Books for the Word Lover

shelved under Hobbies and Writing

"Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

     - Nathaniel Hawthorne


Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts; With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory

by Roy Blount Jr.

This is Roy Blount Jr. at his best. Who doesn’t love his dead-pan contributions to NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!"? As a treat, read this book in spurts, maybe a letter or two a day or all the way through like I did. And yes, the book is scholarly, but it's injected with Blount's wonderful wry sense of humor. You simply must have this book in your collection if you are a lover of words.


On the Dot: The Speck That Changed the World

by Nicholas Humez, Alexander Humez

Ellipsis points, bullets, periods and more are all dots in many guises. The authors shed light in a delightfully informative manner on the importance and relevance of this powerful, versatile speck.


Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English

by John McWhorter

John McWhorter tells that it was the Celts and the Viking invaders who really had the most effect on the English language. The author tells what is clunky and funky about the English language in engrossing, illuminating essays.


The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

by Simon Winchester

When the editors of the "Oxford English Dictionary" put out a call during the late 19th century pleading for "men of letters" to provide help with their mammoth undertaking, hundreds of responses came forth. Some helpers, like Dr. W.C. Minor, provided literally thousands of entries to the editors. But Minor, an American expatriate in England and a Civil War veteran, was actually a certified lunatic who turned in his dictionary entries from the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Really, how much more do you need to know before you realize what a great story this is?


Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages

by Ammon Shea

The author gives an account of taking one year to read the 20 volume, 137 pound tome, The Oxford English Dictionary. At times hilarious, always informative, the book contains 26 alphabetized (of course) chapters. Give this a read and you will learn some truly beautiful words such as hypergelast — a person who won’t stop laughing and ordeipnophobi — the fear of dinner parties. You simply must read this delightful romp through the English language.


The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English

by Henry Hitchings

This very readable history of the English language takes the reader on a journey filled with word meanings and etymologies, of how words are informed upon by technology and wars, and of how the English language has absorbed and borrowed words from so many other languages. Fascinating stuff.


Verbatim: From the bawdy to the sublime, the best writing on language for word lovers, grammar mavens, and armchair linguists

edited by Erin McKean

The essays in this book are the best from the periodical "Verbatim: The Language Quarterly", which has been published for the past 30 years. Enjoy the well-written essays and all the great information they divulge.


Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers

by Stefan Fatsis

The author gave himself a year to infiltrate the highest echelons of competitive Scrabble. I love books that take you to a world that you might not have even known to exist. This book reads like a travelogue, but is also filled with history and some truly obsessed Scrabble players. A must for any Scrabble fan. Maybe Boggle fans too. ;)