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Book List No. 8: Minimal

Sometimes less is more. This June’s theme of Minimal is causing us to question what we could do with a little less or do without. The theme was chosen by our Aarhus chapter and has a clever illustration by Cincinnati-based artist Andrew Neyer.

From minimal design to minimal living, this month’s speakers are saying less is more, in so many words or less. We collected ten books sourced from our community to get you thinking, well, minimally.


The Top Ten:

  1. In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, by Matthew E. May
    Matthew E. May makes the argument that what’s “not there” often trumps what is in this poignant book that explains why certain events, products, and people capture our attention and imaginations. From the Sopranos to sudoku, May digs into key elements that make an argument for elegance in every design.

  2. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
    Stretched too thin? Overwhelmed? Greg McKeown writes on doing less, but better, to help you make the most impact out of your efforts. It’s not about doing less, but doing the right things to regain control over how you spend your time.

  3. The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda
    Simplicity = Sanity. In this book, past CreativeMornings/NewYork speaker, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design.

  4. Case Study Houses, by Elizabeth Smith, Peter Gossel
    Recommended by our Washington, DC chapter, Case Study Houses paints a picture of the Case Study House Program (1945-66), a program in Los Angeles that enlisted some of architecture’s greatest talents to design houses meant to re-define the modern home. The book shares some of the extensive documentation from the program, including brilliant photographs from the period and, for the houses still in existence, contemporary photos, floor plans and sketches.

  5. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), by Seth Godin
    When the rest of the world is telling you to push it further and keep going, Seth Godin wrote one of the few books on when to quit. Forget everything you thought about quitting—that quitting is for losers and winners never quit. “I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I will teach you how to ask the right questions.”

  6. An Illustrated Life, by Charley Harper, Todd Oldham
    “Charley Harper liked to say that when he paints a bird, he doesn’t count all the feathers in the wings—he just counts the wings.” This minimal realist created art from his home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio, until his death. His illustrations of animals and other things are compiled in this definitive monograph.

  7. The Minimalists: Essential Essays, by Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus
    A book list on minimal wouldn’t be complete without this series of essays from Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. After leaving their six-figure careers, the duo jettisoned most of their possessions. They write about living a meaningful life with less stuff.

  8. Minimum, by John Pawson
    Billed as the “bible of the Minimalist aesthetic,” Minimum is a visual essay exploring minimum as applied to architecture, art, and design compiled by the Minimalist architect John Pawson. Now out of print, the hardbound edition is a collectors’ item.

  9. Minimalism And Fashion: Reduction In The Postmodern Era, by Elyssa Dimant
    Looking through the eyes of the minimalist movement, Elyssa Dimant explores the evolving relationships and influences between fine art and the art of sartorial minimalism decade by decade.

  10. James Turrell: The Other Horizon, by Peter Noever
    From James Turrell’s first light projection at the age of 23 to some of his seminal pieces in the thirty years after, The Other Horizon reveals the development of his work and an extensive overview from his earliest pieces to present day, heavily influenced by Minimalism and the Earthwork movement.

If this list leaves you feeling wishing for a little more (but not too much, because the theme is minimal after all), check out our Pinterest Board, Theme 19: Minimal, which includes even more minimalist reads. Read on.

Follow CreativeMornings’s board Theme 19: Minimal on Pinterest.

Have any recommendations? Leave them in the comments below.


I've been reading Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek.

Michael Miller • June 13, 2014