The First Books I Would Recommend to Any Architect

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The Best Books I’d Recommend to Any Architect

In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have read some amazing books as I continue to transform my life and my career into something awesome.

These books are just a taste of what I’ve read, but they represent the best of the best in my library and certainly the first books I’d recommend to any Architect.

The strange thing you might realize fairly quickly is that most of the books on this list aren’t ‘ARCHITECTURE’ books per say. One of my rules for this list was to make the books accessible and useful while not focusing too heavily on the work of an individual or firm. Don’t worry, I’ll make another list for those types of books another day.

Please note that I 100% own each of these books and wouldn’t recommend them to you unless I had actually experienced them for myself firsthand and absolutely loved them.

Now, I hope you enjoy!


The Architecture of Happiness

Alain de Botton

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The buildings we admire are ultimately those which, in a variety of ways, extol values we think worthwhile — which refer, that is, whether through their materials, shapes or colours, to such legendarily positive qualities as friendliness, kindness, subtlety, strength and intelligence. Our sense of beauty and our understanding of the nature of a good life are intertwined.
— Alain de Botton

The Architecture of Happiness is one of the most beautiful, well-written texts I’ve ever read in my entire life. I picked it up a few years ago at a time when I was questioning exactly what it was I wanted from my career.

It’s the kind of book that inspires you to go out into the world and put your design skills into overdrive.


Start with Why

Simon Sinek

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Imagine if every organization started with WHY. Decisions would be simpler. Loyalties would be greater. Trust would be a common currency. If our leaders were diligent about starting with WHY, optimism would reign and innovation would thrive.
— Simon Sinek

Two years ago, in May 2017, I was sitting at a cafe in Orlando, Florida, sipping on an iced coffee in the days ahead of the AIA National Conference. In my hands was one of the few books that has literally changed my life.

That book was Start with Why.

If The Architecture of Happiness is my go to book for inspiring architecture, then Start with Why is the equivalent for finding your purpose. Built upon a killer TED Talk, Simon Sinek brings you from case study to case study, helping the reader to understand how successful brands like Apple and Southwest Airlines were able to transform their industries simply by starting with ‘WHY’ as their primary compass for existing.


Tribe of Mentors

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Often, all that stands between you and what you want is a better set of questions.
— Timothy Ferriss

Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors is masterful, not because of Tim’s writing and personal insights, but rather, because of the amazing questions he’s asked his esteemed and long list of standout interviewees.

Imagine a book that takes the same 10 questions and asks everyone from Terry Crews to Gary Vaynerchuk what advice they’d give in response. That is Tribe of Mentors.


Art’s Principles

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I believe it is never too late to pursue your dream. ... If you are serious about pursuing your dream, invest in understanding the basic principles of business that make a professional services firm great. You will develop the confidence required to make the leap toward success.
— Arthur Gensler

I’ve never had the pleasure to meet Art Gensler, but I’d imagine he’s a brilliant mentor. His book, Art’s Principles, is such an open look at one of if not the largest Architecture firms on the planet.

Because the focus of the book is service, it’s a wonderful way for Art to frame not only valuable experience but an impactful message to generations of Architects that follow.


Crush It!

Gary Vaynerchuck

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(The best marketing strategy ever.) CARE.
— Gary Vaynerchuk

I don’t know if I can still say that Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! is still his best book (there are so many good ones), but it’s absolutely the one that you have to start with if you’ve never experienced his work.

Looking back on it, it feels like a book that started a revolution—one revolving around HUSTLE. While many people may take his message a bit too literally and push themselves too hard, his intent to motivate others to take the reigns of their own lives is very commendable.

This book is like a kick in the ass for your motivation.


Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon

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In the end, creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out.
— Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon is ‘an author who draws.’ His book, Steal Like an Artist is a celebration of his process that merges sketching, graphic design, and writing.

Aside from the beautiful and simple layout, the book is incredibly insightful for creatives of all kinds.


Level Up Your Life

Steve Kamb

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The benefits of a single day spent working on your current quest pale in comparison to the bigger reason why you’re doing this: to prove to yourself that you can make progress, and that working on a quest daily can become a new habit for you—a new normal.
— Steve Kamb

When I started the latest phase of my life, coming back from the precipice of burnout, Level Up Your Life was the book that motivated me to make a change and how to do it using superheroes as my inspiration.

I’m a nerd at heart and this book spoke to me on a very guttural level. It takes the idea that our journey to better ourselves is not only possible, but can be really fun at the same time.


Atomic Habits

James Clear

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The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements. It’s remarkable what you can build if you just don’t stop. ... Small habits don’t add up. They compound.
— James Clear

The most recent book on my list may also be one of the most actionable. Atomic Habits is a wonderful synopsis of James Clear’s thesis to make small, but continual improvements over time.

From the first pages, this book will immediately give you advice that you can work with. I’ve used this book in the past few months to help me lose 20+ just by following simple changes to habits. A very powerful book indeed.


Maximize Your Potential

Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

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Traditional career advice suggests a passive approach to finding your calling: Pick a job listing, apply, wait for a response. Get the job, perform your duties, wait for a promotion. Rinse, repeat, stagnate. But a wait-and-see attitude is hardly the path to greatness.
— Jocelyn K. Glei

Maximize Your Potential is a very unique book in that it reads partially like a curated blog, partially like the best career book you’ve ever read.

The book investigates four major themes to break you out of the norms of career development and to expand your ideas of what a career can be.

Each theme is understood through several bite-sized articles that are both engaging and brief. You can pick up this book and read it 10 minutes at a time, or spend an afternoon to read the entire thing. Not to mention, this is actually the second book in an amazing trilogy. I’d recommend any and all of the three if this one speaks to you.


The Odyssey

Homer

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I am Odysseus son of Laertes, known before all men for the study of crafty designs, and my fame goes up to the heavens
— Homer

In many ways, The Odyssey is the most important book (technically an epic poem) on this list—at least it is for me. I remember being that kid that picked up the book one Summer as an additional reading for my AP English course in High School. I don’t know drew me to it exactly, but once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

The text speaks to my appreciation of epic storytelling and the adventure of the journey.

On another level, The Odyssey is a metaphor for all that we experience on our individual journeys as architects and professionals. No, we’re not Odysseus battling his way past sirens, traps, a cyclops and a treacherous hoard.

But we are the keepers of the built environment, fighting to preserve our heritage and innovate for the betterment of the world around us.


Final Thoughts

I hope that this selection of books helps you on your own journey. I’d love to hear which of these you enjoy the most or which book you’d recommend I read from your own library.

I’m always on the hunt for the next good book that will push me farther along my path.

Now go and find your Odyssey — the story you can’t put down. The one to call your own.

Michael LaValley