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Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Review

There was a time when computers and word processors were not around. Instead, an old-fashioned, sturdy, mechanical typewriter was essential to the writers and authors working in all areas – from personal correspondence to newspapers to our beloved books.

Learning shorthand and typewriting was also amongst the very first few skills that opened doors for women towards respectable, paid employment in the world of business. Nowadays though, the typewriters are seldom used and have becomes curios and collectibles.

You may know Tom Hanks for his memorable acting career. But he is also a good writer and a collector of typewriters. And so his collection of short stories Uncommon Type has been published featuring variety of stories that in one way or another feature a typewriter somewhere in there. Recently, we had a chance to read this collection and here is our review on behalf of Team Thinkerviews.

Book Title : Uncommon Type
Some Stories
Author :
Published by : Windmill Books ( 26 November 2020)
Penguin Random House ( 2017)
# of Pages : 403 (Paperback) 416 (Hardcover) 601 Minutes (Audiobook)
# of Chapters : 17
Purchase Link(s) :

Book Cover:

Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

The cover page of this book is somber and true to its theme, featuring an old fashioned typewriter in the center with a pair of spectacles. The colour scheme for the cover page is also simple with black and white letters on the red background. The cover page designer has selected fonts that are reminiscent of looking at type written pages, in line with the central motif of these stories.

There is also a paperback version available with this same cover page, except with a blue background. One of the later editions also show us a huma figure making use of the typewriter. We like the above cover page better….

The stories and the reviews

Even though the stories have a typewriter somewhere in them, that is probably the only common thread. Apart from that they present many different characters in a variety of settings.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

There is the foursome of friends Anna, Steve, MDash and the author, that show up in more than one stories. Showing us their daily lives in today’s America with no burning agendas, questions or quest for big success. They are all good people, with one sort of talent or other, but they all seem to be happy just living the way they want to. There is a thread of humour through their stories though, one example being how the writer compares them to a modern sitcom:

We are like a TV show with diversity casting. African guy, Asian Guy, Mongrel Caucasoid, and a strong, determined woman who would never let a man define her.

Except when Anna takes them all to the Moon – No kidding. But even this science fiction story carries its own humour with duct tapes and iPods rather than scary space ventures. The exploration of space, from the Earth thhough, continues in another story as the new neighbors become more than that. From the science fiction world, we also have a story of time travel which turns into an age old story of finding attraction, mystery and love in unexpected places.

Then there are the snippets produced by columnist Hank Fisset as he takes us on his adventures. Or stories of old war survivors, making the most of their post war years to build a family and a lovely, merry Christmas. The show business is here, too. With one story featuring a young, upcoming actor finding out the exhausting schedule of publicity tour for a movie where he is in the shadow of highly successful, glamorous actress. And another heart warming tale of a young lady finding her way through tough world of talent in New York.

But my favourite story from the collection is called These Are the Meditations of My Heart. It explores the space filled with old typewriters and the post-heartbreak world of a young woman just as they both find a new lease of life.

She pondered the greater conundrum, one that faces all who buy a typewiter in the new millennium: what is its purpose?

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks | Book Cover

This theme is further accentuated with a later story featuring a woman who sits in a coffee shop with a typewriter and provides free typing services to all who want it. The book is peppered with vintage images of typewriters as well as snippets on what beautiful craftsmanship went into producing these machines with their lovely typefaces that evolved over time and has defined the script that we use even today through our modern fonts.

Although you may pick this book to see if Tom Hanks can write, you will actually enjoy reading these stories. They are funny, full of interesting characters and genuinely enjoyable. If they skirt around big issues, it is only through glimpses rather then loudspeakers. In some ways, it shows us the glimpses of American life, that yo do not see in this form in popular fiction which generally focuses on either too rosy or too bleak extremes of it.


A short story collection filled with light and humour that will appeal to all readers, especially those who love typewriters and all the beautiful works it has given us over the years…..

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 8 stars out of 10.

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Over To You:

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