Classic Books with Inspiring Design Messages
Here is a list of some remarkable reads that will inspire you to see solutions where others only see problems.
The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges
How can a World War I spy send a message from London to Germany without a telegraph, the mail, or even a carrier pigeon? The narrator of this short story has minutes to find an answer, and uses creative problem-solving to safely deliver his message using a name in a phone book and a single bullet.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
Despite the fact that he was never elected to any office, Robert Moses was the most powerful man in New York City for decades. This is the story of how he transformed (and many would argue, trashed) the city—building not just physical structures like highways and bridges, but reshaping politics.
The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram
This book reminds us of our rich vocabulary, resources, and instincts from which we can draw to effectively communicate. Abram presents a worldview of human language and symbols that is world-changing for those who dive in.
Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things
For this collection, authors like Jonathan Lethem and Colson Whitehead were asked to invent stories about cheap trinkets, then post both the story and object on eBay to see if the story raised the value. Prices went up a staggering 2,700 percent, demonstrating the power of emotional connection in the things we make.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Marco Polo travels the vast empire of the Great Khan, bringing back reports of distant cities—despite the fact that he can’t speak the Khan’s language or the languages of the other places he visits. Instead, he designs new ways of communicating through motions, gestures, and suggestions.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
This sci-fi novel tells the story of a world in which avatars interact in the Metaverse, a collective virtual space. The book helped inspire the creation of Second Life, and—like other fiction that has led to real-life inventions— illustrates the power of storytelling to create a vision for a future reality.
The Gun by C.J. Chivers
A former infantry officer in the U.S. Marines sets out to show how history has been determined by the merits of various firearms, and by the design of the deadly Soviet assault rifle, the AK-47, in particular.
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Ibee Wilson
From prehistoric cups made from whatever material was readily available to modern ovens that bake soufflés to the nearest 0.01 degree, this book explores how the objects used to prepare and consume food over centuries have determined what people have eaten in different eras, and the resulting impact on their health, well-being, and behavior.
Illustrations by Francesca Ramos.
When Humans Fight, but Animals Win Penguins have resorted to using landmines to keep pesky humans away.
So You Think You’re a Foodie? Pop culture was onto these trends way before you were. A sampling of the screwball comedies, sob stories, and sci-fis that anticipated our culinary moment
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.
What to Do When Your Country is Drowning The wild and desperate ways island nations are fighting the effects of climate change
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.