All Joy and No Fun

Based on research and interviews with parents (and a grandmother), Jennifer Senior’s book explores the effects on modern parenting. From infancy to years in primary schools to adolescence, each chapter chronicles the hardship of raising children. The journey is no fun and could be quite frightening in the teenage years when kids deal with drug, depression, and suicide. And where is the joy in parenting? Senior finds it hard to quantify. If I read this book before having kids, I might not wanted to be a parent. There’s no turning back now.

Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little

A compelling guide explaining the craft of micromessaging. From tweets to taglines, slogans to sound bites, and domain names to brand names, Christopher Johnson teaches and illustrates the important of communication in “the age of the Incredible Shrinking Message.” Microstyle is recommended for anyone who cares about writing on the web.

A Fighting Chance

I have tremendous respect for Elizabeth Warren ever since she decided to entered the race and beat Scott Brown for the Senate seat in Massachusetts. In her heartfelt, engaging A Fighting Chance, Warren recounts that battle as well as her endless fights against big banks and huge corporations. Her writing is clear and easy to comprehend, even when she explains laws, policies, and big numbers in the banking industry. If she runs for president in the next election, she will definitely get my vote. You simply can’t find a better candidate who fights for the children, women, seniors, poor, and middle class. I hope she will be in for a bigger fighting chance.

The Elements of Style

From using the active voice to omitting needless words, Strunk and White’s classic is worth revisiting now and then to remind you to write with clarity. Rereading this little book has always been one of the best ways to kill a couple of hours.

The Glamour of Grammar

In fifty short lessons, including the distinction between a and the, the use of punctuation to create special effects and the neutral tone in gender, Roy Peter Clark encourages readers to “live inside the language.” It’s a fulfilling read for anyone who uses language to communicate, which is all of us.


In an intriguing and unquestionably obsessive history of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, a timeless advocacy for clear writing, Mark Garvey traces back to its originality and documents the engaging exchanges between Jack Case (editor) and E.B. White (writer) on the art and craft of writing the book. Garvey also recounts its wide success to the mass audience as well as its harsh rejections from the English departments. Reading Stylized is hard to resist rereading the little book.

Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace

In the first reading of Joseph Williams’s Style, I have learned two essential writing tips: avoid nominalization (turning careless into carelessness) and embrace concision (deleting needless words). To demonstrate concision, Williams trims a paragraph in Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style from 199 words to 148 to 101. Then he cuts it to the bone with just 38 words. Because Williams packed so much writing techniques into this book, a second or third careful read is required.

Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing

A classic book offers classic advice on Writing with Style. John Trimble’s clear explanations backed up with carefully selected examples make it a useful and delightful read. The short chapter on diction is solid gold.


Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words

Bruce Ross-Larson’s Edit Yourself is like a little diet manual for writing. Ross-Larson shows you how to trim off all the fats in your writing and to focus on the core message. It’s a book to keep within reach when editing your writing. I’ll use it as a reference for my eating habit as well.


Grammar for the Soul & Grammar Moves

In Grammar for the Soul, Lawrence Weinstein proves that improving your grammar can enhance the quality of your life. Like yoga, mediation and exercise, he believes “Grammar can become a place to get in spiritual shape.” Learning grammar is my goal for personal growth this year; therefore, I find Weinstein’s take on inspirational grammar motivating.

With Grammar Moves, Weinstein and Thomas Finn turn Grammar for the Soul into a textbook that students would be interested in learning about grammar. What makes this book intriguing is that each grammatical element gets a personal trait. For instance, the colon is associated with being assertive and commas are associated with being organized. These connections help figuring out how each punctuation works.

Both books are worth rereading when you have a couple of hours to waste, like flying in a plane.