Also of interest...in logophilia
Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve
by Ben Blatt (Simon & Schuster, $25)
Fear not, lit nerds, said B. David Zarley in PasteMagazine.com. Though this book uses math and statistics to analyze some of history’s most celebrated writers and their works, author Ben Blatt is not trying to reduce literature to a formula. Instead, he brings “the right mix of humor, hand-holding, and literary love” to his survey, showing that Elmore Leonard really does hate exclamation points, that even James Joyce had a weakness for cliché, and that male characters “mutter” but women “murmur.”
Language at the Speed of Sight
by Mark Seidenberg (Basic, $29)
“Every teacher of young children should read this book,” said Michael Roth in The Wall Street Journal. Neuroscientist Mark Seidenberg has devoted his career to demystifying the process by which children learn to read, and he “makes a convincing case” that we have discovered more in the past two decades than in the previous century. The findings prove that a phonics-based approach is best and suggest that a wide embrace of the new research could significantly boost student achievement.
Word by Word
by Kory Stamper (Pantheon, $27)
Kory Stamper might be the opposite of a grammar scold, said Megan Garber in The Atlantic. A lexicographer at Merriam-Webster and a charmingly wry guide to the history of English, she has written “a cheerful and thoughtful rebuke” to all who blanch when an “its” becomes an “it’s” or “fleek” wins a dictionary entry. Stamper loves that English is an everchanging, often bottom-up affair. In her world, “language is most effective when it is quirky, and experimental, and above all welcoming.”
Schadenfreude, a Love Story
by Rebecca Schuman (Flatiron, $27)
“For anyone who’s ever done stupid things as a youth and lived to not regret it, this book will bring back memories,” said Dawn Eyestone in PopMatters.com. Writer Rebecca Schuman fell foolishly in love with German culture when she was in high school— then spent 20 years mastering the language, making Germany her second home, and stumbling toward a Ph.D. “Enjoyable, amusing, and quickly consumed,” her memoir is a big slice of Apfelkuchen, which means you might want seconds.