One of the things I've been asked to do at MS is provide an overview of how a person new to UX might begin to get up to speed. Over the course of my time in the field, I've found the following books are particularly good as either instruction or reference.
The basics & mindset:
About Face 2.0 by Alan Cooper – It’s an excellent start to putting oneself into the UCD (User Centric Design) mindset. The process and tools around persona development are also invaluable.
Learning fundamentals & history:
Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge is a pretty amazing book. It covers the history of interaction design, along with his own design philosophies. Plus, it includes a DVD of interviews with design luminaries.
Designing for Interaction by Dan Staffer is a relatively new book on interaction design. I’ve just picked it up and am working my way through. It focuses on great interaction design – essential for any good UX
Gathering requirements, testing and ideation:
Observing the User Experience by Mike Kuniavsky is the best survey of user research / prototyping tools around. It’s a fantastic resource for testing the prototype designs, using contextual inquiry to help determine the design.
Serious Play by Michael Schrage is a great book about the importance of prototyping in general. This is more of a business book - in specific about making prototyping central to driving innovation at your company. That said, prototyping represents a great opportunity for UX. Prototyping is particularly important when designing UXs – imagining how the design will feel isn’t enough!
Thinking more broadly:
The power of innovation by Dr. Min Basadur is a book I haven’t read, use his teaching extensively. It is a really powerful way to get out of your own way when trying to develop new solutions to complex problems. Garry VanPatter and Elizabeth Pastor (of NextD and Humantific) are also in the same school of thought in their innovation facilitation work.
Systems Thinking by Jamshid Gharajedaghi is one of those breath-takingly smart books. This is another business book, but great for thinking about the broader context of the User Experience (there are no mono-causal problems, after all).
Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling is a design manifesto. It's focused on the changing relationship between users and the products they use.
Ongoing education & Online resources:
Design Thinking Digest (of course!) - you're here after all...
AskTog's First Principles - an essential reference of interaction design principles that we should all have committed to memory.
Usability in the News - great round-up of all the latest UX related postings online
NextD – online journal focusing on the what’s next in design
Functioning Form - great design blog
Looks good works well - another great design blog by Bill Scott, Yahoo's AJAX evangelist.
Boxes and Arrows - an information architecture / interaction design focused web magazine
Interaction Design Association – Interaction Designers Association. Mostly a mailing list, but a great community resource
What have I missed? What are your favorite books?