VISUALGUI

Kerry Egan: On Living

A heart-rending collection of essays, part spiritual narrative, part memoir. Chaplain Kerry Egan reveals deeply personal accounts from her dying patients as well as her own. From shame to secret, love to regret, anger to humor, On Living is as touching as it is uplifting. I love every word.

Maximiliano Firtman: High Performance Mobile Web

A thorough guide to make mobile experiences fast and secure. With many useful tips and experiences, Firtman’s book is a good reference for developing progressive web apps.

Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird

Novelist Lamott offers writing advice based on her own experience. Her process is just write or, as her father would say, “just take it bird by bird.” If you want to step up your fiction writing, this book is an excellent read.

Nancy Stock-Allen: Carol Twombly

Nancy Stock-Allen’s profile focuses on Carol Twombly’s career in type design. It’s a concise read with insights from Twombly herself on research and design process for her notable typefaces including Adobe Caslon, Chaparral, Myriad, and Trajan. The book itself is beautifully designed by Stock-Allen and elegantly set in Adobe Caslon.

Will Schwalble: Books for Living

Schwalbe not just loves reading books, he draws lessons for living from them. In the 26 books, I have not read a single one, and yet I still find each book to be fascinating through his brief, honest, and easygoing analysis. I probably won’t read every book mentioned in his essays, but the ones on my reading list will include Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery, and George Orwell’s 1984.

Throughout the book Schwalbe makes a convincing case for reading. In the introduction, he writes (p.15):

The technology of a book is genius: the order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on-screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor, and ponder.

To Schwalbe, reading is not just a pleasure, but a right. He argues (p.275):

The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination: It’s one of the world’s great joys.

A love letter to readers everywhere.

Molly Bang: Picture This

Through the arrangement of simple shapes, Bang brilliantly explains our emotional response to the visual abstraction. The principles she had uncovered and shared are a required read for anyone who wants to get into graphic design. The revised and expanded 25th anniversary edition makes a special gift for new design students.

Edward Johnston: A Signature for London

A brief biography of Edward Johnston and his signature typeface for the brand for Transport of London. A pleasure read for type nerds.

Việt Thanh Nguyễn: The Sympathizer

A thrilling, entertaining, and exploiting picaresque narrated by a communist spy who is a Mỹ Lai (son of a Vietnamese mother and a Western priest). Although Nguyễn had left Vietnam when he was four, he masterfully captured many scenes that are relatable to Vietnamese Americans. As someone who rarely reads novel, I managed to get through the book because of Nguyễn’s playful, virtuous writing. My paperback copy is now filled with Post-It flags. Here’s a taste on cleavage:

While I was critical of many things when it came to so-called Western civilization, cleavage is not one of them. The Chinese might have invented gunpowder and the noodle, but the West had invented cleavage, with profound if under appreciated implications. A man gazing on semi-exposed breasts was not only engaging in simple lasciviousness, he was also meditating, even if unawares, on the visual embodiment of the verb “to cleave,” which meant both to cut apart and to put together. A woman’s cleavage perfectly illustrated this double and contradictory meaning, the breasts two separate entities with one identity. The double meaning was also present in how cleavage separated a woman from a man and yet drew him to her with irresistible force of sliding down a slippery slope. Men had no equivalent, except, perhaps, for the only kind of male cleavage most women truly cared for, the opening and closing of a well-stuffed billfold.

Việt Thanh Nguyễn: The Refugees

Somehow I had mistaken Việt Thanh Nguyễn’s The Refugees as a collection of non-fiction short stories. After reading the first piece, which is about ghosts, I quickly realized that this is a work of fiction. Nevertheless, I went on to finish the whole book. Nguyễn’s narrative writing is understated yet emotional. From a young gay refugee to a Vietnamese professor who suffered dementia to a half sister who used an alternative career, the short stories are beautifully crafted and imagined. My only pet peeve is that Nguyễn omitted accents for Vietnamese words. For a Vietnamese author, not using diacritics is inexcusable.

Tony Seddon: Essential Type

A well-designed, comprehensive typographic reference explaining and illustrating type anatomy, glyphs, terms, classification, and select typefaces. Seddon’s book design and illustrations are simply beautiful. There is a error on page 144, in which type featured is Carpenter, but the text is describing Akzidenz-Grotesk.