Jessica Helfand’s Book List 9 books and 0 comments
I mostly read non-fiction, only a fraction of which is design-related. I tend to get more out of reading non-design-related things (as this list will reveal), I think, because the references and the language tend to stretch both my mind and my vocabulary. (I often tell my students that I get more out of a New Yorker profile than any design book, and it’s true.)
Beyond this, I would say that most of what I am drawn to relates—albeit loosely—to people’s lives: biographies, books on psychology and the mind, profiles and diaries and personal narratives. Journals by and about artists are currently at the top of my list, as is anything about madness, from art brut and outsider art to stories about struggle, and because I am now working on a book that involves a mysterious suicide, I find myself drawn lately to the darker side of certain personal stories (Lauren Slater’s Welcome to My Country comes to mind, as does William Styron’s Darkness Visible).
Strange: this makes me sound so serious and misanthropic, which I’m not at all. Then again, I’ve been married for nearly 16 years to a man whose favorite writers are Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka, so is it any wonder?