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Publisher's Summary

This is the remarkable story of the English language; from its beginnings as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. The Adventure of English is not only an enthralling story of power, religion, and trade, but also the story of people, and how their lives continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Adriel
  • Durham, N/A, United Kingdom
  • 07-18-06

Perfect for Audio

This is a great book to listen to. It's good to be able to listen to how the words actually sound, rather than trying to imagine what they would sound like when read off a page.

Enjoyed the book tremendously and highly recommend it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 03-19-13

Not just for lovers of words

This book is not just for lovers of words (of which I am not), but it has a great history of the English speaking peoples interwoven with it, and that will be enough to keep non-word lovers like me completely interested.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Story

Well worded

Yes, the reading does get off to a slow start, but don't stop there. The ponderous listing of words at the outset is well overbalanced by the gloriously entertaining volume of information about the evolution and spread and variation of the English language from early to present day, from England outward. If you have any curiosity about the language, you will certainly be spell-bound by the writing and--especially--the reading of this book. I think it will bear many hearings, my marque of a good book, particularly a good audio-book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 09-11-09


Wonderful, fascinating, enlightening. Brilliantly read. A few boring parts (to my mind) that required wading through, but this is in my personal audible download hall of fame.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Informative and entertaining

Goes far beyond the usual textbook renderings to bring the history of the language alive

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Bald
  • Brunswick, ME, United States
  • 05-29-09

A lot of fun

I loved it. The author moves the story along at a fairly quick pace, with lots of entertaining details along the way. Pretty fascinating, I thought. The narrator is A+

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Wallen
  • Danderyd, Sweden
  • 09-02-08

Interesting read

I enjoyed this book. It is sometime quite complex with all examples and names, forcing you to rewind many times in order to be able to follow it and not lose track completely. It creates a good balance between the scholarly and the popular.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • La Grange, IL, USA
  • 08-21-06

Narrator keeps it going.

Althought I still have an hour or two left,I am confident this book will continue to be great. I thought this would be a good book to fall asleep to but it acually holds my interest quite well. French ,Latin, Greek and other languages English has borrowed words from are all covered. The narrator as stated keeps the interest high with lively reading.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not for those with a casual interest

I learned much from this book and, as other reviewers have pointed out, it is very well written and read. However, I must confess that it was a chore for me to get through. The lists of words often went on and on and would definitely work better in written form than in audio. While driving I often had to switch to the radio to keep from falling asleep.

If you have a serious interest in language and etymology, this is a must read. For the rest of us, it's a bit like homework that you know you should do, but don't always look forward to with glee.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cate
  • Rhodes, NSW, Australia
  • 01-17-06


I loved this book - not only as a history of the English language but of England and the British Empire. And it shows how closely tied we are to our past - even in our choice of words. The narrator did a great job - although there were some glaring mispronunciations of a few Australian words.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-14

The Adventure of English

Would you listen to The Adventure of English again? Why?

Yes! This is a difficult, lengthy topic, yet Melvin Bragg manages to make it fascinating and seems to cover every aspect in depth. The social history aspect of the times was made more interesting than most dedicated books on early English history. Well done, Melvin!

Have you listened to any of Robert Powell’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Robert Powell's narration does the book justice. I cannot think of anyone who could have done a better job. A perfect match. I was very impressed with his narration of both the French and Early English vocabulary. Beautifully, and expertly, done.

Any additional comments?

If, like me, you enjoy social history AND the English Language, you will love this book.

  • Overall
  • Patricia
  • 08-15-09

Why didn't I enjoy this?

Fascinating subject, full of facts - so why didn't I enjoy it? I nearly didn't make it past the first chapter. Perhaps it's better read on the page than listened to? The endless lists, for example. And too many examples per fact (yes we've got the point, thank you). Or maybe this book is of more interest to a non-native speaker/lover of English Language. I really don't know, but this is the most disappointing talking book for me so far.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Viv
  • 03-09-08

Erudite - but long

Written to Melvyn Bragg's usual high standard and extreamly well read by Robert Powel. Unfortunately the long lists of examples became tedious and if it had been a book I would have skipped through many of them.

Save this one for long days on the beach - not a commute.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Neil
  • 03-24-10


If you are an english speaker you owe it to yourself to hear this gripping tale of a swashbuckling language and it's rise to dominance.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful