BXA Recommended Reading

What follows is a list of books and essays which I have found extremely helpful in clarifying who I am, what I do, and how I get it done. It's tailored for students in Carnegie Mellon's BXA program, who are just beginning their journey between disciplines.

Who dares disturb the Egg of Mavrilla! A thousand curses! A thousand blessings! #sketchlife #rapidograph #processshot #penandink #blackandwhite #chiaroscuro #dungeonsanddragons #rpg #salamander #egg #artifa.jpg

The Basics & Beginnings

You'll be following the thread of your interest for the next eighty years. You ought to build good habits of work and public life now, so that they are second nature by the time you need them. Additionally, you'll need to find methods of work that scale in both physical scope and durational scope. You'll want to find ways of working that can be delegated and which you can sustain for decades.

To that end, three books, all available in audio, digital, and print:

How To Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

Getting Things Done - David Allen

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey

A fourth, if you really like process thinking:

Work Clean - Dan Charnas


The Future, by @superdirtypoet #publicart #poetry #dirtypoet.jpg

The New Economy

The world is changing, and the pace of change is greater than it has ever been. The cohort before mine (I'm an old Millennial, so just before me are the youngest and final Gen Xers) was really the last that could potentially work in the same field their entire life. I worked at one place for nearly five years - a rarity in my peer group. The 40 hour work week is functionally dead. I expect that I will outlast most institutions that employ me. It'll be weirder for yinz, and let me tell you, it's pretty damn weird for me.

Two avenues, related:

Make yourself indispensable to those who employ you. Do work that matters, do it frequently, and do it generously. Seth Godin give you a gameplan for this in Linchpin - Are You Indispensable?.

Find 1000 people who care deeply about the work you make, and who, collectively, underwrite your time on the planet. This is a notion posited by Kevin Kelly, editor of WIRED magazine - 1000 True Fans

Craigslist couch. #cat #oldgranddad #books #couch #craigslist #simonstalenhag #nofilter #picking #leather #vintage #happyplace.jpg

Craft (and by EXTENSION art)

Making things is important. Ideas are cheap and frequent. Implementations, GOOD implementations, are rare and beautiful. Most people talk. You need to DO. 

And that's hard. Devastating. Emotionally exhausting. It's real work. Hard work.

Amanda Palmer is in your corner with The Art of Asking.

Elizabeth Gilbert is signing permission slips like there is no tomorrow in Big Magic.

Anne Lamott will sit with you as you do the work, Bird By Bird

Alphabet & me, doing our best Lion King impression, hanging out with @lauratypes ..jpg

He's Famous, but He's Right

Integrating new knowledge will occupy at least the next thirty years of your life. Longer, if you choose it.

Timothy Ferriss has spent the last decade contemplating this meta-learning, interviewing thousands of people who are "world class" in one discipline or another, and finding the unifying themes. The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body, and The Four Hour Chef are, respectively, a business book, a fitness book, and this monstrosity that looks like 800 pages of recipes but is actually 200 pages of learning-about-learning + 600 pages of the individual tools and techniques that make up masterful cooking.

His podcast is where things really shine - hundreds of hours of fascinating interviews with everyone from hospice workers to ex-generals.

Logistics & Systems

These books have shaped the last five years of my life. They may not appeal to you at all, and that is totally fine.

Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming is the classic and evergreen masterclass for process control & production of quality.

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction covers the design of the built environment, from how one ought to structure society down to lighting of hallways and the construction of work-spaces. It is also a deeply weird example of early 1970s Utopian thinking. 

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built is the best book about urban design and civic theory that I have ever read.