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review 2017-07-21 07:17
Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World - Kelsey Garrity-Riley,Yee-Lum Mak

I'm a sucker for words; especially unusual words, or foreign-language words that have no straight translation into English, and the beauty of this book's cover made it impossible to resist it, even though I already have similar books.


Luckily this small but beautifully illustrated collection of words are almost entirely different from those found in the books I already have and the author also included English words that are rarely used or hardly known (Deipnosophist, n, someone skilled in small talk or in conversing around the dining table).


Bonus points to the author and publisher for including not only an index of the words themselves, but an index of the words by language.  Demerit points because once again nobody thought to include a pronunciation guide, and figuring out how to pronounce cwtch (Welsh, n, hug or cuddle; a safe place; the cupboard beneath the stairs) is beyond my meagre abilities to even guess.

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review 2017-04-12 03:59
Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers
Authorisms: Words Wrought by Writers - Paul Dickson

Another glossary type reference, but without the narrative hook that made  Roger, Sausage & Whippet so very engrossing.


This one is all about words coined, or first used by, authors.  Shakespeare of course, although he doesn't have the showing you'd expect.  A lot of words we take for granted today as being newish, but were actually coined over 100 years ago.  (Jane Austen was the first to use base ball in a literary work.  Google, while not more than 100 years old, has actually been found in a collection of stories published in 1942 - used as a verb, btw - and long before Sergey Brin and Larry Page were born.)


The author is a neologist himself, something that is made quite clear by his unapologetic promotion of words he's claimed credit for.  By the end remarks, it seemed to me that it was very important to him that his name live on in connection with language.  It's good to have goals, I guess. 


Some of my favourite words from the collection:


Alogotransiphobia: fear of being caught on public transportation with nothing to read. (Created by George V. Higgins in 1992)


Bibliobibuli: drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. (Created by H.L. Menken)


Page 99 Test: Ford Maddox Ford recommended that readers not judge a book by its first few pages, instead recommending that readers "open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."  Carried forth on the website page99test.com.



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review 2017-04-12 03:37
Roger, Sausage & Whippet: A miscellany of Trench Lingo from the Great War
Roger, Sausage and Whippet - Christopher Moore

When I first picked up this book, I figured I'd flip through it, stopping at words that caught my eye along the way and be finished up with it in a few hours; it's a glossary, after all.


But then I discovered that each lettered section begins with the reproduction of a letter from the front; a man named Charles, writing to his parents, his brother and his nephew.  These were good - they were better than good, they turned a freaking glossary into a narrative, and in addition to learning new words (and meanings for old words), I had to keep flipping so I could find out what happened to Charles next, always sure that I was going to get to 'Z' to find a bad news telegram or something.  I didn't.


I knocked off 1/2 a star because, while Charles makes it to 'Z', you never find out what happens to him in the rest of the war.  A letter at the very start makes it clear he survived, but with 2 years of the war left, 'Z' leaves the reader with something of a small cliffhanger.


Still, way better than your average glossary for readability!


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review 2017-03-30 08:57
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders - Dylan Thuras,Ella Morton,Joshua Foer

Atlas Obscura is a distillation of the entries on the atlasobscura.com website; it's two creators tried to pick the best entries for most of the world and bound them in a beautiful book full of color photographs and illustrations.


I was unaware of the website when I got this book, and I think that probably made it even better: almost all of the entries were new to me and almost all of them were fascinating, or macabre, or so weird they were worth reading about (a breakout section included examples of doctors on Antartica forced to operate on themselves; a man in Vermont that makes art out of spider webs; the breakout map of Lake Monsters of the USA).


Each of the entries are only a few paragraphs or less, making it easy to pick up and put down at your leisure. If you like traveling, or armchair traveling, and you enjoy reading about the weird and the wonderful, definitely check this book out.  

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review 2017-03-29 10:07
The Phantom Atlas
The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps - Edward Brooke-Hitching

Everybody who isn't me knows an atlas is a reference, not something to be read cover-to-cover.  Me?  I had to read it cover to cover, which made this gorgeous, well-written, informative book feel more like a chore than it should have.  


This is an atlas of all the places on the maps throughout history that never existed.  Atlantis will be the first example that comes to many minds, but there are so many more.  You wouldn't think maps would be enduring evidence of the human ability to spin a yarn but our ability to make stuff up is timeless.


Each entry gets at least a spread and the old maps included (in color where applicable) are gorgeous; almost worth the price of the book on their own.  


If you love maps, or geography, this book is beautiful and worth a look; even though I'm glad to finally finish it, it's something I'll treasure and look at again and again. 

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