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June 23, 2022
Learn and grow with UXR-recommended books spanning research and design, diversity, business, psychology, self-help, and fiction.
Surveys That Work (published by Rosenfeld Media in July 2021) explains a seven-step process for designing, running, and reporting on surveys that get accurate results. Written in a no-nonsense style with plenty of examples about real-world compromises, the book focuses on reducing the errors that make up Total Survey Error—a key concept in survey methodology. This book is a must-have if you conduct surveys for UX research.
Convivial Toolbox (published January 2013) introduces an emerging domain of design that is of rising interest to researchers in both academia and business: generative design research, an approach for bringing users directly into the design process to ensure that designers can meet their needs and dreams for the future.
Reimagining Design (published March 2022) shows how design provides a unique angle on problem-solving—how it can be leveraged strategically to cultivate innovation and anchor multidisciplinary teamwork. The author describes his perspective as a Black professional journeying through corporate America, revealing the power of transformative design, multidisciplinary leaps, and diversity.
There are a lot of books on how to get started with service design, but Good Services (published February 2020) is one of the first books that describes what a ‘good’ service is and how to design one, laying out the essential principles for building services that work well for users. It demystifies what people mean by ‘good’ and ‘bad’ service and describes the common elements that contribute to successful—or unsuccessful—service.
Universal Methods of Design (published January 2012) is a helpful collection of design methods that can be easily referenced and used by cross-disciplinary teams in nearly any design project. Methods and techniques are organized alphabetically for ongoing, quick reference. For each method, the book includes a concise description, references for further reading, images and case studies, and the relevant phases for design application.
Presto Sketching (published October 2017) is a practical workbook providing tips, templates, and exercises to help you develop your visual vocabulary and sketching skills to clearly express and communicate your ideas. Learn techniques like product sketching, storyboarding, journey mapping, and conceptual illustration. Dive into tips for visual metaphors, as well as tips for capturing and sharing your sketches digitally and developing your own style.
If you’re in charge of the user experience, development, or strategy for a website, A Web for Everyone (published January 2014) will help you make your site accessible, well-designed, and innovative. Rooted in universal design principles, this book provides solutions, practical advice, and examples of how to create websites that everyone can use.
Don’t Make Me Think (published January 2000) is one of the most widely-recommended books by designers and researchers. First published in 2000 and now on its third edition, the book provides practical tips and advice for human–computer interaction and web usability. Novices and veterans alike cite this book as a must-read that transformed the way they think about web design.
Research Practice (published January 2021), written by UI High’s own Gregg Bernstein, captures the day-to-day of the user research practice itself—what it looks like to work with peers and stakeholders, to raise awareness of research, to make tradeoffs, and to build a larger team. By taking you inside the field of applied user research through the stories and experiences of the people doing the work, this book is a great resource whether you’re considering a career in UXR, new to the industry and curious about where your career will go, or well-established and looking to understand how to expand the reach of your practice.
One of the best ways to increase your odds for creating the perfect product is to understand users’ reasons for doing things. Mental Models (published February 2008) gives you the tools to help you grasp, and design for, those reasons. Indi Young (another member of the Class of ‘22!) has written a roll-up-your-sleeves book for designers, managers, and anyone else interested in making design strategic and successful.
Quantifying the User Experience (March 2012) offers a practical guide for using statistics to solve quantitative problems in user research. Many designers and researchers view usability and design as qualitative activities, which do not require attention to formulas and numbers. However, usability practitioners and user researchers are increasingly expected to quantify the benefits of their efforts. This book is a valuable resource for those engaged in measuring the behavior and attitudes of people during their interaction with interfaces.
Think Like a UX Researcher (published January 2019) will challenge your preconceptions about UX research and encourage you to think beyond the obvious by providing tools, inspiration. You'll discover how to plan and conduct UX research, analyze data, persuade teams to take action on the results and build a career in UX. The book will also help you take a more strategic view of product design so you can focus on optimizing the user's experience.
