This is not, by any measure, a comprehensive bibliography. Rather, it’s a selection of favorites from my own bookshelf that I consult most frequently in my work as a writer and a typographer.
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage, 4th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Long before he agreed to write the foreword for my book Typography for Lawyers, Bryan Garner was a hero of mine. Garner thinks and writes about American English in a way that’s rigorous, convincing, and accessible. He is stern but not shrill, authoritative but not authoritarian. He is a vigorous advocate for clear, simple writing. His work should be mandatory for all writers.
Matthew Butterick, Typography for Lawyers, 2nd ed. (O’Connors, 2015).
The precursor to Butterick’s Practical Typography
. Lawyer or not, consider buying a copy, because it’s a virtuous act. See how to pay for this book.
Jan Middendorp, Shaping Text (BIS Publishers, 2012).
If you get a second book on typography, get this one. Middendorp’s book is full of careful details, lucid explanations, and terrific illustrations.
Carolina de Bartolo, Explorations in Typography, 2nd ed. (explorationsintypography.com, 2016).
Using a Spiekermann essay from Stop Stealing Sheep (see below), de Bartolo shows how different typesetting choices change the effect of the text.
Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style, 4th ed. (Hartley and Marks Publishers, 2013).
Bringhurst’s book has become something of a standard reference guide among professional typographers, bringing together the history, theory, and practice of typography.
Ellen Lupton, Thinking With Type, 2nd ed. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).
Intended as an introduction to typography for design students, Lupton’s book is more accessible than Bringhurst’s. It includes full-color illustrations from every era of typography.
Sofie Beier, Reading Letters: Designing for Legibility (BIS Publishers, 2012).
Beier’s thoroughly researched and illustrated survey shows how empirical considerations have influenced type design for hundreds of years.
Paul McNeil, The Visual History of Type, (Laurence King Publishing, 2017).
As the title suggests, this is a catalog of font history, not a compendium of practical tips. But what a history—a wonderful selection of examples from the 1400s to the present, beautifully presented and explained.
Joseph Blumenthal, Art of the Printed Book, 1455-1955 (David R. Godine, 1979).
Jan Tholenaar, Cees De Jong, and Alston Purvis, Type. A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles (Taschen, 2013).
As a survey of typographic history, I prefer the McNeil book for its thorough and balanced coverage, but I also like these. The Blumenthal volume focuses more on book design than fonts per se. The other is drawn largely from Tholenaar’s own collection, so reflects his taste for decorative and oddball typography.
Tim Ahrens and Shoko Mugikura, Size-Specific Adjustments to Type Designs (Just Another Foundry, 2014).
This is the nerdiest recommendation on this list. But I can’t leave it out—it’s a beautifully presented demonstration of the subtlety and thought that goes into the best-designed fonts.
Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed. (Graphics Press, 2001).
Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information, 4th printing ed. (Graphics Press, 1990).
These are two of my favorite books. Tufte makes an eloquent and compelling case for why design matters. Both books are fantastically interesting, featuring examples of information design from many historical periods.
William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler, Universal Principles of Design, 2nd ed. (Rockport Publishers, 2010).
An excellent and accessible introduction to design principles that apply not only to printed documents, but to all objects that we interact with.