Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 11: You're Just My Type. Really

Welcome to Day 11 in our 24 Days of Books. Today I have to make an admission: I'm a font snob. There. I've said it. I have to come clean and admit that there are some books that I have been unable to read because I can't stand the typeface used to print the book. And while I don't think I've ever purchased a book solely because of the font, it's definitely true that the reading experience of many has been made that much more pleasurable because of the font (and I have been known to drool appreciatively over the handsomest of them).

If you are interested in fonts or know someone who is -- the history of specific fonts and the lives of typographers -- then Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield is just the book for you. Where do fonts come from? Why do we need so many? Why do certain typefaces reign supreme? Is Comic Sans Serif really funny?  Rather than overwhelm readers with technicalities, the author uses anecdotes to tell how something we take for granted has shaped and shaded our perceptions ever since humans first started carving messages on hard surfaces.

Garfield credits Steve Jobs for the array of fonts so easily available to us, noting that Jobs' early fascination with calligraphy and letter forms later translated into the long pull-down font menus available on computers everywhere. This is a must-have book for the design conscious. "Well researched," "delightful," "deliciously clever," "charming," "entertaining," and "downright fun" are just some of the words reviewers have used to describe this book, recently published by Gotham Books/Penguin. Janet Maslin of the New York Times says, "This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss's best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things."

Reading this book will change the way you perceive the written word forever and will assure you that, contrary to reports of its premature death, print is very much alive. In fact, in an age of ebooks, the physical appeal of print books takes on even greater importance. And did I mention that the book is in our Holiday Book Guide?

This video gives you a taste of the myriad fonts Garfield talks about in his fascinating book.

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