As a passionate blogger, I like to read books on writing and grammar from time to time to up my game. I tend to collect them as well. My latest acquisition is Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer who is copy chief of Random House. Drawing from over twenty years of copyediting experience, Dreyer offers an informative guide to clarity and style written from his own concise and humorous prose. I love “The Trimmables” section, which includes “added bonus and assless chaps.” It is definitely a recommended read to improve your prose.
By focusing on Fairfax, Virginia, Gjelten tells the story of American immigration. His profiles include Mark Keam and Alex Seong from Korea, Esam Omeish from Libya, The Alarcón family from Bolivia, and Marta Quintanilla from El Salvador. These stories are inspiring, and yet no profile of a Vietnamese family? The Vietnamese community in Fairfax community is quite extensive as well. Although the paste is slow at times, it is still a good read. I am very proud of the the diversity of the country we are living in.
By weaving the incredible journey of three black individuals who fled the South, Isabel Wilkerson recounts the stunning history of the Great Migration between 1915 to 1970. Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a cotton picker from Mississippi, migrated to Chicago in 1937; George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker from Florida, migrated to New York in 1945; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a trained doctor from Louisiana, migrated to California. Their stories represent the millions of Southern blacks who left their home in search of freedom from slave masters, klansmen, and the institution of Jim Crow. Wilkerson’s writing is revetting, particularly the way she described the vivid of mob lynching, inhuman torturing, and castrating (then made the victim eat the severed body parts). The disturbing details remind us how black American was treated in this country. Wilkerson’s narrative prose combined with her analytical force make this book an essential read, especially for the celebration of the Black History Month.
Michelle Obama is a meticulous planner. From her wonderful upbringing in South Side of Chicago to her beautiful relationship with Barack to her challenging role as a parent in the White House, Michelle has not skipped a beat in structuring the events in her memoir. Although she did not set out to be a public figure, she has adapted herself to it. She used her role as a First Lady to champion education, promote healthy lifestyle for children, and give voice to young girls and minorities. Her writing is honest, personal, and approachable, but the details could benefit from a bit of trimming.
I just finished the longest book I have ever read. Through 789 unwasted pages, Jill Lepore, a staff writer at The New Yorker and a professor of American History at Harvard University, has written a compelling and comprehensive history of America spanning over five centuries. Beginning in 1492 with Christopher Columbus first discovered the Indians and ending in 2018 with the current Trump administration, Ms. Lepore told the naked truth of our great yet flawed nation through the concoction of illuminating politics, fascinating biographies, arresting journalism, and sprawling technology.
What I appreciate most is Ms. Lepore’s fearless approach. She isn’t shy away from our painful past, in particular the way America treated Native American, African American, Japanese American, Chinese, and Mexican. When I first set my foot on the “land of opportunity” as an eleven-year-old immigrant, all I knew was that I was about to embark on a journey to find the “American Dream.” I had white teachers who not only taught me English, but also welcomed me with their open arms. I had African-American, Hispanic-American, and Asian-American mentors who made sure I had the best education I could get for my future. I also had co-workers from different backgrounds and we collaborated together as a team. Even though I have been aware of racism, I always felt integrated until the rise of Donald Trump. Having read this book, I see why the references of “Make America Great Again” and “America First” appealed to the white nationalist.
Although Vietnam was my birthplace and I will never forget the first decade of my life, I have lived in the United States for almost three decades. I am a U.S. citizen and America is my home. Despite the current political divisiveness, I strongly believe in the resiliency of democracy of this nation. Not only it will not die, it will become stronger in the next few years or decades as showed through the history of our nation in this book.
Many thanks to my wife for buying me this book for Christmas. I am glad that I had taken the time to read it. If you want to learn about the unique story of America, I highly recommend this book. Even though it might seem long, Ms. Lepore’s clear, concise, and engaging prose will keep you turning the pages. Trust me, I was never interested in reading any form of history. Then again, I would read any book written by any staff writer from The New Yorker.
Nas once rhymed, “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death.” In his excellent book, Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology, offers the counterargument based on scientific researches. Hi studies show that sleep is more like the cousin of life than death because sleep deprivation can cause serious health risks including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetic, cardiovascular disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, depression, anxiety, and suicidality. With his approachable, engaging writing, Walker takes readers into the fascinating and wonder world of sleep. It is a must-read and required-practice. Sorry Nas, but I am rolling with the sleep expert on this one.
In her beautiful, poignant memoir, Brennan-Jobs recounts her experiences of living with a caring, depressing mother and a cold, cruel father who happened to be Steve Jobs. Despite all the turmoils between the two parents, Brennan-Jobs turned out to be a resilient individual. Even in her young age, she was smart and compassionate. She can also write. Although the book is almost 400 pages, it is such a breezy read. Not only we get to know Steve through the intimate lens of his daughter, but we also get to know his wife Laurene. Small Fry is a page-turner. I definitely recommend it. In addition, the book is set in Adobe Caslon Pro, by Carol Twombly. It is georgous and highly readable.
In his gut-wrenching memoir, Laymon reveals the painful truth of his childhood. Through his raw-yet-refined prose, he reflects on the struggle with his weight, the complicated relationship with his mama, and the racism growing up black in Jackson, Mississippi. This is indeed a heavy read, but I love it.
In hindsight, I picked up this book because it was designed by Michael Bierut and Britt Cob. The layout and the typography are superb. From white space to large type treatment, the design has Bierut’s signature style all over it. The actual writing, however, is quite shallow. Timberlake only gives super short highlights of his life. Yes, he’s a superstar. Yes, he has super connection. Yes, he is super privileged. Even though I am not a fan of his, I already know the power of a white male celebrity. He has Sandra Bark ghostwrite his book and Pentagram design it. I am not knocking on his accomplishment. I just want to hear the real story that has not already displayed in public.
Even though I still have a week left in 2018, I know for sure that I won’t be able to finish Jill Lepore’s These Truths: a History of the United States before the New Year. The book is almost 1000 pages and I only just got started.
This year, I continued to switch between English and Vietnamese. In English, I read mostly non-fiction. I only read a few books on design, typography, and technical. In Vietnamese, I read mostly collection of essays because those are the ones that are available in the new-release section at the libraries. I was getting weary of them.
I also had an issue with too many books and too little time. I was overwhelmed with the number of books and started to lose my concentration. At some points, I simply just returned all the books and only kept one or two I really want to read.
In 2019, my goal is to focus on what I read. I will choose books that are at least 400 pages. I will read slowly to soak in rather than to speed through the content. I will give myself as much time as I need to read them; therefore, I won’t pay attention to the number of books.
With the lightning speed in this new digital age we are living in, reading thicker books will train me to be more patience. I will spend less time reading online and checking social media. At least that is my hope for 2019.