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review 2019-01-10 10:19
That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words And Their Tangled Histories
That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means: The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words And Their Tangled Histories - Kathryn Petras,Ross Petras

My 'discovery' of this book is a perfect example for the argument of using a continuity of style on book covers.  A year or two ago, I bought and read You're Saying it Wrong, book about commonly mispronounced words, and loved it (I've been saying Turmeric and Van Gogh wrong all. my. life.)  I recognised the similar cover on this, the authors' newest, and immediately snatched it up.

 

I should really rate this 4.5 stars, because in retrospect, I can recall several typographical and at least 1 grammatical error in the text, which seems especially egregious in a book about grammar.  But I suppose perfection is an unreasonable expectation even for a grammar book.  Actually, I don't believe that, but I am too lazy to adjust my rating.

 

Other than that, it's an excellent reference for word pairs that are often confused with each other, including the obvious affect/effect as well as some I'd never thought about before but were obvious when I saw them, like trooper/trouper, flair/flare and flout/flaunt. Also included are words/terms that are just used wrong, like epicentre and ambivalent.  

 

Scattered throughout the list are a few spreads that cover when to use who/whom, the correct usage of lay/lie (I found their explanation for this the most useful I've ever read), and a general guide for latin and greek plurality: when to use 'i', 'a', 'ae', and 's'.  This one sort of cleared up a running debate MT and I have had concerning the plural of 'platypus' - while we both favoured 'platypi' on aesthetic grounds (it sounds better than 'platypuses', which is what the local sanctuary has settled on), it would seem logical to follow the same rule used for 'octopus', which is 'octopodes'.  I find this a happy compromise (MT is stubbornly sticking to the incorrect but more melodious platypi).

 

Each entry includes an example of the incorrect usage, the etymological history of the word/words, and most of the time, examples of correct usage for each word as well as basic definitions of each (nb: the author's state upfront that this is based on the North American dialect of English).  It's well written, not dry, and informative.  It will be a handy reference in the future when I'm unsure which word to use.

 

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review 2019-01-10 03:16
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops - Jen Campbell

I was looking for something to read last night after finishing Notes from a Public Typewriter and found this in my stacks.  I have no recollection of buying it.  In fact, not only was I prepared to swear I didn't have it, I actually did say, not 48 hours ago, that I didn't have a copy.  Excellent organisation skills I have, no?

 

Anyhoo... this was just the thing after reading Notes from a Public Typewriter - it was a similar subject, but much lighter, funnier and absolutely not philosophical.  I wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars because I'd have liked the collection to be a little longer.

 

A few of the many examples that 

... made me chuckle:

 

Customer: Do you have Agatha Christie's Death in Denial?

 

 

... made me laugh out loud:

 

Customer: Oh look, they've got a section on dictionaries.  Perhaps we should get your brother one for school, for Spanish, what do you think?

 

Her daughter: Can we get one for when we go to Scotland for our holidays?

 

Customer: They talk English in Scotland, too, sweetie.

 

 

... made me rage:

 

Customer:  I'm just going to nip to the supermarket to do the weekly shop.  I'm going to leave my sons here, is that ok?  They're 3 and 5.  They're no bother.

 

and 

 

Customer (holding up a copy of a Harry Potter book): This doesn't have anything ... weird in it does it?

Bookseller: You mean, like, werewolves?

Customer: No, (whispers) - gays.

Bookseller: ...right.

 

A quick, easy and enjoyable read.

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review 2019-01-10 02:52
Notes from a Public Typewriter
Notes From A Public Typewriter - Michael Gustafson,Oliver Uberti

When Literati Books opened in Ann Arbor Michigan, the owner put an old typewriter out in the stacks, with a sheet of paper in it, curious about what might happen.  In his wildest dreams, he imagined a sort of never ending story, where each patron would pick up where the last one left off; a true community built novel. Pragmatically, he figured he'd end up with a lot of nonsense or jokes about bodily functions.

 

What he got was something totally different and totally special.  People wrote some silly stuff, but they also wrote poems, posed philosophical questions, proposed, broke up, and otherwise bared their souls.  After several years of collecting the daily contributions, Gustafson was convinced to collect his favourites into what became this book.

