Editorial Design: Digital and Print

Packed with contents and examples on editorial design, Cath Caldwell and Yolanda Zappaterra’s book is not easy to digest. The scattering information interrupts the flow. Text, Illustrations, and commentaries are not organized in a logical hierarchy. The main text, which sets in a slab, geometric typeface, is hard to read. Worse is when the same typeface is set in white against the dark background. The text is barely readable. As far as the contents, the book focuses far more on print than digital editorial design. Sorry, not recommending it.

Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth

In his new book on Billie Holiday, John Szwed sheds some lights on the mysterious complexity in the life and music of one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. He divided the book into three distinctive sections. In the first part, he reveals stories that were left off her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. The incidents were too bold for 1956, when the book was published. In the second part, he briefly reconstructs Billie’s appearances on film, television, and photography. The best part of the book yet is the musical analysis. From Billie’s unconventional approach to singing to her distinctive vocals to her controversial song choices, Szwed makes her music easy to understand and to appreciate. Szwed is a musical scholar with a gift for explaining music in plain and simple language. I’ll definitely reread it in the near future since the book is set in Arno Pro, a beautiful and readable text face designed by Robert Slimbach.

Designing for Performance

Lara Callender Hogan’s book is concise and yet packed with useful information on web performance. From images to CSS to JavaScript to gzip to caching, Hogan’s writing is accessible to even non-coders because she knows that performance is everyone’s responsibility, not just the front-end developers. Read it and share it with your team—even your boss can benefit on changing the culture at your organization—if you want to provide your visitors a faster experience.

Empire State of Mind

Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s unauthorized biography of Jay-Z reads like a long résumé detailing the business successes (and failures) of a gifted rapper turned exemplary entrepreneur. Since he has no direct access to Jay-Z, Greenburg offers no inside information on how the man handled his business. If you have followed Jay-Z closely from his music to his venture, the stories come at no surprise. To be fair, the book is not as “terrible” as Jay-Z had criticized. It does provide some intriguing glimpses of Jay-Z’s accomplishments.

Becoming Steve Jobs

Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s book has received the endorsement from Apple’s top executives to be the correct biography of Steve Jobs. Unlike Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Becoming Steve Jobs focuses mainly on Jobs as the business genius. The authors also shed the light on the warm, gentle side of the man who had been known as the “asshole” who had no sympathy for others. What missing from this book, however, is Jobs’s personal story. Isaacson has done a superb job of providing the readers the personal accounts including Jobs’s relationshipS with women as well as his love for Bob Dylan. Having read both books, I find each has its own strengths and weaknesses in covering such a complex man. I enjoyed reading both.

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.