Also of interest... in the challenges of communication
You’re the Only One I Can Tell
by Deborah Tannen (Ballantine, $27)
Women who say they don’t have time to work on their friendships have their thinking “exactly backward,” said Julie Klam in The Washington Post. Deborah Tannen’s new book about the language of female friendship is full of stories about all the unnecessary work we create by sabotaging what we intend to convey. With social media now multiplying the ways to be misconstrued, a book like this becomes “almost vital.” Its choicest anecdotes “made my head spin off my body and into outer space.”
Do I Make Myself Clear?
by Harold Evans (Little, Brown, $27)
Harry Evans could take the worst bureaucratese and “puree it into a pleasurably readable passage,” said Edward Kosner in The Wall Street Journal. In his new guide to writing well, the journalist and editor offers “a crisp curriculum” of dos and don’ts, echoing the advice of past prose gurus but also adding useful twists, like a list of “zombie” words—or nouns that swallow perfectly good verbs. He also includes a “virtuoso” line edit of an Obama-era terrorism report, proving why clarity matters.
If I Understood You...
by Alan Alda (Random House, $28)
Alan Alda would be the perfect dinner guest, said Kathleen Rizzo Young in The Buffalo News. “A man of boundless curiosity,” the beloved actor is also devoted to helping others make arcane knowledge engaging. Here, he aims to pass along lessons he’s learned while trying to make scientists and doctors better communicators, and the book is “full of terrific advice.” All tips are backed by science, but the first comes from his own trade: Really observe your audience, because they’re telling you what to do.
by Max Décharné (Pegasus, $27)
Max Décharné’s engaging new history of English-language slang collates “a mind-boggling range of sources,” said Lynne Truss in the New Statesman (U.K.). Décharné is mostly interested in proving how long and varied the history of such words as “chippie” and “groovy” has been, and he has the novels, jazz-lyric sheets, and 18th-century brothel directories to back his claims. Though it’s “churlish to ask for more,” I will: Shouldn’t an aficionado tell us more about why people use slang and why they abandon it?