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Monday, September 24, 2012

One typography book to rule them all

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
–J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954, chapter 2
Robert Bringhurst: The Elements of Typographic Style / SML.20120919.1211092.IP3

The only book you need for typography.

Recently I moved from New York to Hong Kong after spending more than a decade working in Gotham City. During this process, I had to ‘minify‘ a one-bedroom apartment filled with wall-to-wall books to a personal set goal of ten. It turned out to be a very challenging process – and it took me a long time to get it done. Ultimately I had everything down to 30 boxes – which was much higher than my goal, but still an extreme reduction no less.

If you are a book nerd like me, you would understand my dilemma of throwing books away. Yes I know – I haven’t touched most of them in years, and they were pretty much collecting dust — but they are also treasures to me. I remember when and why I bought each of my books, and I recall the lessons I learned from reading it. I had donated them all to charity so that they won’t go to waste, but saying goodbye was difficult.

The process did result in something positive in the end: helping me identify the gems of each genre – in other words – the one book to rule them all!

As a designer, I own a lot of design books. And since design books are visual and are not really about just the words, Kindle + electronic books simply don't do their justice – maybe in the future that will change – for now you simply can't get the same experience from their electronic equivalent, and it is for this reason that most of them don't get issued in electronic format.

So if you ask a designer to get rid of his books, it's a heartbreaking task. In the end, I kept only one book on typography: The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. On Amazon, I recommend seven books on typography. But if there is only one book which you want, this would be the one.

Ironically this was also the only book on the reading list for my graphic design education at Yale – I suppose that's what a good education buys you: the wisdom + access to the gems in each category, saving you the time to read all of the books only to come to the same conclusion?

Here are the rest of the books on typography which I recommend, if you are interested: