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The Professor and the Madman Audiobook

The Professor and the Madman

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: This is a fascinating cubbyhole of literary history that plays like the best fiction: the most-prolific contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary turns out to be an imprisoned murderer. Listening to Simon Winchester's quirky and endearing narration, I found myself infected by his obvious enthusiasm for the story - and for the detective work it took to uncover it. —Steve Feldberg

Publisher's Summary

Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.

©1998 Simon Winchester; (P) 1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"The linguistic detective story of the decade." (New York Times Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (2269 )
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4.3 (1384 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-15-15 Member Since 2012
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    18
    6
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    Story
    "Simon wrings blood from stone cold lead typeface"

    Always a pleasure to hear Winchester orate. I imagine Mark Twain must have held audiences similarly in thrall when he performed his own material. I love the story of the OED, even without the added touch of melodrama. If you read, you've been enspelled by the magic of language already, and this is a book for anyone who loves written and spoken words.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-06-15
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-06-15
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    "A strange yet intriguing tale..."
    What did you love best about The Professor and the Madman?

    Simply that it was unlike anything I ever read or really would think to read.


    What other book might you compare The Professor and the Madman to and why?

    I'd have to say, this is a pretty unique book. I can't compare it to anything else.


    What about Simon Winchester’s performance did you like?

    I always love it when the author read their own books. They usually give so much more emotion to their characters.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    the second half, yes!


    Any additional comments?

    I can honestly say when I started this book I thought it was boring. I was wondering why I even purchased it. But towards about the middle I was glued to it. Hang in there, its a good book, just dry in the beginning.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ar-dub 05-04-15
    Ar-dub 05-04-15 Member Since 2014
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    "fascinating but lengthy"

    The story itself is intriguing: both the madman's life and the compilation of the OED. Yet the author provided too much distantly related information (out of despair of the shortness of the book?) which diminished it overall quality.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brinette rodriquez 04-17-15 Member Since 2016
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    2
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    Story
    "The untold parts of fame."
    What other book might you compare The Professor and the Madman to and why?

    dispite the professor obvious challenges he was able to perform an invaluable service for the world. However I was intrigued and happy that the story of the man who was killed and his family was also told. It gave a profound humanness to the story.


    If you could give The Professor and the Madman a new subtitle, what would it be?

    I would not change the tittle.


    Any additional comments?

    Dispite the professor obvious challenges he was able to perform an invaluable service for the world. I was intrigued and happy that the story of the man who was killed and his family was also told. It gave a profound humanness to the story. Thanks for including them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    todd a schlichter 04-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Good story for word nerds"

    I would only recommend this story for those who have an interest in words or English. The story is only mildly interesting on its own, but well told. Wish it would tell the stories of all those who worked on the book, like the Sanskrit professor only referenced by the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    judi Highland, MI, United States 04-02-15
    judi Highland, MI, United States 04-02-15 Member Since 2015
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    "I didn't know"
    Where does The Professor and the Madman rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Very good and interesting book about Dr Miner...crazy and brilliance all in one!


    Any additional comments?

    You couldn't make up true stories like this...VG

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bart 03-21-15
    Bart 03-21-15
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    4
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    Story
    "As a life-long reader, there is none better."

    A good read often requires a good dictionary to be near and there is none better than the OED. This is the fascinating story behind the worlds best, and a good read to boot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    merritte 03-21-15
    merritte 03-21-15 Member Since 2014
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    16
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    "Incredibly interesting story!"

    How exciting could the story of the development of the dictionary be? Surprisingly not boring! Highly recommend for those who are interested in the English language or just want a good overall story!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Calliope 03-15-15
    Calliope 03-15-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting, but a bit didactic"

    This is both the story of Dr. Minor, a military doctor suffering from a lifetime of mental illness, and the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. It was interesting to find out what a great contribution individuals made to the book (the largest contributions were made by Minor), as well as the how it took almost 70 years to publish completely. I also hadn't realized that is was originally published in stages, from A on through the alphabet, as it was compiled.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    N. Khazanov Saline, MI 02-28-15
    N. Khazanov Saline, MI 02-28-15 Member Since 2016

    Khaz

    ratings
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    15
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    Story
    "Fascinating story told effectively and efficiently"
    What made the experience of listening to The Professor and the Madman the most enjoyable?

    The books could have easily been padded and stretched out with more trivialities about the OED and the setting of the story, but it was the right length, and struck a balance between providing descriptive details without drowning in prose.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Unusual characters, unusual history, but all true.


    What does Simon Winchester bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narration adds an air of a historical lecture, perhaps largely due to the pleasant British accent. I listened at 1.5x speed and the distortion was minimal.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    The life stories of the main characters.


    Any additional comments?

    A retelling of a fascinating true story that manages to balance a historical narrative with telling the personal stories of the two main characters. The book is engaging, well-researched, informative, and doesn't pander to the subject at hand (i.e. dictionary-making). It's just long enough to tell the story in a historical context, and does not wander off on tangents.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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