 

Notes from a Public Typewriter is short, I think I read the whole thing in about an hour.  It's almost purely a collection of what Gustafson considered the best, the funniest, the most touching.  There are photos of the shop and patrons throughout, and every few pages, Gustafson writes a short essay-type piece to introduce context to some of the inclusions.

 

The 5 stars is because this book, for all its simplicity, moved me.  By the end, it was hard to stay dry-eyed, to be honest.  I'm sure Gustafson has collected a LOT of dreck over the years, but the simple lines he included here were honest, heart-felt, and sometimes raw.  

 

I don't go looking for books that reveal what goes on beneath the surface, so I'm really no judge, but this one worked for me.  What is on the face of it an anonymous, ever changing, mass of humanity going in and out the doors of one shop, is revealed in this short volume to be instead the very definition of a community.

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review 2019-01-09 04:57
The Snark Bible: A Reference Guide to Verbal Sparring, Comebacks, Irony, Insults, and So Much More
The Snark Bible: A Reference Guide to Verbal Sparring, Comebacks, Irony, Insults, and So Much More - Lawrence Dorfman

Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.  I love snark and this random gift from a family member is just the sort of thing that makes me chuckle.  It's a great collection, and was heading towards a 5 star rating, but it floundered a bit at the end.  I was willing to overlook a couple of quotes - and really it was only a couple - that were repeated in slightly paraphrased form.  

 

It's a thick book and one or two passing through the keeper is not unexpected.  But at about the 80% mark, specifically the chapter on Motherhood, the quotes stopped being snarky and were just quotes about motherhood, some of them quite endearing and touching.  

 

Then in the last 2-3 chapters, Dorfman lost that fifth star all together when he stopped quoting the greats and started ad libbing his own brand of snark, or at least what he likely considered snark.  It was too acerbic for my tastes; it didn't read snarky nearly as much as it read angry and bitter.  Vitriolic, even.  The dude does NOT like Christmas.  That's fair enough; Christmas can be a trying time for even the most festive feeling of us, but his barbs failed to find that sweet spot of gracious lunacy that can be Christmas.  After that chapter, his further attempts at snarky comebacks to enduring cliches just fell flat.

 

Still, overall it's an excellent compendium of sarcastic and witty quotes that will serve me well as a handy reference when I'm at the end of my rope trying to be polite to the more challenging people in my life.  Mostly time well spent.

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review 2018-07-23 08:46
Book Towns
Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises of the Printed Word - Alex Johnson

A travel itinerary for all bibliophiles, bound in hardcover for easy reference.

 

All kidding aside (if I am kidding), this is a gorgeous book filled with 3-4 page spreads on towns that have dedicated their existence, or tried to, to the joy and importance of the written word in all its forms.  Except digital.  Because digital is evil (now I'm definitely kidding.)

 

The bittersweet part of this is the success rate of some of the towns.  At least half, by my very loose and statistically inaccurate count, have struggled, or find themselves with far fewer bookshops than they started with.  Some of this is the natural atrophy of any business category; there are always those that failed to prepare themselves adequately for the roller coaster that is small business ownership, but the ever shifting market of bookselling and the control of the market by big business, of course, bears the brunt of responsibility.  

 

There are success stories too, and those success stories are significant.  Hay-on-Wye (my personal nirvana/paradise/heaven), Wigtown, and embarrassingly enough, Clunes here n Victoria.  The one that's only 90 minutes from my doorstep and I haven't been to yet!  Boy, is my face red.  Anyway - these towns as well as others all over the world are proof that the concept is important and chock full of possibilities.

 

Johnson does a good job generally, giving a solid overview of each town, featuring the shop names you hope are solvent enough to be around by the time the reader figures out how to get there. He even occasionally mentions (especially for the French towns) the concentration of languages shops focus on.  My only complaint is that I'd have liked this thoughtful touch to be more consistent.  At least one reader of this book does see it as a bucket list (me), and, while most of the towns in this book would stand on their aesthetic merits, it would be helpful to know whether I'd be unlikely to find much in the way of reading material if I'm to visit.

 

Definitely a book to put off reading if you're trying to avoid the travel itch.

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