Jeff Zych

2023 Reading List

I read 30 books in 2023, which is actually 5 more than 2022 and 6 more than 2021. Like the preceding years, this year felt lower than the previous years but was actually higher (very much buoyed by visual books like Practical UI and Arcade Game Typography).

I only read 6 fiction books this year, which I thought was surprisingly low until I checked last year and it was 3 times higher, hah. My most-read category is art/design/creativity (11), which is both because I find those most interesting and gobble them up, and also because many of them are visual and low in words. I did better this year at reading books by women (8 — same as last year) and people of color (8).

Faves

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin: This book was written about a lot in last year’s reading lists, but I didn’t get to it until 2023 and it did not disappoint. It’s the story of a creative partnership and friendship and how that changes and evolves over decades. And it’s all centered around video games (especially 80s and 90s “retro” games), which hits the nostalgia factor hard for me.
  • Practical UI by Adham Dannaway: A great book of practical UI tips and tricks to up your UI and visual design game. Instant recommend for anyone getting started in UI design, or for design veterans who are looking for more tricks to add to their toolbelt (alongside Refactoring UI by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger).
  • The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin: By far the best book on creativity I’ve read in a long time. Probably ever. Every chapter and paragraph and line and word felt meaningful and like I was only understanding a fraction of the deeper meaning. Rick writes about creativity in a philosophical, mystical way that’s applicable to any creative endeavor, not just music (I saw it described as being written in the style of the Tao Te Ching, which I haven’t read but seems apt). I found it so inspiring that I keep a copy on my desk and flip to random pages sometimes to give me guidance. I keep a couple of post-its on my monitor of quotes from the book (a sample: “If you begin with a question and use it to guide an adventure of discovery, that’s the work of the artist.”).
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith: This was a recommendation from a friend and it did not disappoint. The writing is sharp and witty, the characters have depth, and it felt like a movie playing in my head while I read it.
  • Arcade Game Typography: The art of pixel type by Toshi Omagari: This was a really cool book documenting and classifying 8x8 pixel type that was used in early video games. I was impressed by the amount of variety that people came up with in such a small grid! It’s a largely visual book, and anyone who played early video games would enjoy flipping through it.
  • Jungalow: Decorate Wild by Justina Blakeney: I believe this is the first interior decorating book I’ve read, and I found it very inspiring. Justina has an eclectic and unique style that I enjoy, but more importantly she encourages exploration and trying things out and finding what you like over following “rules” set by others. I’ve noticed this as a meta-trend with myself: I’m drawn to creatives who have unique and expressive styles and advocate finding what works for you rather than what other people say is “right” or “wrong” (such as the chefs Molly Baez and Samin Nosrat).
  • Booze and Vinyl by Andre and Tenaya Darlington: This was a Christmas present from last year that pairs a classic vinyl record with 2 cocktails (one for each side). The intentionality of putting on a record and making a pair of cocktails to sip on while listening really resonated with me. The authors throw parties like this which I’ve been holding in the back of my head to do some day. It inspired me to purchase some vinyl and make a some new cocktails!

Lastly, I read a couple of classics this year: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Both classics for a reason, although neither “wow!”-ed me or changed my life. I had read Catcher in high school, and it’s so much easier to see how full of shit Holden is as an adult. I had never read The Bell Jar before, and I can see how it could be really meaningful for folks in high school and college.

List

As always, you can view the full list and follow along with my current list in Notion.

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin 👍
  • Practical UI by Adham Dannaway 👍
  • Salt: A World History by Mark Kurkansky
  • A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past by Lewis Hyde
  • Please Report Your Bug Here by Josh Riedel
  • Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
  • Flawless Typography Checklist by Jeremiah Shoaf 👍
  • Feeding Littles and Beyond: 100 baby-led-weaning-friendly recipes the whole family will love by Ali Maffucci, Megan McNamee, and Judy Delaware
  • Dopeworld by Niko Vorobyov
  • Brave Companions by David McCullough
  • How to Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy 🎸
  • Vacationland by John Hodgman
  • A Dictionary of Color Combinations vol. 2 by Sanzo Wada
  • Company of One by Paul Jarvis 👍
  • The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin 💯
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Arcade Game Typography: The art of pixel type by Toshi Omagari 👾
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty
  • Articulating Design Decisions by Tom Greever
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith 👍
  • Jungalow: Decorate Wild by Justina Blakeney 👩🏼‍🎨
  • Design by Definition by Elizabeth McGuane
  • User Friendly: How the hidden rules of design are changing the way we live, work, and play by Cliff Kuang with Robert Fabricant
  • First Designer In: From just hired to minimum viable design team in five weeks by Tara L. Kelly 👍
  • Daddy Diaries by Andy Cohen
  • Booze and Vinyl by Andre Darlington and Tenaya Darlington🍻
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
  • A Brief History of Lager: 500 Years of the Worlds Favorite Beer by Mark Dredge 🍻
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