Hartmut Esslinger

Product/Industrial Designer / United States / De Tao Group/Studio Esslinger

Hartmut Esslinger’s Book List

Decisions—decisions . . . Here are “my” books. Actually I have two walls of books, one here in San Francisco and another in Germany.

In addition to the fiction on my list, I read a lot of history—currently American: politics, design, and biographies.

8 books
Thornton Wilder

Crazy story—computing whether a life will be valuable in God’s judgment. Beautiful language.

Ernest Hemingway

I would also include Hemingway’s short stories, such as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

John Steinbeck

Having lived for 15 years next to Steinbeck’s house in Los Gatos, California, this book is a “natural” for me. Driving from Salinas to Monterey in heavy fog makes the story come alive. The movie with James Dean helps, too. The book also resonates as I grew up on a farm in a tiny village.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Very poetic and naturally a bit over-quoted by mindless people. I had to study it in French and its simplicity fascinates.

Marcus Aurelius

Among the many reasons to keep returning to this book:

—“As a leader, do what you have to do and don’t try to be popular.”

—“Why would you care for fame with those who aren’t even born yet?”

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

I was 13 when I read “Rashomon” for the first time. I even made a chart showing how the different facts could match up so differently from each person’s point of view. Then I saw the movie by Akira Kurasawa. And finally I learned in Japan that Ryunosuke Akutagawa had been both a genius and a mentally ill man, ultimately taking his own life.


A timeless record of the beginning of “Western culture” and philosophy. (I didn’t like it so much when we had to study it in high school.) One always comes back to it (“sightseers of the truth”)—especially when reading modern philosphers like Ludwig Wittgenstein (“what can be shown cannot be said”).

Lao Tzu

One of many reasons to read it again and again: “A vessel is defined by the space where there is nothing.”

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