Although ethnography has been adapted for user research, most ethnographic literature continues to focus on an academic audience. Practical Ethnography (published March 2014) fills the gap by advancing rigorous ethnographic practice tailored to corporate settings. It provides step-by-step guidance at every turn—covering core methods, research design, using the latest mobile and digital technologies, project and client management, ethics, reporting, and translating your findings into business strategies.
Design is about people: what they know, what we want them to know, where we want them to go, and how they get there. Great design, therefore, is built with an in-depth understanding of how people work.
In 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, Dr. Susan Weinschenk provides science-backed examples of what makes people tick, including what grabs attention on a screen, the best line length for text, and the difference between peripheral and central vision. With it, you’ll learn to increase the effectiveness, intuitiveness, and usability of your design projects.
In Algorithms of Oppression (published February 2018), Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color.
People with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, an estimated 15 percent of the global population. But many of us—disabled and nondisabled alike—don’t know how to act, what to say, or how to be an ally to the disability community. Demystifying Disability (published 2021) is an approachable guide to being a thoughtful, informed ally to people with disabilities, with actionable steps for what to say and do (and what not to do) to be a better ally.
Digital accessibility is the practice of ensuring that everyone has equal access to information, functionality, and experience on digital platforms. Many accessibility guides out there are either too prescriptive (making it seem like a checklist), too aspirational (painting a utopian picture that doesn’t drive action), or too charity-driven (driving the point that people with disabilities are to be pitied). Giving a Damn About Accessibility (published January 2021) is a little different, providing a more candid take on the topic.
Design Justice (published February 2020) is an exploration of how design might be led by marginalized communities, dismantle structural inequality, and advance collective liberation and ecological survival. Along the way, the book documents a multitude of real-world community-led design practices, each grounded in a particular social movement. Design Justice goes beyond recent calls for design for good, user-centered design, and employment diversity in the technology and design professions; it connects design to larger struggles for collective liberation and ecological survival.
Named one of The Progressive’s Best Books of the Year, Disability Visibility (published June 2020) is an anthology of contemporary essays by people with disabilities, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understanding of disability and looks to the future and the past with hope and love.
Why do inclusivity initiatives fail? Why do so many industries, companies, teams, and individuals struggle to create the inclusive workplaces we aspire to? As Inclusion on Purpose (published March 2022) explains, we don't realize that inclusion takes awareness, intention, and regular practice. Inclusion doesn't just happen; we have to work at it. With an emphasis on the workplace experience of women of color, Tulshyan presents inclusion best practices, showing how leaders and organizations can meaningfully promote inclusion, equity and diversity.
Invisible Women (published March 2019) shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap—a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives. Bringing together an impressive range of case studies, stories, and new research from across the world, Caroline Criado Perez reveals the biased data that excludes women and illustrates the impact this has on their health and wellbeing.
The Combahee River Collective, a path-breaking group of radical Black feminists, was one of the important organizations to develop out of the antiracist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. How We Get Free (published December 2012) is a collection of essays and interviews by founding members of the organization and contemporary activists, reflecting on the legacy of its contributions to Black feminism and its impact on today’s struggles.
The Black Experience in Design (published February 2022) presents the work of six editors and over 70 designers, artists, curators, educators, students, and researchers who represent a wide cross-section of Black diasporic identities and multi-disciplinary practices. It represents a collective effort to capture the current moment of cultural reflection and to consider the futures we are creating together. Forewords by Emory Douglas and Ruha Benjamin frame the book in a historical and socio-political context, and an afterword by Eddie Opara offers an intimate, spiritual coda.
Every autistic person experiences differences in communication. Failing to recognize these differences can lead to miscommunication and heightened anxiety for many autistic people. Is That Clear? (published September 2020) recognizes and addresses this by offering practical tips, which have all been reviewed and endorsed by autistic readers. Condensed into bite-sized chapters, the book covers key areas from instructions and questions to figurative speech, the pitfalls of small talk and phone calls—and much more.
The average human lifespan is absurdly, insultingly brief. Assuming you live to be eighty, you have just over four thousand weeks. Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Four Thousand Weeks (published August 2021) delivers an entertaining, humorous, practical, and ultimately profound guide to time and time management.
Rejecting the futile modern fixation on “getting everything done,” the book introduces readers to tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing finitude, showing how many of the unhelpful ways we’ve come to think about time aren’t inescapable, unchanging truths, but choices we’ve made as individuals and as a society—and that we could do things differently.
In Powerful (published January 2018), Patty McCord advocates for practicing radical honesty in the workplace, saying good-bye to employees who don’t fit the company’s emerging needs, and motivating with challenging work, not promises, perks, and bonus plans. McCord argues that the old standbys of corporate HR―annual performance reviews, retention plans, employee empowerment and engagement programs―often end up being a colossal waste of time and resources. Her road-tested advice, offered with humor and irreverence, provides readers a different path for creating a culture of high performance and profitability.
Under pressure for quick results and facing fierce marketplace competition, too many marketers end up taking a spaghetti-to-the-wall approach that limits the return on their long hours, countless experiments, and warehouses of data. But what if you built a business around long-term relationships with customers, using data to understand who they are, what they need, and where to find more customers just like them? Converted (published February 2022) shows you how to win the hearts of the customers who matter most to your business while leaving your competitors to battle over everyone else.
Management (published January 1974), in Peter Drucker's words, "tries to equip the manager with the understanding, the thinking, the knowledge and the skills for today's and also tomorrow's jobs." Drucker developed this approach based on his decades of experience teaching management in universities, in executive programs and seminars and through his close work with managers as a consultant for large and small businesses, government agencies, hospitals and schools. In this management classic, he discusses the tools and techniques of successful management practice that have been proven effective, and he makes them meaningful and easily accessible.
Stanley McChrystal is a retired four-star General who acted as Head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the “War on Terror”.
McChrystal describes how—after realizing that Al Qaeda’s agility was an advantage over the US Military’s comparatively vast resources and manpower—he shifted the JSOC’s focus from efficiency to adaptability, centralizing communication and decentralizing managerial authority. In Team of Teams, McChrystal shows how he led this transition and how organizations can use a similar model to improve operational speed and innovation.
Chaos (published October 1987) introduces chaos theory, one of the most significant waves of scientific knowledge in our time. From Edward Lorenz’s discovery of the Butterfly Effect, to Mitchell Feigenbaum’s calculation of a universal constant, to Benoit Mandelbrot’s concept of fractals—which created a new geometry of nature—Gleick’s engaging narrative focuses on the key figures whose genius converged to chart an innovative direction for science. In this book, Gleick makes the story of chaos theory not only fascinating but also accessible to beginners, and opens our eyes to a surprising new view of the universe.
“The greatest technology we have ever discovered on our planet is the three-pound organ carried in the vault of the skull,” says David Eagleman. “The magic of the brain is not found in the parts it’s made of but in the way those parts unceasingly reweave themselves in an electric, living fabric.”
In Livewired (published August 2020), you will surf the leading edge of neuroscience atop the anecdotes and metaphors that have made Eagleman one of the best scientific translators of our generation. Covering decades of research to the present day, Livewired also presents new discoveries from Eagleman’s own laboratory, from synesthesia to dreaming to wearable neurotech devices that revolutionize how we think about the senses.
Noise (published May 2021) shows how noise helps produce errors in many fields, including medicine, law, public health, economic forecasting, food safety, forensic science, bail verdicts, child protection, strategy, performance reviews and personnel selection. Although noise can be found wherever people make judgments and decisions, individuals and organizations alike commonly ignore its role in their judgments and in their actions. They show “noise neglect.” With a few simple remedies, people can reduce both noise and bias to make far better decisions.
In The Art of Gathering (published May 2018), Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive—which they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved.
At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play. This book will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue—and how you host and attend them.
The Power of Moments (published October 2017) delves into some fascinating mysteries of the human experience: Why do we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest? Why do “we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not”? And why are our most cherished memories clustered into a brief period during our youth? Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck—but why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them? This book shows us how to be the author of richer experiences.
With bold ideas and extensive evidence, Think Again (published February 2021) investigates how we can embrace the joy of being wrong, harness the surprising advantages of impostor syndrome, bring nuance to charged conversations, and build schools, workplaces, and communities of lifelong learners.
This book reveals that we don’t have to believe everything we think or internalize everything we feel. It’s an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well and prize mental flexibility, humility, and curiosity over foolish consistency. If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.
In The War for Kindness, (published June 2019), Jamil Zaki shares cutting-edge research, including experiments from his own lab, showing that empathy is not a fixed trait, but rather a skill that can be strengthened through effort.
He also tells the stories of people who embody this perspective, fighting for kindness in the most difficult of circumstances. We meet a former neo-Nazi who is now helping extract people from hate groups, ex-prisoners discussing novels with the judge who sentenced them, Washington police officers changing their culture to resolve conflict peacefully, and NICU nurses fine-tuning their empathy so that they don’t succumb to burnout.
Written with clarity and passion, this book is an inspiring call to action. The future may depend on whether we accept the challenge.
When it comes to making decisions in our lives, we think we’re making smart, rational choices. But are we?
In Predictably Irrational (published February 2018), Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless; they’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.
Money is typically taught as a math-based field, where data and formulas tell us exactly what to do. But in the real world people don’t make financial decisions on a spreadsheet. They make them at the dinner table, or in a meeting room, where personal history, your own unique view of the world, ego, pride, marketing, and odd incentives are scrambled together.
In The Psychology of Money (published September 2020), award-winning author Morgan Housel shares 19 short stories exploring the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to make better sense of one of life’s most important topics.
First published in Portuguese in 1968 and translated to English in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is considered to be one of the foundational texts in the field of critical pedagogy, which aims to question domination and challenge its beliefs and practices.
In this seminal work on the subject, Paulo Freire presents a methodology to help empower impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Now with over 1 million copies sold, the book has gained potency in the United States and Western Europe, “where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is ongoing.”
If we want to find the way back to ourselves and one another, we need the language and grounded confidence to both tell our stories and to be stewards of the stories that we hear.
In Atlas of the Heart (published November 2021), five-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr Brené Brown explores eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human and walks through a new framework for cultivating meaningful connection. This is a book for the mapmakers and travelers in all of us.
We all experience unwieldy feelings. But many of us don’t know how to talk about what we’re going through, much less handle it.
Big Feelings (published April 2022) is for anyone intimidated by oversized feelings they can’t predict or control, offering the tools to understand what’s really going on, find comfort, and face the future with a sense of newfound agency. Weaving surprising science with personal stories and original illustrations, each chapter examines one uncomfortable feeling—like envy, burnout, and anxiety—and lays out strategies for turning big emotions into manageable ones.
Order from Chaos (published November 2019) teaches how the brain with adult ADHD works and how to manage adult ADHD effectively. Mixing stories from the trenches of her own experience as a mom and wife with ADHD with wise, well-researched advice from her years as a blogger at The ADHD Homestead, Jaclyn Paul shows you how to design your own system for restoring order, to get you on the path to a more peaceful and rewarding life.
In The End of Average (published January 2016), Rose, a rising star in the new field of the science of the individual, shows that no one is average. This isn’t hollow sloganeering—it’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences.
But while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these unique patterns of behaviors are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent. Weaving science, history, and his personal experiences as a high school dropout, Rose offers a powerful alternative to understanding individuals through averages.
The Architecture of Happiness (published April 2008) is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations. One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings, and streets that surround us. And yet a concern for architecture is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent.
Alain de Botton starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be, and argues that it is architecture's task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.
In Digital Minimalism (published February 2019), Newport makes a persuasive case for an urgent movement to digital minimalism in our tech-saturated world. Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how they are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that can help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
In today’s world, addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention and our value is often determined by our 24/7 data productivity. But in How to Do Nothing (published April 2019), Jenny Odell shows us how we can drop out of the attention economy and win back our lives. Far from the simple anti-technology screed or the back-to-nature meditation often touted, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.
Information architecture is the way that we arrange the parts of something to make it understandable as a whole. When you’re building a product, information architecture makes the difference between a product that’s easy to use and one that immediately frustrates users. We all face messes made of information and people. How to Make Sense of Any Mess (published November 2014) provides a seven step process for making sense of any mess. Each chapter contains a set of lessons as well as workbook exercises designed to help you to work through your own mess.
