Rachel Aust: Less

With a passion for minimalism and organization, Aust has written a visual guide to help us simplify our home and life. In addition to Aust’s concise, instructional writing, Rebecca Batchelor’s spacial layout design and Rachel Spoon’s simple illustrations make this book a useful resource for anyone who would like to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s a quick and motivating read.

Design: Vignelli

Before he died in 2014, legendary designer Massimo Vignelli made Beatriz Cifuentes-Caballero promise that she would finish their unfinished project. Almost five years later, Cifuentes-Caballero presents a definitive collection of Lella and Massimo’s creative outputs ranging from graphic to interior to product designs. Any graphic design student who is interested in no-nonsense typographic design and grid-based layout should pick it up. The book is impressive, but the part I don’t understand is the typesetting for the essay section. Reading long text in Century Italic is jarring. Based on Massimo’s work, I don’t think he would have approved it.

Nate Chinen: Playing Changes

I have not kept up with the modern jazz scene in the past several years; therefore, Chinen’s book is good for catching up. As a jazz critic for The New York Times, Chinen is an engaging writer and most of the musicians he covered are familiar to me. His goal for this book is not to demonstrate where jazz is going, but where it is happening. It’s a pleasant read for jazz lovers and appreciators.

Benjamin Dreyer: Dreyer’s English

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.

Tom Gjelten: A Nation of Nations

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.

Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns

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: Becoming

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.

Jill Lepore: These Truths

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.

Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep

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.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs: Small Fry

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.