Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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

I read this in one sitting--and not just because I'm a word nerd, either.

It's a wonderful look at the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, filled with the kind of imagery that makes non-fiction good. You can almost see the pigeonholed shelf bursting with slips of paper, or the Madman himself scratching out definitions in his jail cell. The stark reality of how he ended up though--the heartbreaking visit to the asylum by the professor--is what turns the book from an interesting, fun read into a book that resonates.

It doesn't matter whether you're a word nerd or couldn't care less about lexicography--just do yourself a favor and read this wonderfully told example of how truth really is stranger (and often more entertaining and interesting) than fiction. 

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