©1998 Simon Winchester; (P) 1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
"The linguistic detective story of the decade." (New York Times Magazine)
Simon Winchester presents us with an amazing story about a piece of history that I would have never considered interesting or significant. The accomplishment of the combined efforts of the two main characters Minor & Murray added to scores of other volunteers is one if not the greatest achievement in the history of the English language.
The story is presented in a very logical yet unassuming manner, and maybe the perfect example of an audible book selection. The narrators voice is crisp, clear, and expressive.
Listen, enjoy, and recommend to a friend.
This is a terrific story with a great narration by the author. If you are a history, mystery or non-fiction buff, you will find this book first rate. I'm off to check out the rest of his titles. I hope they are on par with this one.
I first heard of this from C-Span Book TV, and very much enjoyed it. Especially as an audio book because of the authors narration. Mr Winchester has a wonderful english accent. It's a compelling story that he is obviously fond of. Not only is it an interesting true story from Victorian England, it's like finding a memoir in an favorite aunts attic. The payoff is the interview Winchester has with the current editor of the O.E.D. at the end. I've replayed it several times.
This engaging view of the creation of the OED and one of its most fascinating contributors William Minor was extremely enjoyable until about 3/4 of the way through the book. However, when Minor stops his work for the OED and leaves England to return to America, the book turns to armchair clinician speculation about Minor's retroactive diagnosis, mental ilness and society,the mixed blessing of medication, etc. Personally i found this part *much* less fun that the wonderfully researched history of the OED. Though i was initially leery of 'read by the author" Winchester does a great job as a narrator. Interesting bonuses include author commentary on researching the book and an recorded interview with both Winchester and the current editor of the OED. In short, wishing for 3.5 stars.
Simon Winchester is delightful and engaging, intelligent and insightful. This is a wonderful read (listen). I loved his understated irony and his many flashes of brilliant insight into human nature and history, not to mention attention to detail without being pedantic at all. Winchester brings a surprisingly spiritual point of view to this surprising and touching story. The only disappointment is the interview with the current editor of the OED who shows himself a bore- far outclassed by Winchester's nuance.
Riveting book - charming Victorian prose. Winchester makes excellent use of the English language in writing this ode to the OED (which is, itself, an ode to English itself). Charles Hodgson (of podictionary.com) chose perfectly in recommending this.
Who would have thought that the writing of a dictionary could be so interesting?
Winchester takes the reader on a journey through many parallel histories-the history of dictionaries, the American Civil War, the history of some poor neighborhoods in London, and the story of three men who could easily have been forgotten. Murray, Minor, and Merrett (I think we can all be forgiven for getting them mixed up a couple of times while reading this) are each treated as interesting characters in this book, with their life stories explained. The author also puts to rest of the apocryphal tales that sprung up over this incident, including the story that opens his book.
The author also does an excellent job of remind the reader several times that, while a great debt is to be paid Minor for all his work on the dictionary, it came at the cost of a man's life.
This is a well-written book, scholarly without being pedantic. The author is the narrator and makes it a really interesting journey to join the author on. Provided the reader enjoys 19th century history, a British tone, and dictionaries, this is an enjoyable read. If any of those don't pique your interest, you'll wonder why anyone would bother reading past chapter 4.
I write my reviews under my wife Karen's account. Retired USN Russian linguist/analyst; actor; director; producer. Biography & History focus
A book about encyclopaedia and words is interesting? Actually, quite. The foibles we encounter in humanity color the texture of our society, morality, education and social progress. Believe it or not, an example of this is richly portrayed in The Professor and the Madman. A truly engaging piece of work, well researched and delivered with wit and grace. I only rated this a 3-4 because I have happened to listen to some truly remarkable books recently so I've tightened up my ratings all around. Nonetheless, highly recommended (I went out and bought the hardcover book as well).
As I've always found with Winchester, there is a marvelous combination of rigorous history and anecdotal context. It's like looking at the workings of a mechanical clock - the outside is smooth, functional, every changing and easy to understand. There are glimpses of the research and original documents that give the book heft. I enjoyed the interview with the author at the end.
I really loved this book, and listening to simon winchester read it. I particularly liked the way he melded together the stories of the main character and his compassion and understanding for Dr. Miser. Besides being a fascinating history of the OED, which is even laugh out loud funny at some points, the book is an interesting, thoughtful exporation of the joys of a meaningful life and why purpose matters. I highly recommend.
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