Best Books for Word Lovers

atkins-bookshelf-books“David Crystal’s lifetime passion — almost 7 decades — has been the English language. Words, Words, Words is a celebration of what we say and how we say. It invites us to engage linguistically with who we are: to understand what words tell us about where we come from and what we do. And as words continually shape our lives, it suggest ways that we can look at them anew, and become involved with collecting and coining words ourselves.”
From Words, Words, Words by David Crystal, Oxford University Press (2006)

Lucky for Professor Crystal there is a world of logophiles that truly appreciate the erudition of linguists and lexicographers like him. As steady as the introduction of new words into the English language, publishers release titles certain to entertain and educate insatiable language enthusiasts, linguaphile, logophiles, logomaniacs, lexicomanes, wordsmiths, word lovers, word-buffs, word mavens, word nerds, and wordaholics who are fascinated, and perhaps obsessed, with the ever-evolving English language. Certainly the aforementioned title belongs on every logophile’s bookshelf, written in an accessible and entertaining style and appropriate for any age. Below are some of the notable titles of the recent year, written by some of the world’s most respected experts (one can imagine that if you placed all these authors in one room, you couldn’t get a word in edge-wise): 

The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal, St. Martin’s Press (2011)
Written by one of the world’s most recognized linguists, Crystal eschews the lengthy academic narrative of his earlier book, The Stories of English, and succinctly tells the history of the Enlgish language by examining 100 words. By focusing on just 100 out of hundred of thousands, he successfully describes the major influences that have shaped the English language since the 5th century. Fun to read or browse. 

The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food & Drink by John Ayto, Oxford University Press (2012)
Since foodies have their own network and magazines, why not their own book that explains the fascinating stories behind the names of food and drinks? John Ayto is an esteemed lexicographer who has edited a number of the best reference books on the English language including the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang and Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary (Second Edition), edited by Jean Claude-Corbeil, Merriam-Webster Press (2012) Proving that a picture (8,000 pictures, actually) is worth a thousand words (25,000 definitions), the Visual Dictionary, weighing 6 pounds, with 1,112 page is a word-lover’s delight. When you know what something looks like, but don’t know what it is called — this is the dictionary to turn to. The dictionary is divided into 18 color-coded themes and contains an extensive index. The detailed illustrations, all in color, are exceptionally drawn and beautiful.

The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins by Phil Cousineau, Viva Editions (2012)
Similar to his earlier book, Wordcather, this book is a collection of beautiful words by a true logophile. Inside its covers, Cousineau, who was mentored by famed American mythologist Joseph Campbell, presents words that interest him: “strange and marvelous, rare and recently coined, curious and sometimes hilarious words.” The book is delightful to read or browse, filled with great scholarship and passion for the English language.

The Word Snoop by Ursula Dubosarsky, Dial Books (2012)
The book is similar to Crystal Words, Words, Words, in that it provides a brief overview of the history of the English language but written in a much lighter vein (self-described as a “wild and witty tour of the English langugage”) and includes illustrations by Tohby Riddle. It examines many of the idiosyncracies and amusing aspects of the language.

Come Again?: Racy Slang, Expletives, and Curses from Around the World by Jeremy Ellis, Skyhorse Publishing (2012)
A lighthearted overview of some of the words that add spice to English language. Not meant to be an authoritative dictionary on slang, the book amusingly looks under the skirt of English, as it were, to reveal the fascinating etymologies and variants of often-heard “forbidden words.” Logophiles with inquisitive children may want to keep this on the higher bookshelves or hidden behind a less intriguing title, like Stendahl’s The Black and The Red.

Amazing Words by Richard Lederer, Marion Street Press (2012)
Lederer has written more than 40 books on the English language, is a founding co-host of the public radio show “A Way with Words” and author of the syndicated newspaper column, “Looking at Language.” His latest book is a collection of his favorite fascinating English words from a to zyzzyva, sprinkled throughout with Lederer’s characteristic wordplay and puns.

Urban Dictionary: New Edition by Aaron Peckham, Andrews McMeel Publishing (2012)
Aaron Peckham began back in 1999 as a parody of conventional dictionaries — a sort of Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce’s famous satirical dictionary that has remained in print since 1906) for the Internet Age.  It could be subtitled: “The People’s Dictionary.” Each day, a new word is added (not by professional lexicographers, but regular folk) every 30 seconds. As of 2012, the site has collected almost 6 million entries. The dictionary is not meant to be authoritative like the OED, but rather as a collection of English as it develops and as it is spoken. Many of the entries are newly coined and not found in other dictionaries; however many of them are clever and colorful. Where else could you find definitions of  “manther” or “pregret”?

Read related post: Best Books for History Buffs
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The Story of English in 100 Words
The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words
Urban Dictionary: Freshest Street Slang Defined
The Word Snoop
Amazing Words: An Alphabetical Anthology
You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia