I frequently get asked for recommendations for books on UX. Here is my short list of favorites:
The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman
This seminal book on human factors and engineering psychology changed my life and set me off in a direction that changed the course of my education and career.
The Elements of User Experience, Jesse James Garrett
In this book, Jesse deftly describes the various facets of user experience and how they are all connected, from how the product looks to how it works to the overall company strategy. It’s the first book I will send any executive interested in user experience design.
Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug
Even if you never run a usability study, it’s helpful to understand how studies are run. If you are working in a startup, chances are likely that you will need to run a guerilla study sometime.
Designing Visual Interfaces: Communication Oriented Techniques, Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano
Understanding human cognition and perception will only make you a better designer. Sadly, this book is out of print and can be hard to find, but it is one of the best books on visual interface design I have ever seen. Well worth the expense and effort to get the book.
It’s also worth checking out the library of titles from Rosenfeld Media (disclosure: I am on the editorial and strategic board). Rosenfeld Media is the best-known publisher of UX-related books. Each one is beautifully designed and authored by an expert in that area of specialization.