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review 2017-11-15 07:52
A Christmas Cornucopia: The hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions
A Christmas Cornucopia: The hidden stories behind our Yuletide traditions - Mark Forsyth

I'm a huge fan of Mark Forsyth's books: The Etymologicon and The Elements of Eloquence being just two examples of his excellent writing on language.  When he announced he'd be writing this small tome about the history of Christmas, I pre-ordered it, and I've been sitting on it all year, waiting for the Christmas season's approach to read it. 

 

I needed something light after my last read, and this was perfect.  It's written in Forsyth's usual dryly hilarious style and for such a small volume (171 pages including the index) it's chock full of Christmas facts.  Spoiler alert:  almost none of the Christmas traditions we know and love today are tied to paganism.  If you want to know how this can be true, read the book.  It won't be a waste of your time, and you'll probably laugh at least once along the way. 

 

If you do read it, make sure you skim the index at the end.  It might be the funniest index I've ever read (and I've been known to skim more than a few). 

 

Pagan myths: see

     Hogwash

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review 2017-01-02 09:11
the Horologicon
Horologicon - Mark Forsyth

I absolutely love Mark Forsyth's books and this one was the last one I had of his to read.  Its focus in on the lost words of the English language and he's broken it down into a parody, of sorts, of a book of hours.  We start at 6 a.m. and learn about the words applicable to dawn and waking up, then proceed to travel through the day of work, lunch, shopping, and socialising, ending up in bed at midnight.  All done with Forsyth's trademark humour.

 

Ultimately, I didn't love it as much as his other two books, the Entymologicon and the The Elements of Eloquence but it was still excellent and I highly recommend it for those that just love words.

 

He's also got a new book out, A Christmas Cornucopia : The Hidden Stories Behind Our Yuletide Traditions, which is, of course, on my To Buy list.

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text 2017-01-01 08:32
2016: The (non-fiction) books I liked best.
The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted - Mark Forsyth
Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World - Lawrence Goldstone,Nancy Goldstone
The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase - Mark Forsyth
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language - Mark Forsyth
Going to Hell in a Hen Basket: An Illustrated Dictionary of Modern Malapropisms - Robert Alden Rubin
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt - Nick Hornby
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader - Anne Fadiman
Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing - Melissa Mohr
Completely Superior Person's Book Of Words - Peter Bowler
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well - Meik Wiking

So I read a lot of non-fiction this year.  76 books.  I've been thinking about why my non-fiction reading exploded this year and all I can say is that this year I craved an escape into facts, or as must be evident by my list above, the desire to escape into a bookshop and hide for the duration.

 

With few exceptions, the ones I liked best, the 5 star books-I-want-to-hug were all about books or words.  A definite theme going on this year.  The exceptions were all over the place though: a gardening book, a cultural anthropology book and an illustrated book of the Psalms.  The two that didn't fit above are below:

 

 

The Produce Companion: From Balconies to Backyards--the Complete Guide to Growing, Pickling and Preserving - Meredith Kirton,Mandy Sinclair  The Produce Companion: From Balconies to Backyards--the Complete Guide to Growing, Pickling and Preserving - Meredith Kirton,Mandy Sinclair  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Illuminated Book of Psalms: The Illustrated Text of all 150 Prayers and Hymns - Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers  The Illuminated Book of Psalms: The Illustrated Text of all 150 Prayers and Hymns - Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 4.5 star reads this year are also worth mentioning and even more numerous (15) and are much more varied in subject.  More books about books and books about words or grammar, but science and history also make a showing. These are books that were excellent but for whatever reason had something I questioned or found confronting.  With scientific books that's almost always animal related.  Sometimes the book just didn't make me want to hug it, but I still recommend it.  Who knows?  Maybe it'll be one you want to hug. :)  

 

Fucking Apostrophes

The Gift Of The Magi And Other Stories

The Book of Human Emotion

The Polysyllabic Spree

A Passion for Books: A Book Lover's Treasury 

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

The Book of the Dead: Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure

Lost in Translation

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

The Poisoner's Handbook

The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

The Sceptical Gardener: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Good Gardening

Why The Dutch Are Different: A Journey Into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands

 

Happy Reading!

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text 2016-12-15 10:47
Reading progress update: I've read 17 out of 286 pages.
Horologicon - Mark Forsyth

At page 4 I knew I was going to love this book, at page 5 I knew MT was going to be screwed because there was NO way he was going to avoid hearing all the good bits.  Mark Forsyth starts off with a bang with:

 

FEAGUE; To feague a horse; to put ginger up a horse's fundament, and formally, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well; it is said that a forfeit is incurred by any horse dealer's servant, who shall show a horse without first feaguing him.

 

Next time you see a horse stepping lively you might try not to imagine ginger and eels. 

 

As some of you might remember, I'm trying to single handedly bring back the obscure word nackle-ass and to this goal I'm adding at least one more term that desperately needs to regain its prominence in our vocabularies:

 

SNOLLYGOSTER:  A shrewd, unprincipled person, esp. a politician... A fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principles, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnacy. 

 

Sound like anyone we know?  I say down with nackle-assed snollygosters!!

 

And up with Mark Forsyth's Horologicon. 13 pages in and it's 5 stars already!

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review 2016-04-30 07:04
The Etymologicon
The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language - Mark Forsyth

This book took me FOREVER to finish, and not because it was bad, boring or dense.  It took me forever because I couldn't read more than a paragraph without having to stop and read it aloud to MT, much to his amusement and increasing irritation, so I found myself avoiding it for stretches at a time so he wasn't tempted to hide the book somewhere, like the recycle bin.

 

As he's gone for the weekend, my impulse to share was thwarted and I was able to power through the rest of the book.  Truly, for word lovers out there, I can't recommend this book highly enough.  It's so interesting and so easy to read; Forsyth breaks the book into sections, rather than chapters, but really it's more a free-association type of narrative.  Talking about the origins of one word brings him to another, that leads him to another and so on.  Did you know there's a direct etymological connection between the Old/New Testaments and a mans testicles?  Sex and bread?  Torpedoes and turtles?  I didn't, but now I do.  

 

Etymology might strike people as bland, but those people will have never read Forsyth; part of why I read so much of this out loud is because he's hilarious, especially in his footnotes (which are not overdone).  If kids were allowed to learn with texts like these, we'd have a lot more smarter adults.

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