Category Archives: Particular Books

Book Review: Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities by Keith Houston

Shady Characters by Keith Houston Title: Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities
Author: Keith Houston
Publisher: Particular Books
ISBN: 9781846146473
Genre: Non-Fiction, Graphic Arts, Reference
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

“Shady Characters: Ampersands, Interrobangs and other Typographical Curiosities” was one of the most unique reads this month for me. I have never come across a book like this before, so I may be thought that it was not for me. However, was proved wrong half-way into it. “Shady Characters” as the name suggests is about characters that we often forget or tend to overlook when it comes to typography or fonts or as part of text.

Keith Houston’s book is about symbols and punctuation and characters that have a past to it and how it is linked to writing in today’s times. For instance, it was wonderful to know about the ampersand and how it came to be. Or for that matter, about the pilcrow which is one of the oldest symbols of the world and yet we don’t know much about it. Like how the @ symbol came to being way back in 1971 – this anecdote I found most interesting, because it was fascinating to know about the symbol which has become an essential part of our lives.

What Keith skilfully does in these chapters about each character is bring out the past and link it beautifully with the present and the future. The writing (which I thought would be tedious at first) is only enjoyable and full of anecdotes. So there is little chance of the reader getting bored. There are ten characters or symbols spoken of and each one has a unique story to tell. The reader has no time to get bored at any point in the book.

“Shady Characters” is about uniqueness. It is about seeing the unknown and sometimes most taken granted for world. The world of punctuation, symbols and other lovely characters that make up the world of semantics and otherwise just add a little bit of charm.

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Book Review: Who, or Why, or Which, or What? by John Oldale

Title: Who or Why or Which or What?: A Global Gazetteer of the Instructive and the Strange
Author: John Oldale
Publisher: Particular Books
ISBN: 978-1846143366
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Who, or Why, or Which, or What? is a strange book. It literally is. It is a book full of curious facts and amusing short anecdotes. Something you would like to talk about at a party or when you are just bored. The book is a cross between a global gazetteer (it also looks like one when opened – the illustrations and the facts reminded me of Ripley’s Believe It or Not) and a compendium of bizarre facts.

There is one page covering one country on the face of the earth and with that come various tidbits to chew on. John Oldale has archived these details in a very interesting manner. It is a lot of things put together – funny, informative and educational. A lot of fact-oriented information, which one can discuss with colleagues and friends at the same time.

The graphics sit perfectly with the text and that’s one of the other aspects that get the reader going with the book. You cannot read this book in one sitting. The reader would have to keep it down and come back to it once in every while to lap up more facts.

I normally would not have read this book. I would have in all probability shrugged it away like another useless information manual. However, the book is a lot more than that. It presents information in a funny manner and that is what is needed while writing or editing this kind of book. A good book to have in your bag or while travelling.

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