Category Archives: Simon & Schuster

Judge This by Chip Kidd

Judge This by Chip Kidd Title: Judge This
Author: Chip Kidd
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, TED Talks
ISBN: 9781471138928
Genre: Motivation, Inspiration, Design, TED Talks
Pages: 134
Source: Personal
Rating: 5/5

I have always loved and admired book covers designed by Chip Kidd. He is one designer who keeps things minimalist and yet does not make it vague for the reader. Vague in the sense that the reader can get a certain idea of the book by looking at the cover and that’s how we do it anyway, don’t we? We judge the book by the cover and sometimes it is the only thing to do when more information about the book is just not given or when the eye just lands on the cover the very first thing (but of course).

Judge This - Image 1

“Judge This” by Chip Kidd is about judging or about the way we judge. It is also about how we look at daily objects and what purpose or role they play in our lives. Kidd takes all relevant instances from his life as a book cover designer (what a cool, cool job to have) and analyzes the way we see objects.

Judge This - Image 2

(This image for the cover of Oliver Sack’s book for instance came from a regular eye-testing chart)

Kidd creates a continuum, a horizontal line that goes from clarity to mystery, rating various elements of daily life according to how much effort it takes to understand them. He measures images in the book from extreme clarity to mysteriousness and how that is detrimental in so many ways.

Judge This - Image 3

There are images on almost every page, accompanied by a narrative of how Kidd sees it and how he used it later for his books. This is also a part of the TED Series and I am sure that the TED video would be just as great. Kidd’s writing is simple, direct and clear. That is the major reason why the book works on so many levels.

“Judge This” will make you look at design, logo and brand imagery more carefully. It will also make you look at book covers in a unique manner. A read that I would for sure highly recommend.

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Here is the video of the TED Talk:

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova Title: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova
Publisher: Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781501106422
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 353
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

One of the many diseases of old-age that I am most frightened of is Alzheimer’s. The thought of losing all memory, day by day and not knowing anything at all makes me break into a sweat. The idea of not recognizing your loved ones even more so. I don’t think anyone should go through that torture. It is just one of those diseases that take everything away from you.

So when you read a book where the disease is almost the protagonist, you are completely overwhelmed and more than anything else you also cheer for the person for being a survivor and battling it at all costs. Dr. Alice Howland has it all going for her. She is a psychiatry professor at Harvard. She has three children and a loving husband. She is fifty years of age and Alzheimer’s has struck. It is about her family coping with her disease and how their lives change forever. “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova is a book that will make you think about life and death and the consequences of life being too short.

Genova skillfully explores Alzheimer’s through Alice. The onset of it and the rapid progression as shown from September 2002 to September 2005 will make you turn the pages and feel for Alice and her family, which maybe you must not have in a very long time. For instance, the unwell Alice spotting a message the healthier Alice left on voicemail and figuring what it was will absolutely break your heart. There are many such instances throughout the book.

I was majorly taken in by the book because Alzheimer’s is one thing that has always intrigued me. One day you know it all and the other you are reduced to becoming someone who can’t even remember his or her name. “Still Alice” had me in from the very first page and did not let go of me at all. I recommend this to all readers – it will appeal to everyone and probably also make you realize that time is too short and life must be lived nonetheless.

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Still Alice

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson Title: The Innovators
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781471138799
Genre: Non-Fiction, Computers and Technology, Business and Investing,
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I remember reading, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson with great trepidation. I thought I would get bored. I thought I would not be interested in it for long. I thought these things and a lot of other things before I invested time in the book. I loved the book at the end of it, so much so that I thought there was not any need to pick up anything on “Steve Jobs”, since this book was most comprehensive. Walter Isaacson does it again this time with “The Innovators”.

There have been countless books written on the digitized revolution and the Silicon Valley. Walter Isaacson’s book is different in the sense that he takes a complete look at the innovators, the geniuses, the hackers, and the geeks and what they did and did not do to get the revolution going. “The Innovators” is a book which looks at everything – right from the start, to the middle and the future of entrepreneurs and creative geniuses.

“The Innovators” tracks the stories from the 19th century – to Lovelace and Babbage to the Ethernet and Xerox, the Manhattan Project, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs of course and Steve Wozniak. He covers almost all of these people and how their creativity helped them harness not only their goals, but also the clear and visible difference brought in an entire culture of people.

The writing is crisp and easy to understand. There are parts that do drag but one can overlook them in the larger scheme of the theme and essence of the book. The book is written with the view point of ideas. That is the core and essence of the book. The people of course play a very important role, but it is the ideas that take center-stage in a book like this.

Mr. Isaacson tells the story of individuals with brilliant ideas. There is sometimes collaboration of people, sometimes when people work on their own and yet at the end of it all, the reader is left with more clarity on them and the various eras in which different ideas were shaped and formed. One can then use the cliché and say then that the book is “well-researched”. The layout and the hyper-narration at times is perfect. The systematic building of concepts only lends to the overall effect of the book.

At some point, I thought that maybe some people were not included which could have been and some which perhaps did not need inclusion. The narrative is very strong and maybe again why one can see why the author could not have included everyone in the book.

“The Innovators” is one of those books that also help us to some extent see what technology could mean in the future and its implications. Overall, I would say that even if you are not a technology buff the book will appeal to you only from the point of view of knowing more about these people and the ideas they thought of. I highly recommend this one.

Here is the video of Walter Isaacson speaking about the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3umNPsKUnzA

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Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self : Edited by Joseph Galliano

Dear Me - Edited by Joseph Galliano Title: Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self
Author: Edited by Joseph Galliano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Limited
ISBN: 9781847377661
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

“If you wrote a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, what would it say?”

That is the premise of the book, “Dear Me” – Edited by Joseph Galliano. What would you tell your sixteen year old self anyway? What would you stop him or her from doing, which you know will be futile anyway, because he or she will not listen to the older you? The book is of famous people – of celebrities writing to their younger self, dispensing advice, providing nuggets of wisdom and trying to go back in time and perhaps contemplate on how life was.

The book is a revelation of sorts and at other times, I was tempted enough to pick up the notepad and write a letter to my sixteen-year-old self. There were letters that stood out – the ones by Elton John, Emma Thompson, James Woods, Jodi Picoult, and so many more. There are 75 letters in all, written by celebrities from various fields – from actors to comedians to novelists, they all are written depicting youth and what is called growing-up.

These letters touch on issues that are still prevalent – from gay rights to racism to being felt left out – the letters provide a sense of warmth and at the same time you empathize with at least a few of them, because you have gone through the same.

“Dear Me” is a bitter-sweet journey through life, sometimes scarily a reflection of your own. It is a book of letters, of contemplation, of thoughts and ideas. Joseph Galliano has done a wonderful job of editing this book and somehow compels you to write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, sharing your fears and maybe consoling him or her – to let them know that it will all be alright, after all.

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Book Review: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan Title: In the Shadow of the Banyan
Author: Vaddey Ratner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1451657708
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A tragic event is never easy to chronicle. More so, when it has to be fictionalized so that the lines between reality and fiction are blurred. So almost, no one can tell what actually happened or whether the author went through what is documented or not. The same is the case with the book that I finished reading last week – “In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner. The book largely stirred me and almost made me gasp for breath in most places. You will know why when you read the book and discover its power, the writer’s ability to weave a heartfelt and yet hopeful story.

“In the Shadow of the Banyan” is all about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, where an estimate of two million people lost their lives. The book’s protagonist is seven-year old Raami, whose world and childhood is shattered the day her father brings news of the Civil War’s triumph on the streets of Phnom Penh, the capital city. Soon the family’s royal privileges are taken away (they are but royalty), and they have to flee their palace, their home, their country, only to be haunted by memories and what each family member faces in that time.

For me, the book was a heavy read. But obviously given the content, I had to almost keep the book aside for some time and then get back to it, but more so because I was too overwhelmed to read further. Raami’s voice is almost Vaddey’s voice, as the author also had to run away from Cambodia, did not know English and yet educated herself in the United States of America and is where she is today. The book is based on memory and experience and yes it is close to the author’s life and yet Raami’s voice is not lost or diluted. The book does not let you forget tragedies that took place (even if it didn’t happen to the author) and rightly so. I was just astounded by what evil lurks in men to commit the crimes that they do. I was left with that thought way after I had finished reading the book.

Ratner’s writing is stark and she does not leave out anything and at the same time the description of a land torn and its people left in despair will leave the reader wanting to know more about Cambodia and Khmer Rouge. The brutality, the violence and the tenderness is present in equal measure. What rises above of this is that there is still hope, which of course worked well for the writer and maybe for many more like her.

For me, all I can say is that there are very few books like, “In the Shadow of the Banyan” that provide the much needed comfort and hope in difficult times. One can relate to it no matter what and as you close the book, you feel a little more hopeful, a little less angry and a little more belief in humanity through the eyes of a seven-year old till she turns eleven. A beautiful read. Be prepared though to cry a little.

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