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jessepinho

jessepinho

Currently reading

The Autumn of the Patriarch
Gabriel García Márquez
iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide
Joe Conway, Aaron Hillegass
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
Julia Cameron
Computer Science: An Overview [With Access Code]
J. Glenn Brookshear
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts - Simon Garfield Just My Type takes readers on a delightful and whimsical (if non-chronological) journey through the history of type, digressing frequently to highlight particular typefaces or provide anecdotes regarding a particular font. ("Comic Sans walks into a bar and the bartender says, 'We don't serve your type.'" Where can I find such a bar, I wonder?) Non-typophiles will find Garfield's borderline-neurotic obsession with the forms and histories of letters amusing and entertaining. Designers like myself will find themselves falling (back) in love with typography, an emotion unavoidably aroused by Garfield's witty, humorous expression of his apparent love affair with type.

It was difficult to detect the reasoning behind the particular arrangement of topics in the book. As I mentioned, the book is not written chronologically; but neither is it organized by topic, font types, type designer's last initial, etc. It reads more as though the author simply had so much to say about type and couldn't wait for readers to hear (read) it, while somehow magically avoiding the impression of stream-of-consciousness writing.

If you're a designer and feel a need to rekindle the spark between yourself and type, Garfield's book is just what the doctor ordered. If you're not a designer but think that any book suits you that dedicates half a chapter to the story behind Microsoft Word's default font... well, Just My Type might be just your type. Even for those completely disinterested in type, this gem of a book just might change your mind. It's a story about letters; it's typography about typography. (It even talks about the font used for its pages. How meta!) Given how much type one takes in on a daily basis, learning the stories and reasons behind all this type enriches one's daily interactions with it.

Get this book! If nothing else, perhaps you'll discover new font manipulation tricks for making that nine-page academic paper of yours stretch into the required ten.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson Phenomenal story; lackluster writing style. Larsson is a pop fiction novelist through and through: while his voice does not exactly reflect much skill (granted, I read a translation, but the voice carries through nonetheless), he does tell a damn good story. With an incredibly intricate plot—consisting of about a dozen central characters whose roles are of competing significance—the book was nearly impossible to put down. I read its 600 pages in about 10 hours.

I'll definitely see the movie.
Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity - James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup Very informative/helpful for someone like me, who knows little to none about economics. Definitely has a Libertarian bias.
Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team - Alina Wheeler Designing Brand Identity is an enlightening and helpful resource on the branding process. Its author, Alina Wheeler, is a brand consultant and branding speaker with an obviously exhaustive knowledge of her field.

Trouble is, she is just that: a brand consultant/speaker, not a writer. That may sound harsh, but one read through her book will justify my position. Designing Brand Identity is not written in the typical, straight-forward prose fashion one might expect. Rather, each two-page spread consists of an introductory paragraph, a usually poorly designed graphic, and then lists. My God, the lists. Wheeler creates lists on every topic presented in the book, from "branding imperatives" to "qualities of an effective name" to the project management process. Each of the lists contains so much information, and so much overlap with other lists, that the reader is left with a profound sense of inundation. These lists do at least help to inform the reader of the branding process, but surely a more straightforward prose approach would have been far more accessible and pleasant to read.

I mentioned overlap in information presented in the lists. This is also true of the topics presented in the book. Without clearly defining individual terms she uses, Wheeler recycles similar language for a number of subjects, blurring the line between them and making it difficult to understand exactly what, for example, the exact difference between brand positioning, brand value, and brand message are. As these are fundamentals of branding, her lack of clarity in explaining them proves detrimental.

To make the reader's understanding even less cohesive, Wheeler starkly separates information in the one area in which it could use more overlap and integration: examples. "Part 3" of the book presents case studies of companies whose branding processes exemplify the best practices she details throughout Parts 1 and 2. However, the book would benefit immensely from integrating these examples into Parts 1 and 2. Instead, Parts 1 and 2 present abstracted theory about branding, without grounding it at all in real-life examples, and thus again make it difficult to understand how these theories are to actually be applied.

All that is not to say that the book is useless. On the contrary, I found that Designing Brand Identity greatly enhanced my understanding of the entire branding process. However, this was likely due to my relative ignorance on the topic; thus, the book may only be useful to those with a similarly novice understanding of branding. Furthermore, the book is a difficult read for anyone from novices to branding experts due to the reasons given above. While I read David Airey's "Logo Design Love" (an infinitely more cohesive guide to designing logos) in two days, reading Designing Brand Identity took roughly 1.5 months. Wheeler would do well to read Airey's book for a stellar example of how best to present a design-related topic in a way that doesn't overwhelm and frustrate the reader.
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns is without a doubt one of the most difficult reads I have ever, well, read. From the beginning, Khaled Hosseini portrays the worst about life in twentieth-century Afghanistan. Sparing no pity for his protagonists, he takes Mariam and Laila—future sisters-in-law (or whatever it's called when two women are married to the same man)—through psychological and physical hell, often at the whims of the domineering and insensitive males in their lives.

The book calls to mind the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, due to the seemingly endless series of emotionally draining tragedies that befall the characters. What sets the book apart, though, is its cultural setting. Hosseini's portrayal of the male-dominated, conservative Islamic society in which the story takes place not only educates the reader on the religious and social climate of that region, but also leaves room for events whose extremity would seem inaccurate and exaggerated in an American setting.

While I wouldn't consider Hosseini's writing style to be particularly refined, I would submit that the story stands for itself. It is only difficult to get through because of the deep level of emotional engagement it requires of its readers. And through the voice of the story's narrative, Hosseini professes a faith in, and love for, humanity; a quality which appears to be characteristic of him as an author. A Thousand Splendid Suns will challenge you to match this untiring faith. Read it!
The Green Mile - Mark Geyer, Stephen King The Green Mile is the first book I've read by Stephen King, and I finished the book disappointed. King appeals to the basest of emotions in his readers and often utilizes cheap literary techniques in his storytelling. These include a first-person narrative; a casual, conversational tone of writing; and the inclusion of slang and misspelling to indicate Southern accents. While these techniques can be used at times for a justifiable reason, King uses them just for style, and it comes off annoying and pop fiction-ish.

The book includes--even centers around--supernatural elements. These elements were the most captivating parts of the story, and revealed a creativity of King's that isn't readily apparent from his writing style.

Overall, I was unimpressed and would not recommend this book.
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams Honestly, I never expected to enjoy a sci-fi series this much. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide includes the five novels from the series, as well as a short story containing characters from the novels.

Douglas Adams takes his eclectic cast of characters on humorous, over-the-top adventures through time and space, both in this galaxy and beyond. His creativity is what makes the series so enjoyable. Additionally, he touches on almost every aspect of human nature: love, power, greed, loneliness, wanderlust.

The series will take a while to complete; but once you've finished it, you'll be disappointed it's over.