In Grief is Love (published April 2022), author Marisa Renee Lee explains that healing does not mean moving on after losing a loved one—healing means learning to acknowledge and create space for your grief. It is about learning to love the one you lost with the same depth, passion, joy, and commitment you did when they were alive, perhaps even more.
Renee Lee guides you through the pain of grief—whether you’ve lost the person recently or long ago—and shows you what it looks like to honor your loss on your unique terms, and debunks the idea of grief in stages or timelines. Grief is Love is about making space for the transformation that a significant loss requires.
In March of 1984, a commercial fishing boat left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage. After a week at sea, the weather turned, and the crew collided with a nor’easter. Tragically, neither the boat nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered. This story has since become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End’s year-round population.
In The Lost Boys of Montauk (published May 2021), journalist Amanda M. Fairbanks seeks out the reasons why an event more than three decades old remains so startlingly vivid in people’s minds; how deep, lasting grief can alter people’s memories; and the powerful and sometimes painful dynamics between fathers and sons, as well as the secrets that can haunt families from beyond the grave.
After graduating from Princeton and then the London School of Economics, Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers, one of Wall Street’s premier investment firms. During the next three years, Lewis rose from callow trainee to bond salesman, raking in millions for the firm and cashing in on a modern-day gold rush.
Liar’s Poker (published October 1989) is the culmination of those heady, frenzied years—a behind-the-scenes look at a unique and turbulent time in American business. From the frat-boy camaraderie of the forty-first-floor trading room to the killer instinct that made ambitious young men gamble everything on a high-stakes game of bluffing and deception, here is Michael Lewis’s knowing and hilarious insider’s account of an unprecedented era of greed, gluttony, and outrageous fortune.
In Blockchain Chicken Farm (published October 2020), the technologist and writer Xiaowei Wang explores the political and social entanglements of technology in rural China. Their discoveries force them to challenge the standard idea that rural culture and people are backward, conservative, and intolerant. Instead, they find that rural China has not only adapted to rapid globalization but has actually innovated the technology we all use today.
Blockchain Chicken Farm is an original and probing look into innovation, connectivity, and collaboration in the digitized rural world.
In The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer provides an overview of the historical events and cultures that connect us as people, from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, focusing on Eurasion and African histories.
Using primary, “history from beneath” sources like maps and private letters, Bauer paints a vivid picture of the individual characteristics of each country while showing the reader how the broad interconnectedness of the world led us to where we are today.
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist (published January 1988) has become a modern classic, with millions of copies sold around the world. Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined.
Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (published October 1979) who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitch Hiker's Guide and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers.
The young postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family and living alone with only his cat, Cabbage, to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the devil shows up to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, the postman will be granted one extra day of life.
With each object that disappears, the postman reflects on the life he’s lived, his joys and regrets, and the people he’s loved and lost. If Cats Disappeared From the World (published October 2012) is a moving story of loss and reconciliation, and of one man’s journey to discover what really matters most in life.
The Candy House (published April 2022) opens with the brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Within a decade of its launch, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—which allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes.
But not everyone is so enamored. This book is extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption.
Butter Honey Pig Bread (published September 2020) is a story of choices and their consequences; of motherhood; of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind; of finding new homes and mending old ones; of voracious appetites; of queer love; of friendship; of faith; and above all, of family.
Francesca Ekwuyasi's debut novel tells the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. After more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos to visit their mother. It is here that the three women must face each other and address the wounds of the past if they are to reconcile and move forward.
These book recommendations are all from the User Research Yearbook Class of 2022, a directory of thought leaders and change makers in user research and design.
While they were busy reading and expanding their knowledge at home, these folks were also sparking conversations in the UXR circuit, driving thought leadership and innovation in democratization, research ops, and inclusive UX.
Browse the profiles of the 60+ members of the Class of 2022 to learn who they are, what they’ve worked on recently, where to follow them, and more.
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Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.