Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

  • Just My Type

  • By: Simon Garfield

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406524

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

  • Publication date: 9/1/2011

  • Pages: 356

  • Source: Library copy

  • Synopsis:

    A hugely entertaining and revealing guide to the history of type that asks, What does your favorite font say about you?

    Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product we buy. But where do fonts come from, and why do we need so many? Who is responsible for the staid practicality of Times New Roman, the cool anonymity of Arial, or the irritating levity of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?

    Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seeming ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus was so effective. It also examines why the "T" in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House. A must-have book for the design conscious, Just My Type's cheeky irreverence will also charm everyone who loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Schott's Original Miscellany.

    My Review:

    Simon Garfield has introduced me to a world that I never gave much thought to and took for granted, the wide world of font and typography. Just My Type is a fun history lesson on the design of many famous fonts today and why those designs are still used in today's world.  For example, Garfield explains why Helvetica is one of the most widely used fonts worldwide and what happened when IKEA switched their font from futura to verdana... gasp!

    After reading Just My Type, I now find myself paying more attention to the font on signs and in books. While I can't tell the difference between most fonts, I do look to see if it is serif or sans serif and how the overall look of the font produces a feeling for what it is trying to express, such as stability or modernity.

    I really enjoyed roughly the first half of the book because it made me keep thinking of all the things I never picked up on in signs or other written word forms, but towards the end I found myself getting bored and wishing the book would soon. After a while, because I'm not a font enthusiast, the list of designers and the types of fonts just started to blur. Then, the book did just end. I don't think the ending of the book really summed up the previous 300-odd pages or made a final point about the world of fonts. Maybe it was just me, but I felt like Simon Garfield just got a little bored of writing it and so he just stopped where he was. I really enjoyed the premise of the book and I learned a lot, but I think the ending could have been better handled, which is why I'm giving Just My Type only three stars out of five.

    P.S. - I changed the font of this post to Arial, what do you think?

    My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    Review of 2011 Reading

    2011 was my first full year of blogging and keeping track of my reading on I don't know how many books I normally read in a year, but I'm quite proud of the 70 books I read this year. According to goodreads, I read 29,074 pages! I don't know about anyone else, but that seems like a lot of pages!!

    I've enjoyed blogging about the books I read this year, although I have fell incredibly behind in my reviews. The end of the semester and the holidays caught up to me and I broke out of the routine of posting about my books shortly after finishing. I want to start up again and finish up reviewing all the books I have left from 2011 and stay on track for 2012.

    In terms of my 2011 book challenges, I succeeded rather well! I completed 4 book challenges. From goodreads, I originally challenged myself to read 50 books, but I read 70! Here are my other challenges along with the books I used to complete them:

    2011 Chunkster Reading Challenge

    I chose the highest level for this challenge- Mor-book-ly Obese - 8 books of 450 pages or more, 3 of which have to be over 750 pages.

    Books Completed:
    1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand - 1088 pages
    2. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova - 592 pages
    3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 1037 pages
    4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - 552 pages
    5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - 460 pages
    6. The Iliad by Homer - 704 pages
    7. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin - 465 pages
    8. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson - 515 pages
    9. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran - 464 pages
    10. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky - 667 pages
    11. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - 680 pages
    12. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - 464 pages
    13. Elizabeth I by Margaret George - 671 pages
    14. Decision Points by George W. Bush - 497 pages
    15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - 544 pages
    16. Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu - 528 pages
    17. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood - 521 pages
    18. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - 465 pages
    19. The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - 503 pages
    20. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson - 563 pages
    21. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 752 pages
    22. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - 562 pages
    23. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by



    Off the Shelf Challenge

    I entered at the Trying level, which was to read 15 TBR books on my book shelves.
    Books Completed:


    I entered the first level of this challenge- Master of Trivial Pursuit- which meant I had to read 1 to 3 non-fiction books, each from a different category.
    Books Completed:
    1. Human by Michael Gazzaniga - Science
    2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - Science/Cultural Studies
    3. The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev - History
    4. Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor - Travel/Memoir
    5. Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker - Medical/History
    6. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - Science
    7. Bossypants by Tina Fey - Memoir
    8. You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding - Science/Self-Help
    9. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Barlett - Art
    10. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - History
    11. Decision Points by George W. Bush - Memoir/Politics
    12. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch - Memoir
    13. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton - Memoir
    14. Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever by

     I exceeded my expectations in all of the challenges. Which means that I now have baseline to judge how I want to handle my book challenges for 2012 :)