Rob Dunn: Never Home Alone

An informative, eye-opening exploration of creatures living in our homes and bodies. The good news is that not all of them are bad. While pathogens are harmful, other species are beneficial to us—spiders are my new friends. Dunn explains and emphasizes the important of biodiversity. He encourages us to invite bacteria, fungi, and insects back into our lives instead of getting rid of them. This book has validated my decision for turning down services that wanted to exterminate all the bugs around our house. I am also going to stop using disinfecting wipes, which kill 99.9% of viruses bacteria including the good ones. Although I struggled to finish the book because of my own lack of interest on scientific writing, I am glad I made it through. I have learned a ton about our little friends I didn’t know I had living with us.

Lê Ngọc Minh: Tình yêu nhỏ trong thành phố lớn

Tập truyện tình cảm ngắn của Lê Ngọc Minh mở đầu với câu chuyện tình của hai cha con với hai mẹ con rất dễ thương. Chuyện thứ nhì là về một cô đồng tính. Sau đó thì tôi hoàn toàn không nhớ vì tôi bắt đầu đọc sách này trước khi đọc Chút tình còn lại của Hồng Thủy nhưng lại đễ quên ở chỗ làm nên tôi tạm gác lại. Sau khi đọc xong tập truyện ngắn tình cảm của Hồng Thủy giờ lại đọc tiếp của Lê Ngọc Minh nên hơi ngán. Thôi đành phải chuyển hướng sang đọc nonfiction tiếng Anh cho đỡ chán.

Hồng Thủy: Chút tình còn lại

Tập truyện ngắn của Hồng Thủy viết về những mối tình thơ mộng nhẹ nhàng. Những câu chuyện không não nề nhưng cũng không để lại cho tôi cảm nhận gì. Đọc xong sách trả lại hết cho tác giả luôn. Tuy nhiên tôi vẫn thích cách viết văn đơn giản và đẹp. Đọc để trao dồi tiếng Việt nên tôi không nghĩ đã lãng phí thời gian. Tôi sẽ tìm đọc những tác phẩm truyện dài của tác giả.

Julie Yip-Williams: The Unwinding of the Miracle

When my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, his oncologist informed him that he had six months to live. I was in the room with him and would never forget the shock on his face. As he lived his last months, I wondered what went through his mind, but I was afraid to ask. I did not know if he were comfortable to talk about it. Unlike my father-in-law, Julie Yip-Williams opened up about her metastatic colon cancer and revealed intimate details of her life as she faced her death. She accepted her faith and spent her last days planning for the future of her daughters and husband. She wanted to make sure they will be taken care of without her.

In addition to her terminal illness, Julie shared her extraordinary story. When Julie was born in Vietnam with congenital cataracts, her grandmother decided to let her go in her sleep because she didn’t wanted her granddaughter to go through life being blind. Julie escaped her first death and fled the country on a boat when the communist took over. Although she was legally blind, Julie proved that she was capable of doing anything. She graduated from Williams and Harvard, traveled the world, and raised a wonderful family. Although cancer shortened her life, she lived every moment of her limited time. She was strong, compassionate, and brutally honest.

What struck the chord with me is not how long you live but the quality of your life. I can’t take my time on this earth for granted. Life is too damn short, and I don’t know what will happen to me tomorrow. Through her own story, particularly her relationship with her daughters, she reminded me to love and to spend time with my kids while I still can and do not wait before it is too late. It’s a tear-jerking, gripping, and inspiring memoir that will have a long-lasting impact on me.

Andy Clarke: Art Direction for the Web

Web design has become boring in the last few years because most websites have similar layout. Andy Clarke sets out to change that by bringing art direction to the web. Andy spent the first two-thirds of the book explaining the concept of art-directing design, which includes grid-based layouts, typography, and photography. In the final quarter of the book, Andy walks through layout techniques using CSS Grid, Flexbox, Multi-column, and Shapes.

