Glyph* (book review)

by Jamie on November 22, 2015

I picked up Glyph* by Adriana Caneva, Shiro Nishimoto, and Anna Davies hoping to learn a little trivia about typographic symbols. Beyond an interest in all things language-related (and a love of trivia), I value books like these because I hope they make me a better editor. Writing and editing are not exact sciences, and I like the idea of building up a reservoir of learning that helps me make the choices I do.

Photo of the book coverThis book surprised me. It’s tiny—the size of my hand, and just 97 pages—but it’s thorough. I know now that an exclamation mark is also called an “admiration mark, screamer, shriekmark or bang,” and might derive from io, the Latin word for joy. (Write “I” and “O” vertically, and what do you get? I love this.)

This attention to detail extends to the book design. Most chapters are two facing pages divided into three visual chunks: white space, text and glyphs. Neon orange headings and tables reinforce this organization, and the bright color scheme matches the subtle quirkiness of the factoids. For example, did you know that “bracket” comes from the French word for codpiece (braguette) and the Latin word for breeches (braca)? In other words, ( ) = pants.Photo of a book page

Huge kudos to writer Anna Davies for her elegant, poetic writing that magically fits in-depth content into bite-sized chapters. Writing about the @ sign, she says, “There is something appealing in the aesthetic of the first letter of the alphabet, embraced in a womb of its own making.” There is something appealing to me about a beautiful little typography book that reads like a haiku.

Glyph* by Adriana Caneva, Shiro Nishimoto, and Anna Davies was published in 2015 by Cicada Books Unlimited and is available at my favorite bookstore, Powell’s.


dogeared book
I cherished this book. I underlined page after page, and when I didn’t have a pen on me, I dogeared page after page. If you’re a quiet person like me, and have questioned your place in the world because of it, this book is for you.

Here are my favorite points.

  • In some Asian cultures, introversion is respected and revered more than extroversion. Western cultures grew to idealize extroversion around the early 20th century, a change fueled in part by the industrial revolution (“The business of America is business”) and advertising (“Do you suffer from an inferiority complex?”)
  • yinandyangPpixabyIntroversion has formidable benefits to society and business, right on par with extroversion. Neither is superior to the other. Humans, and even animals, need both introverts and extroverts to survive. Think yin and yang.
  • Open office plans are trendy—and that might be the most positive thing to say about them. Studies repeatedly show that workers solve problems better and think more creatively when they are given privacy. Citing a study of computer programmers by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, the author noted that “the top performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.”
  • Quiet children blossom and become healthy, productive adults when they are nurtured, gently encouraged, and praised. Parents, your shy little thinkers and observers might be the Stephen Wozniaks, Charles Darwins, and Theodor Geisels (Dr. Seuss) of tomorrow. (All were introverts.)

This book is carefully written and thorough, and includes a wealth of both people stories and data to illuminate the major points.

Viva la revolución!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is available at Powell’s, my favorite online bookstore.



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