Sunday, 9 December 2012

Best of 2012: Books (Part II)

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

I quite like documentaries that follow on a small topic and reveal the interest in it. That’s a harder trick to pull off in a novel, but this book does it. As the title suggest, this is a book about fonts. It’ll explain to you the difference between serif and sans serif, why comic sans is so despised, what the most commonly used (and misused) fonts are, where they all come from, and why you should care. That’s the books really trick, by the end I really did care.


I went through a phase around the start of the year of reading graphic novels. I figure it’s a big enough genre that there must be some good things to find. And there are. I read lots of things that I only knew from crappy movies, but were actually really good. But my favourite is Crécy by Warren Ellis. It describes the Battle of Crécy and the events leading up it. I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie yet, because, as well as having a good storyline (with the added bonus of being faithful enough that you can learn a bit of history), its also incredibly violent. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as an entry point to the world of graphic novels, but once you’ve read a few this is a good one to get.

The Maze Runner

I saw the Hunger Games movie this year. It seemed like a good (but not very original) idea poorly developed. I figured the books would probably do a better job, but having read all of them I can tell you: they don’t. So if you want to read some young adult fiction (some people might be a bit embarrassed, but there are some fantastic novels, the label usually just means they have main characters that are young adults) The Maze Runner is a better choice. A young boy wakes up in the centre of a maze. There are lots of other boys there – apparently they have been arriving at regular intervals for some time. Beyond that you (and they) don’t really know a lot. The book is one of those where every time something is revealed some new mystery immediately follows. The key to these is whether the author manages to end the whole story in a satisfactory way. I’ve only finished the first two novels in the series so I can’t answer that, but at this point its substantially better than some of the more well known titles in the genre.

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound

I imagine that Phil Spector is a tough subject to write about. Widely regarded as mad even before his manslaughter conviction (the book was written during the retrial) and equally widely regarded as a genius, capturing both sides sympathetically but accurately is tough. This book covers Spector’s musical contributions in detail, but isn’t afraid to fully cover his poor treatment of women (which was really just an example of his poor treatment of everyone around him), and his infatuation with guns. Although the book had to be careful, given the retrial hadn’t been completed, my impression was that it was a surprise that Spector hadn’t killed someone already (accidentally or otherwise).


Each century has had one great US president. The most recent (and least well known in the international consciousness) was Franklin Delano Roosevelt – FDR. FDR had to deal with both the Great Depression and World War II. He instituted the welfare state (slowly eroded since his death), ended prohibition, served longer than any other president (which will only ever change in the unlikely event of a constitution amendment to allow presidents to serve more than two terms) and brought the phrase ‘brain’s trust’ into our language. All of this while he was largely confined to a wheelchair (struck by polio as an adult, he could walk with assistance when necessary). One of the most interesting things I got from this book was that, despite being the greatest US president of the 20th century, as an invalid with (probably) an open marriage he wouldn’t have even been considered as a plausible candidate in the last fifty years.

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