newman and Simons. Also a great read, if you can find it. Search around, it's worth it! 5/5
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries. Good quick read. 4/5
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries. A lot of repeat with the above, but enough material to make it worth the additional read. 3/5
  • Savage Pastimes by Harold Schechter. 3/5
  • Strategy Bites Back by Henry Mintzberg et al. Hard to rate this one. It's a 'gems' style book about business strategy. While some of the essays in includes are five-star ones, many are just the opposite. Also, about half of them are by the authors themselves, giving the feeling that they couldn't gather enough contributions from external authors. I'll give it a 3/5, but if you pick it up, skip straight to essays from Michael Porter, Hans Christian Anderson, and Peter Drucker. I also really liked the "Strategy as 'Little Black Dress' by Jeanne Leidtka.
  • Our Band Could Be Your Life by ... I linked to this one a while back in my 'game industry 2.0' rant. It's a great history of the indie punk rock scene of the eighties, but I'd argue it's a great blueprint (maybe more of a treasure map - it'll require some decoding) for all the indie game developers out there (which was the reason Elliot G over at Intel recommended it to me during a conversation about the game industry). 4/5
  • Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson. Great inspiring read. Fun and there are some lessons in there to boot. I didn't read many novels this year but this one felt like one with all the romping adventure. Still it's a good read from a biz book perspective as well. 5/5.
  • In Search of Stupidity by Merrill Chapman. Picked this up on a whim and did I find stupidity? Yes! In me, for buying this book! The author looks back at various blunders in the tech industry, and instead of saying "this is why idea A *seemed* like a good idea at the time" and explaining how we might look to our own times and ideas and look for parallels, he instead just says "It was marketing's fault! What the hell were they thinking?!". It should play well to programmers with limited empathy for those outside their ilk, but I think the book's a dud. 1/5
  • Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson. Definitely recommended. Powerpoint gets used TOO MUCH in corp communication these days, and instead of a tool it's often used as a crutch. If you ever have to give any kind of presentations, whether to groups or 1:1, it's worthwhile picking this up. 4.5/5.
  • The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Figured this would be a good read when starting the new job. Can't say I followed his instruction 100%, but I still think it was valuable from a couple points. 3.5/5
  • The Rules of Work by Richard Templar. Ugh. Did not finish this one. It was awful. The author takes such a "you vs everyone" approach to how you should "attack" the corporate ladder. He should have stuck to watching Wall Street re-runs. 1/5
  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. What an awesome and fun read. Though provoking and very analogous in many ways to the gaming medium. Plus the whole thing is in comic book form! 5/5, or rather *****/*****
  • Smartbomb by Heather Chaplin. Did not finish. I give this one a 2/5 (for what I read of it) since some folks might find it of use, but definitely not of interest for game industry folk.
  • The Meaning Of It All by Richard Feynman. I wrote up a review here. Good quick read. Thought provoking reading. 4/5 only because it's so short!

So, not bad. I felt like I didn't do enough reading, but in retrospect, not so bad. 17 books started, 14 finished. I've already got an eye on a few for this year.

1 comment:

Knox Gardner said...

Thanks for the list of books. I hit your blog based on the story of the Freecell Grandmas. While gaming is not an avocation of mine, I work in advertising, and need to get a hell of lot more savvy professionally on geo-blogging etc. Some of these books are going straight to the top of my list to read.

Here's three back at you, that I thought worth my time last year:

Jared Diamond's Collapse,
Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and one other quiet book that I've not quite got my head around, Marilynee Robinson's "Gilead", which is a 2004 book, but I only got to it this year.