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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.

Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure

Stormy Daniels had a rough life. Her father left her, her mother neglected her, and her neighbor raped her all before she turned ten. At seventeen, she started stripping. In her twenties, she became a star, writer, and director in the adult film industry. I have tremendous respect for her. She is smart, funny, and resilient. The sex encounter with Trump, however, was so out of her characters. She fucked him even though she had no desire to. She did it for nothing—not even for money. Except for that three brief minutes, her story was so compelling. She made her husband had sex with her on camera when he wanted to have kid. The complication of giving birth to her daughter was also heart-wrecking. If she left out the Trump scandal, her memoir would be much more intriguing.

Phạm Lữ Ân: Nếu biết trăm năm là hữu hạn…

Đây là quyển sách tiếng Việt đầu tiên tôi đọc trong năm 2019. Được tái bản lần thứ 17, sách gồm những bài văn ngắn của tác giả Phạm Lữ Ân viết về chân lý sống, tình yêu, và đạo đức. Đọc cũng có tạm được nhưng hơi bị chán. Những đề tài thích hợp với giới trẻ sắp trưởng thành hơn là những người đã từng trải như tôi. Vì tôi không còn nhìn đời và còn cảm giác lạc quan với tình yêu và tình người nữa. Trăm năm không hữu hạn. Chỉ có lòng người là hữu hạn.

Dani Shapiro: Inheritance

At fifty-four, Shapiro discovered an unsettling truth about herself through a DNA test. Writing this book is a way for Shapiro to cope with her new identity and the the people who were involved (related or not). In addition, Shapiro’s investigative journalism shows how easy it is nowadays to find out anything about ourselves through online technology and social media. It’s a beautiful, moving, and deeply personal memoir.

Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky: Make Time

Two former Google product designers show you how to Make Time in four steps: highlight, laser, energize, and reflect. To focus your time and energy on doing something you want, you need to get rid of digital distractions and take care of yourself. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know; therefore, I find it not too helpful.

Rachel Aust: Less

With a passion for minimalism and organization, Aust has written a visual guide to help us simplify our home and life. In addition to Aust’s concise, instructional writing, Rebecca Batchelor’s spacial layout design and Rachel Spoon’s simple illustrations make this book a useful resource for anyone who would like to live a minimalist lifestyle. It’s a quick and motivating read.

Design: Vignelli

Before he died in 2014, legendary designer Massimo Vignelli made Beatriz Cifuentes-Caballero promise that she would finish their unfinished project. Almost five years later, Cifuentes-Caballero presents a definitive collection of Lella and Massimo’s creative outputs ranging from graphic to interior to product designs. Any graphic design student who is interested in no-nonsense typographic design and grid-based layout should pick it up. The book is impressive, but the part I don’t understand is the typesetting for the essay section. Reading long text in Century Italic is jarring. Based on Massimo’s work, I don’t think he would have approved it.

Nate Chinen: Playing Changes

I have not kept up with the modern jazz scene in the past several years; therefore, Chinen’s book is good for catching up. As a jazz critic for The New York Times, Chinen is an engaging writer and most of the musicians he covered are familiar to me. His goal for this book is not to demonstrate where jazz is going, but where it is happening. It’s a pleasant read for jazz lovers and appreciators.

Benjamin Dreyer: Dreyer’s English

As a passionate blogger, I like to read books on writing and grammar from time to time to up my game. I tend to collect them as well. My latest acquisition is Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer who is copy chief of Random House. Drawing from over twenty years of copyediting experience, Dreyer offers an informative guide to clarity and style written from his own concise and humorous prose. I love “The Trimmables” section, which includes “added bonus” and “assless chaps.” It is definitely a recommended read to improve your prose.

Tom Gjelten: A Nation of Nations

By focusing on Fairfax, Virginia, Gjelten tells the story of American immigration. His profiles include Mark Keam and Alex Seong from Korea, Esam Omeish from Libya, The Alarcón family from Bolivia, and Marta Quintanilla from El Salvador. These stories are inspiring, and yet no profile of a Vietnamese family? The Vietnamese community in Fairfax community is quite extensive as well. Although the paste is slow at times, it is still a good read. I am very proud of the the diversity of the country we are living in.