As stated in the beginning of the book, art direction is not new. Advertising and print publications, especially magazines, has been using art-directing design for more than 100 years. The web is only starting to get around to it. If you want to make memorable web experiences, this book is a good start.

Nguyễn Trí: Thiên đường ảo vọng

Sáu anh em kết nghĩa. Đứa tù tội. Kẻ giang hồ. Thằng đần độn. Người nghĩa khí. Họ cùng chung một số phận nghèo nàn nên gắn bó với nhau. Họ cùng nhau đãi vàng. Từ túng thiếu trở nên phung phí rồi vướng vào cờ bạc và gái góc. Những câu chuyện thú vị, vui nhộn, và đầy cảm tình của nhà văn Nguyễn Trí đem lại cho chúng ta những bài học trong cuộc sống qua những nhân vật ông tạo ra. Tôi ít khi đọc tiểu thuyết nhưng rất thích quyển sách này.

Anne Lamott: Almost Everything

I read anything written by Anne Lamott. Her prose is always impeccable and her story is inspiring. In her latest book, Lamott reveals her personal struggles, including suicidal thoughts, drinking, relationships, diets, and death. Her stories are honest and her messages are hopeful. Almost Everything is a short, beautiful, and thoughtful read. Amanda Dewey’s pleasing typesetting makes it a perfect gift for anyone you care about.

What I love the most is her advice on writing. Here are a few examples to keep me motivated.

Lamott (p.85):

No one cares if you continue to write, so you’d better care, because otherwise you are doomed.

If you do stick with writing, you will get better and better, and you can start to learn the important lessons: who you really are, and how all of us can live in the face of death, and how important it is to pay much better attention to life, moment by moment, which is why you are here.

Lamott (p.89):

If it’s creative release, or you have a story to tell, or if you’ve just always wanted to write a novel, or you just love to write, the way other people like to garden, you’re good.

Lamott (p.99):

I tell the six-year-olds that if they want to have great lives, they need to read a lot or listen to the written word. If they rely only on their own thinking, they will not notice the power that is all around them, the force-be-with-you kind of power. Reading and writing help us take the blinders off so we can look around and say “Wow,” so we can look at life and our lives with care, and curiosity, and attention to detail, which re what will make us happy and less afraid.

Maxwell King: The Good Neighbor

I knew little about Fred Rogers and his show for children, yet I was inspired by clips of his video and his messages. He seemed kind and caring. I wanted to learn more about him; therefore, I was eager to read his biography. The information is good, but King’s writing is not as engaging as I would hope for. I was a bit disappointed and struggled to get through 370 pages.

Nguyễn Tranh Chiếu: The Short Life

Nguyễn Tranh Chiếu’s self-published debut novel is based closely on his own life. Growing up as a buffalo boy in Huế, Việt Nam, he excelled in school and earned a full ride to study electrical engineering at the University of Rhode Island in the United States. After receiving his master’s degree, he returned to his war-torn country. With his intention to help rebuild Việt Nam, he decided to stay back even though his family had fled the country and South Vietnam had lost control of its power and territory.

After his long experience in the reeducation camp, he learned the painful truth about the Communist and had to flee the country by boat. His family, his wife in particular, had to pay a horrifying price for his decision not to leave with their extended family.

I am not sure why the book is written as a novel instead of a memoir when Mr. Chiếu is telling the story of his life. Could it be that he doesn’t want to reveal his emotion through his own narrative? In his prologue, after he learned that his two-month son had die while he was in the reeducation camp, he simply writes, “And that was that.” Later in the book, he mentioned the mysterious incident of his son’s death, but he also left it at that. It could be that Mr. Chiếu is a forward-thinking man who doesn’t dwell on the past.

Even with a bit of braggadocio, his story is incredible. His historical perspective is informing. His prose, however, is more like documenting than storytelling. Furthermore, a copyeditor would have polished up his grammar, punctuation, and wordiness.