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Brilliant culture and design books I’m reading

As a child, I always had books with me. I loved losing myself into good stories, to the point it hurt when they finished. In later years, my attention span became ridiculously short.

Books lined up with and the writing Recommended reads by Silvia Maggi
Photo by Drew Coffman, composition by Silvia Maggi

Recently, I managed to finish a few titles I’ve been dragging for months and start a few more. Some of them are ideal if you’re a designer, others are either very interesting or funny — or both — for anyone.

The Culture Map, by Erin Meyer

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

Status: finished

The Culture Map is an eye-opener. Our culture systems condition the way we see the world, to the point it’s difficult to imagine how others might do things differently. Yet, in a more connected world, it’s expected to end up working with people from other countries. With tried and tested techniques from her work as a consultant, Meyer explains how to understand and overcome our differences and work together harmoniously.

Even if, initially, the book might seem to be aimed at business people, I found it fascinating and revealing. It made me look at my culture with different eyes, and I had a few ‘a-ha’ moments recalling the awkward moments when it clashed with the Anglo-Saxon’s.

I believe this book is a must-read for any company employing people from different countries. Generally, employees have to understand and adapt to the culture of a company; yet, it’s much less common to have open discussions about our differences, how they impact our work and how to approach them successfully.

🔗 Read the about book (on Goodreads)

Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, by Jaron Lanier

Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Status: finished

Even if you decide not to delete your social media accounts, this book is a compelling read. Jaron Lanier is a Silicon Valley pioneer, and a founder of the field of virtual reality, who tells us why social media are dangerous. If you saw The Social Dilemma, you know him as one of the interviewees.

Within their current business models, the tech giants manipulate our behaviour to sell us something. While their clients are happy, we’re prodded and inundated with ads. He provides powerfully argued reasons to leave the social networks, suggesting life is better off them.

Lanier explains how algorithms work in general — pointing out how the ones built by Big Tech are among the best-kept secrets in the world — and why it’s almost impossible to discuss with people holding different views. I had doubts about social media well before reading the book, but some of the arguments convinced me to finally act.

🔗 Read about the book (on Goodreads)

Cross-Cultural Design, by Senongo Akpem

Cross-Cultural Design by Senongo Akpem

Status: finished

I bookmarked this book in June and picked it up again recently. Coupled with The Culture Map, it’s a fundamental read for anyone in the web field. Whereas many of us think of our users as wealthy, Western people, our audience is much more diverse. So we better design for them too.

🔗 Read about the book (on A Book Apart)

My Bass and Other Animals, by Guy Pratt

My Bass and Other Animals by Guy Pratt

Status: finished

If you don’t know him by name, chances are you heard him playing bass in many of your favourite songs. Pratt played for Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Brian Ferry, Madonna, and many more.

At some point, he also did stand up shows, on which this book is based. I was lucky enough to both see him playing live and hear his recollection of his almost-encounter with Michael Jackson. Expect a very entertaining, funny read.

🔗 Read about the book (on Goodreads)

La Testa degli Italiani, by Beppe Severgnini

La Testa degli Italiani by Beppe Severgnini

Status: finished

The Culture Map prompted to ask myself what it means to be Italian. When I moved to the UK, it soon became clear that I was born and raised in a very different culture. I appreciated and embraced every difference, in a process that I can retroactively describe as a mediation between two worlds. Before clarifying how the mediation happened — what was instrinsically mine and what I absorbed — I need to understand what makes me Italian.

Servegnini is a respected journalist, whose column, Italians, I used to follow many years ago. He wrote La Testa degli Italiani with a lot of sense of humour, so you should approach the book as a semi-serious portrait of a country that is often romanticised or condemned.

🔗 Read the book in Italian or in English

Last updated on 22 March 2022.

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