Recommended Nonfiction: Bio of Rin Tin Tin, Bad Religion Southern Style, Fonts, Language, Cleaning Up the Ocean, and Kindnessby Larry Cox on Sep. 27, 2012, under Uncategorized
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield with a foreword by Chip Kidd (Gotham Books, paperback reprint, $16)
I have always been fascinated by print fonts and the world of typography. Fonts are part of our everyday life. They are reflected in the signs we see, the advertisements that surround us and even in the typefaces we choose when he send our emails. Even though typefaces have been around for more than 550 years, what do we really know about them?
According to Simon Garfield, he was warned by several people that writing a book exploring fonts would ruin his life. They claimed he wouldn’t be able to read an advertisement or walk past a shop front without identifying the fonts, and if he was unable to do so, he would not rest until he did. Garfield admits they were right.
His book, first published to wide acclaim and a New York Times bestseller, reveals the history of fonts and the reason we need them. Along the way, we meet the designers behind the typefaces and learn such intriguing facts as why Comic Sans has become the most reviled font in the world, why Helvetica is everywhere, and why the designer of the typeface Doves thought fit to drown his creation in the Thames.
This is a wonderfully informative and breezy book that is nothing less than a love letter to type and design. Just for the record, Garfield states that his personal favorite fonts are Albertus, Bodoni Ultra Bold, and Georgia. His least favorite is Papyrus (the Avatar font).
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction – From Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between by Lee Gutkind (Da Capo, $16)
Lee Gutkind is the award-winning author or editor of nearly 30 nonfiction books including three annual volumes of “The Best Creative Nonfiction.” He is a writer in residence and a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University.
According to Professor Gutkind, creative nonfiction is the fastest growing and one of the most controversial genres in the literary world. His book is an essential and comprehensive guide to the art of creative nonfiction, basically divided into two main sections: “What is Creative Nonfiction” and “How to Do It: The Writing and Revisiting and Writing and Revisiting and Revising Part.”
In addition to the basics that aspiring writers should know, the author provides challenging writing exercises, analytical reflections on techniques used by the best writers, information on MFA programs, and, perhaps, most importantly of all, tips on how to get your work published.
Whether you are a beginning struggling with your first project, or a seasoned pro looking for new inspiration, this guide is a must.
Plastic Ocean by Capt. Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips (Avery, $16)
Capt. Charles Moore, an environmental researcher and internationally-recognized pollution expert and activist, was horrified by what he discovered in 1997 during a trans-Pacific sailing race.
While navigating through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, he had to slowly make his way through what he described as “plastic soup,” part of an estimated three million tons of plastic debris that exists between Hawaii and the West Coast, a garbage patch that covers roughly two million miles.
Moore’s book documents the problem and his efforts to save the oceans of the world. Crisply written, meticulously documented, and backed by his scientific credibility, Moore hopes to call world-wide attention to the looming plastic peril that threatens marine life and even the eventual fate of our planet.
What Language Is and What It Isn’t and What It Could Be by John McWhorter (Gotham Books, $16)
Renowned linguist John McWhorter explores language from ancient Greek and Persia to Sri Lanka in an attempt to explain what language is, and what it isn’t. Some of the conclusions he comes to may be surprising.
For example, McWhorter claims there is no such a thing as “improper” grammar, something my old eighth grade English teacher would not have agreed with. He adds that if people are using language in a structured way to express themselves, it’s grammar. He writes that even Black English has rules and syntax and as proper as any other language.
McWhorter also debunks the common misconception that language is divided into two main camps: The “real” languages — like French and English — and “dialects” like those spoken by villagers in remote hamlets. He reveal why such languages as Navajo and Skha are complex and wonderfully so.
This book will make language both hip and useful. As our modern world becomes increasingly interconnected, a deeper understanding of other cultures and languages are absolutely essential.
The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories by Don Steinberg (Quirk, $14.95)
Chosen as one of the Top 10 Business Books of 2012 by Publishers Weekly, this nifty guide will provide the tools needed to take your project from the furniture in your head to reality.
Don Steinberg, who has written extensively for such publications as The New Yorker, GQ, and The Wall Street Journal, is convinced that the only thing standing in the way of most good ideas becoming a reality is funding. He adds that an idea can often get off the ground through what he calls the power of “Crowdfunding.” By using his Website, www.Kickstarter.com, for example, people can learn about new projects and then back them financially by donating to the cause. This is, Steinberg insists, is just one of the strategies of a successful Kickstarter campaign.
By documenting the successes and failures of dozens of artists and inventors who have launched their projects on Kickstarter, readers can achieve insight on how to prepare, promote, and successfully carry out a project to completion. The first step is to determine if this approach is right for Kickstarter, then do the math, find out about who the potential backers are, and how to build on buzz and finally proceed.
Holy Ghost Girl: A Memoir by Donna M. Johnson (Gotham Books, $16)
Donna Johnson as a child found herself trapped in a world she shared with David Terrell, a cult figure and Southern tent revival preacher. According to Johnson, the world of Brother Terrell included her mother, half-sisters, and followers called Terrellites by the press was complex.
Johnson was taught to call the preacher daddy even though the end-time prophet was a womanizer who fathered children with more than one woman outside if his marriage. When asked about the future of his offspring, Terrell brushed aside concerns with his declaration that Jesus would come before then.
When the author was seventeen, she left the ministry and Terrell’s influence and never looked back. Her memoir is a book that recounts her surreal early life with insight and a blend of faith and human frailty that will leave most readers mentally exhausted.
Johnson is based in Austin where she operates a marketing and advertising firm with her husband.
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend by Susan Orlean (Simon & Schuster Trade Paperback, $16)
Rin Tin Tin was the most famous dog in the history of movies and television.
Lee Duncan, a corporal in the trenches of World War 1 in France, rescued a German shepherd and her pups from a kennel. One of the puppies was Rin Tin Tin, a dog that Duncan immediately bonded with.
When Duncan returned to Los Angeles after the war, the canine had become an important part of his life. The dog’s talent and a little luck made Rin Tin Tin into a major film star during the silent era. At his peak, he was earning more than most of his human co-stars. Even though the canine star died in 1932, his offspring continued to work in movies, radio shows, and eventually television.
This incredible book was called engrossing, dazzling, and terrific by critics when first published last year. Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992, and is the author of several previous bestsellers including “The Orchid Thief.”
Everyday Kindness: Shortcuts to a Happier and More Confident Life by Stephanie Dowrick (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95)
A compliment from a stranger can turn a bad day into one that is pretty terrific. Internationally-renowned author Stephanie Dowrick explores the subject of kindness and the many ways it impacts our lives. She claims that one of the fundamental aspects of kindness is that it almost always benefits the giver as much as the receiver and, as such, it is important to cultivate kindness as much as possible.
Based in Australia, Dowrick illuminates both simple and complex concepts that will help readers lead kinder, happier lives. Sometimes a comforting word, a smile, or a compliment can make all of the difference in the world. As Dowrick’s book suggests, kindness is also infectious.