Top 5 books 2018

A little late maybe, a handful of books I took a lot of enjoyment from during last year. This is a general list, rather than strictly professional but I’ll make no apology for that 🙂

Technically Wrong

Sara Wachter-Boettcher

One of two books on my list which are selections from the UX Belfast meetup. Technically Wrong is a catalogue of technology failures, highlighting where ethics and basic human standards are often absent from the tools and services we create. While publication preceded the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story, Facebook is firmly in the book’s sights, along with many other luminaries in the world of social media. This is a short but alarming read, and one I would suggest as essential for anyone working in technology today.

Humble Consulting

Edgar H. Schein

A relevant read for any number of professions and disciplines. The author emphesises the need of asking basic, fundamental questions about purpose and – most importantly – creating a culture where this is welcomed. Schein presents humility as a strength in approaching complex challenges, and as something which nurtures the kind of collaborative relationships required to achieve breakthroughs and desired outcomes. Lots of case studies are offered from a distinguished 40+ year career consulting with organizations large and small, by a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Living in Information

Jorge Arango

Another selection for UX Belfast. Jorge Arango is a qualified architect who made the move into Information Architecture. He presents a thoughtful but powerful call to action for technologists to make better choices about the ‘places’ we create with online services and tools. Drawing parallels with physical spaces, Jorge urges us to build sustainable, nurturing places which are capable of benefitting society as a whole. The book is one of a number published this year that attempt to stimulate debate around ethics in technology, and how those ethics work their way into our creations.

The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst

Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall

In a nutshell, the true story of a man slowly going mad while attempting to fake a solo circumnavigation of the globe. Crowhurst was a fantasist who managed to get enough to buy into his self-delusion to the point where he couldn’t turn back – literally and figuratively. The book documents Crowhurst’s journey from keeping accurate logs, to faking position and logs, and ultimately into hopeless rambling as the pressure of maintaining a lie to the world overwhelmed him. Both tragic and riveting.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

Paul Tremblay

First point: this book has a terrible, pulpy title which belies the subtleties of the storytelling. Paul Tremblay has a distinctive skill of being able to suggest weird and unsettling events, without describing them in detail. What actually occurs is open to the reader’s interpretation. But what we are left with is a compelling drama of a family trying to deal with tragic, highly unnatural (and possibly supernatural) events. Genuinely haunting.


That’s a cross-section of everything I got through during 2018, tempting though it would be to focus on professionally-related books only. As a compulsive book-buyer, I was forced to begin recording all of the books that were in the waiting list. Prompted by this, for a couple of years I’ve been tracking my reading on Trello. That system is worth a full separate post!

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