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In the People Nerd Library

The books they can't put down... and some more that they've written. 

Words by Carrie Neill, Visuals by Delaney Gibbons

In honor of World Book Day, (and because we love any excuse to curl up with a great read), we asked some of our recent People Nerds what’s currently on their nightstand. The books they’re loving right now range from explorations of empathy and practical guides to ethnography to novels with staying power, illustrated children’s books, and essay collections by one of our funniest female comics. Here then is a People Nerd reading list, plus, a handy list of titles penned by our profilees. 

People Nerd Markus Grupp recommends… 

The Power of Kindness: Why Empathy Is Essential in Everyday Life 
by Brian Goldman, MD

Empathy is undoubtedly one of the most overused words in recent years in research and design. But with "The Power of Kindness," Dr. Brian Goldman shares stories that reflect the true meaning of the word, by sharing everyday stories of empathy from the most unsuspecting places around the world. I have long loved Dr. Goldman's CBC Radio show "White Coat, Black Art," and find that he brings this same incredible storytelling to print with this book. — Markus Grupp

People Nerd Yasmine Khan recommends…

Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris
by Vanessa Schwartz

Schwartz explores the “rise in the status of the spectacle” in the second half of the nineteenth century; a culmination of technological, social and economic changes in Paris giving explosive rise to the act of society watching. Where today we have Instagram, then, people followed local and global stories with photos for the first time ever in mass press. Our innate desire to see for ourselves manifested even in lining up to view victims of crimes that the morgue put on display for the public. In America, the advent of the department store changed shopping from haggling with a shopkeeper to an experience where one marveled at items under glass on display—with fixed price tags. It's a heady but stimulating read. —Yasmine Khan 

People Nerd Nicole Beechum recommends… (after admitting she’s never been able to recommend just one book!) 

Victor LaValle's Destroyer by Victor LaValle

Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Parable of the Sower: A Novel by Octavia E. Butler

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey, Matthew L. Miller, and Andy Fleming

The comic book series “Victor LaValle’s Destroyer” is the best thing I’ve read recently. LaValle is genius in his ability to relate the classic Frankenstein story to one of the most pressing issues of our time, police shootings of black citizens. 

For a children's book, Junot Diaz's “Islandborn.” I could cry right now just thinking about this book. It is visually stunning and tells the story of a little girl who doesn't remember where she is from. Like all great books it’s written for a particular population, in this case the marginalized immigrant. But virtually all Americans can find themselves in this story. We're all from somewhere else and most of us don't know much about that place—when and if we care, we must rely on the memories of others. (And my nearly 4-year old is obsessed with the main character Lola!)

The book that haunts me in our current political climate is Octavia Butler's “Parable of the Sower.” In 1993, Butler wrote a book where a racist, divisive political candidate promised to "make American great again" and that's not even what the book is about. Butler's genius was in looking at her current environment and asking, what's next? (Everything by Octavia Butler is amazing. Her most popular novel is “Kindred.” My favorite is “Wild Seed.”)

For a business book, I’d recommend “An Everyone Culture.” I find the idea of a “Deliberately Developmental Organization” fascinating. The key to any organization, (business or otherwise), is people, and I wonder how the ideas in this book translate to other fields. —Nicole Beechum

People Nerd Carrie Yury recommends…

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector by Sam Ladner

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I just started Sam Ladner’s “Practical Ethnography,” and it’s a really interesting and useful mix of practical advice, theory, and storytelling. And I’m in the middle of listening to Anna Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody,” and it is making me think about everything from child acting to the rituals of frequent travelers. Inspired by the book, I went back and watched “Up In The Air.” Does it make me a bad person that I totally relate to the George Clooney character's travel OCD? —Carrie Yury

People Nerd Jonathan Bean recommends...

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I tried really hard to dislike this book, because I find it hard to admit that I like anything that has to do with “Eat Pray Love.” But I was stuck in a car on a cross-country trip, the only radio station on the air was playing an interview with the author, and now I recommend this book to students at least once a month. I was sold the second Gilbert started talking about how she thinks it's terrible to tell people to follow their passion. Passion is a taken-for-granted concept in the world of design thinking, and I think the need to describe everything in terms of passion really smashes some students and turns others into fraudsters. Not many people, young or old, truly know what they are passionate about. Instead of passion, Gilbert thinks nurturing curiosity is much better advice for living a creative life. She says creative people should cultivate a habit of asking why, then patiently do the legwork to answer our own questions. If you're really lucky one day you'll find what it is you're passionate about. But no matter what, you'll be engaged and propelled forward by curiosity. —Jonathan Bean 

And don’t forget to check out the books authored by our very own People Nerds:

Jeanne Bliss’s Would You Do That to Your Mother? The "Make Mom Proud" Standard for How to Treat Your Customers Coming in May 2018. The former president of Southwest Airlines has already called it “a masterpiece… a book that every employee will want to read, and every leader should.”

John Dominski’s Gorillas Up Close (co-authored with Christena Nippert-Eng) In a starred review, Booklist called it “fascinating, eye-opening.”

Christian Madsbjerg’s Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm A mixture of “a mixture of how-to text and trenchant philosophy” and a Financial Times Business Book of the Month.

Anne Helen Peterson’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman One of NPR’s Best Books of 2017, The Atlantic called this “Supremely thoughtful...snappy and compelling.”

Paula Zuccotti’s Everything We Touch: A 24-Hour Inventory of Our Lives Wired praised it as “a fascinating glimpse into daily lives.”

Ran Zilca’s Ride of Your Life: A Coast to Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace Deepak Chopra called it “a rare collection of scientifically-sound advice fused with unique spiritual experiences.”

Carrie Neill is a New York based writer, editor, design advocate, bookworm, travel fiend, dessert enthusiast, and a fan of People Nerds everywhere.

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