What are you reading?

What Are You Reading?

Issue: XXXI.4 July - August 2024
Page: 10
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Jofish Kaye

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The book I'm most excited about this year from an HCI/UX point of view is Will Guidara's Unreasonable Hospitality. It's about building a top-tier restaurant, one capable of winning three Michelin stars. Those of you who have seen the show The Bear might have seen the book flashed on-screen in "Forks" (season 2, episode 7). It's about that kind of absolute obsession with the experience of your user. But it's also about experience design, service design, and having a customer-centric mindset, about acts of service as the foundation of professional practice. We've started to see these kinds of approaches in app design: thinking seriously about how to reduce friction, how to make your users feel valued, how to deal with onboarding. Inspirational.


In 2017, I developed shingles, which I strongly advise against. (Get your vaccine, folks!) A few weeks later, one side of my lip had gone numb and I drooled when I brushed my teeth. I posted on Facebook and a friend replied that I probably had Ramsay Hunt type II syndrome—Bell's palsy co-occurring with shingles. Searching turned up disconcerting statistics, such as "90 percent of people recover, eventually." Luckily, that weekend I saw my acupuncturist, who took one look and said, "Oh, you've got Bell's palsy. That happens to my pregnant clients all the time. I know exactly what to do!" Two weeks later, I was cured. Unfortunately, playwright (and mother of three) Sarah Ruhl was not so lucky. Her memoir of her time with Bell's palsy, Smile: The Story of a Face is touching, sad, and beautiful, engaging deeply with health, disability, and what it means to communicate. Again, great lessons for both our field as a discipline and for the everyday practice of our work.

Smile: The Story of a Face is touching, sad, and beautiful, engaging deeply with health, disability, and what it means to communicate.


Another book I've really enjoyed is my old housemate Eric Nehrlich's You Have a Choice: Beyond Hard Work to Meaningful Impact. He spent several years as chief of staff to the VP of search ads at Google, and then gave it up for executive coaching. You Have a Choice is the distilled essence of that coaching practice, and the distillation is what I like best: The book is a scant 200 pages, with a hands-on exercise after every section. Super thoughtful, super readable, it's a valuable resource for thinking about what you want to do with your limited time in the world.


Finally, I've never been one of those people who can fall asleep easily. When my twins were born, I started reading the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout to help drift off, and they're the perfect balance: interesting enough to keep you reading but not so exciting that they keep you awake. I was delighted when I read an obituary of pioneering sleep scientist William Dement [1], who had settled on exactly the same trick. There are dozens of Nero Wolfe novels, but The Doorbell Rang is a superb exemplar. I know this isn't the normal kind of recommendation for this section, but if I can help a few Interactions readers fall asleep more easily that seems like a mighty good thing.


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1. William Dement died on June 17th. The Economist. Jun. 9, 2020; https://www.economist.com/obituary/2020/07/09/william-dement-died-on-june-17th

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Jofish Kaye directs research teams to produce thoughtful, ethical, and effective HCI- and AI-driven products and prototypes, using tools such as user studies, surveys, and big data analysis. [email protected]

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The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2024 ACM, Inc.