Books Make Me Happy

A book review? Kinda?

I read a wide variety of books. I read middle-grade, YA, graphic novels, adult fiction of ALL varieties, and non-fiction across every section of the library. So when the Read Harder 2022 Challenge listed to read a book from a friend with completely different reading styles popped up, I was stumped.

But then I looked at my “recommended books” notes and remembered that I have one friend who pretty much ONLY reads non-fiction and that is DEFINITELY different from me because – while I do read non-fiction – it’s definitely under 10% of my reading. So, that’s probably as far as you can get from my personal reading style. Even better? She recommended a book once that seemed interesting but I had not read it because I also was not sure it was in the purview of “books I’ll enjoy” even if it did sound interesting. The book was Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper.

There are a lot of books I don’t finish or like, but periodically there’s a book that I understand as quantifiably good but just not for me. This was one of those books and I thought I’d kinda dig into the why of it with this pseudo-review.

Here’s the thing…I really hate conversations and discussions of grammar. Partly because I’m so insecure about my own grammar knowledge and partly because I think grammar rules are brought up too often in a classist way, mocking someone’s writing or speaking abilities and I think that completely shits on the beauty of language as a living and breathing thing. Here is Stephen Fry putting it into words for me:

I also am zero-percent interested in etymology. You know – we all have those things that tickle our brain a bit and make us sit up and listen? Well…the history/origin story of a word does not do it for me.

This book is not entirely about grammar and etymology, but it is enough that I struggled to get through the first 3 chapters for 2 weeks until Donnie finally suggested I try the audiobook.

The audiobook was SO MUCH BETTER. I think I was feeling talked down to a bit when I was reading it on the page but hearing the audiobook with Kory Stamper reading her own words made me realize a lot of her tone was light and silly, not condescending which made the entire book much more digestible. I started enjoying the book SO MUCH MORE being read to me than trying to read it myself.

I found that when the content was about grammar or etymology I kinda zoned out, but the rest of it I found charming and interesting. I really enjoyed the methodology behind how definitions are made/edited. I loved some of the interesting stories of certain words in the modern era. I liked a lot of the author’s personal stories about her experience as a lexicographer at Miriam-Webster.

BUT OH MY GOD THE BOOK WAS A STRUGGLE. If I did not need that book for that specific challenge, especially since I had no other good ideas for a backup options, I would not have finished it.

The funny thing is? I would totally recommend it to other people. I know it’s a book for word and grammar lovers, I’m just more of a language lover and a hater of grammar so the book was only partly for me.

2 thoughts on “A book review? Kinda?”

  1. So happy to read your posts this morning! With the implosion of Twitter I’m struggling to read people I’ve been following for years, so I will be very happy with whatever you choose to post in this space. I also wanted to mention how relieved I was at the outcome of your election; I’m a Canadian, so couldn’t vote, and I was holding my breath a bit. I was glad to see it didn’t turn out as badly as it could have. Take care of yourself!

  2. I think I remember this book being recommended at one of the book club meetings we had downtown (name of the place escapes me now). I thought it sounded interesting then. I’ll have to see if it’s available as an e-book from the library.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply