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The Word Exchange

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  3,926 ratings  ·  977 reviews
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the fi ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Doubleday
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Dave I bet that was intentional! There were so many words that were not common everyday words and I did the same thing -- I looked them up and now with pho…moreI bet that was intentional! There were so many words that were not common everyday words and I did the same thing -- I looked them up and now with phones and tablets I didn't have to drag in the Oxford dictionary. I felt set up and as the story progressed, I noticed the 'bigger' words were left behind and I was no longer tied to my device. (less)

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Average rating 3.34  · 
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Dan Schwent
Mar 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
When her father disappears just days before his life's work, the third edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, is set to debut, she has no idea of the rabbit hole she'll soon be going down. People are forgetting common words and coming down with what is called the word flu. Is there a connection between the word flu and her missing father?

I got this from Netgalley. My initial impression was that the book was overwritten by someone who was into literary fiction and "slum
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to carol. by: NetGalley
Shelves: arc, sci-fi, thriller

Corporate conspiracies?
Word flu?
Budding romance between two star-crossed lovers?
Reading as a solution to impaired communication skills?
Occasionally astonishing writing?

Sounds tempting, right?
Unfortunately, it was implemented with portentous statements every other page(1), a heroine bordering on TSTL(2), thesaurus-based writing(3), footnotes(4), and frequently poor writing(5).

Ana is an employee at the New York office of North American Dictionary of the English Language (also called "the
Erica Ravenclaw
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

No spoilers! Definitely colorful language abound! I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 photo anigif_enhanced-buzz-3826-1395697360-17_zpsb2790463.gif

I was not expecting this. The Word Exchange has challenged everything I know about what defines a good book, beaten the absolute shit out of my standards, and spit them back out at me. I stand before you a little befuddled and completely in awe of Graedon's ability to redefine something about myself I once thought of as unyielding. There are few books that I can confidently coin
It's only words, but where would we be without them?  Words are disappearing.  From language, from the pages of dictionaries, and from books in general.  The shorthand text-speak so many use now, the ubiquitous acronyms - are they a harbinger of things to come?           

Much as I dislike giving up on a book, I am opting out of this one and sending it back to the library, unfinished.  Although the concept sounded like a slam dunk, it was fast turning into a job of work to read it.  Not a big fan
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing

4.5 stars

As much as I enjoyed last year's Dave Eggers' cautionary tale The Circle, about a Google-like company smothering all of our personal freedoms, I couldn't help but think that Eggers could've went a little further in the future and turned it into a truly dystopian masterpiece instead of the gonzo-journalism-disguised-as-a-novel it turned out being.

Enter The Circle's evil, precocious younger sister, Alena Graedon's rather stunning debut The Word Exchange, a novel that isn't afraid to make
Ash Wednesday
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone! (see review why!)
Words don’t always work. Sometimes they come up short. Conversations can lead to conflict. There are failures of diplomacy. Some differences, for all the talk in the world, remain irreconcilable. People make empty promises, go back on their word, say things they don’t believe. But connection, with ourselves and others, is the only way we can live.

I’m half tempted to recommend this to all my friends right now. Just to see how far they would get before calling it quits.

Word Exchange
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to jo by: Snotchocheez
let's get the misconceptions out of the way: this is not an alt reality book, this is a dystopian book. it is narrated in alternating chapters by two characters, both in the first person. this does not make things confusing. it is not a difficult book and the vocabulary is rich but perfectly comprehensible. it is beautifully written (having listened to the audio version i can't vouch for the punctuation, but what i heard was beautiful: beautiful sentences, beautiful words). one of the characters ...more
April (The Steadfast Reader)
A million stars. So much to say about this book.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Originally posted here: The Steadfast Reader - Fabulous Friday: The Word Exchange

Guys, GUYS! If you read one new frontlist book this spring let this be it.

Graedon does magical things with words. This book is both beautiful and terrifying all at once. I can hardly believe that this is a debut novel. For a very serious bibliophile and someone with a casual intere
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worthy But Flawed First Novel by a Young Writer

I liked this more than I thought I would.

At first I thought it was too, too trendy and clever. But, gradually, the story drew me in and I ended up enjoying the book.

The main character is Anana (variously nicknamed "Ana" and "Alice"). She is a young woman who lives in NY City in the near future and works for her father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, at the NADEL ("North American Dictionary of the English Language"). Everyone at NADEL (including Ana) calls
Deborah aka Reading Mom
*My copy was received from NetGalley as an ARC.*

I can only review the first 30% of the book. It became so mind-numbingly boring that I had to abandon it at that point. A description of the book says: "A gorgeous genre mashup that offers readers the pleasures of noir, science fiction, romance and philosophy. It's an unforgettable joyride across the thin ice of language."
-Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Genre mashup, yes...gorgeous, no; the ice of this langua
Jessica Woodbury
On Twitter I described this book as a mashup between a David Mamet movie and the Dictionary. It's not a perfect description, but it gives you a glimpse of the weirdly wonderful world of THE WORD EXCHANGE.

First off, I have to applaud Graedon for inventing one of those near-future scenarios that actually feels real and terrifyingly possible. The evolution of smartphones to the "memes" of her book seems like something that could really happen (and it honestly wouldn't surprise me if it did).

Then t
Dusty Craine
Apr 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon is a book that I have very mixed feelings about.

Let us start by imagining a world where our cell phones anticipate what we need before we need it. We begin to wonder what our grandparent’s birthday is and it springs to life with the information we need. All it required was a thought. That word on the tip of our tongue appears on the screen just before we need it so you can complete your thought without missing a beat. If you can imagine that, then you can imagi
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-review
ARC for review.

A thriller of lexicography that will appeal to language lovers this book follows Ana, a young woman in search of her father. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances just before the launch of the final edition of his world-renowned dictionary (a victim of our digital age which, in this book, is a few steps further along the interactive road). Plus, a potentially fatal "word flu" has appeared and maybe Ana's missing father holds the key?

At first I thought this would be an exa
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very good, quirky story. A bit crazy at times, but that was the fun. And I still don't think I got all the "Alice" references - the rabbit hole, the looking glass, that type of thing.

This is a world that diverged from our own not that long ago. It diverged when this world created smartphones that can read your mind. They are called Memes. They will order you a cab if you're too drunk to drive. They will order you a drink when you're really explaining you want coffee (but really want a drink),
I received a free copy of this book through the First Reads program at Good Reads. I also was given an eARC by NetGalley.

While I appreciate these freebies, I shouldn't have clicked those buttons to put myself in the running for them. I started this book tonight, and was quickly going, ""


Earlier this year I read a book called The Book. It was a dystopian near-future tale about electronic reading devices replacing real books and eventually controlling what we think, etc. I
Aug 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
Here's how this book goes:

Pages of Pretentious Blathering


Pages of Hipster Angst

Teeniest Tiniest Hint of a Plot

More Pretentious Blathering

More Hipster Angst

Great Huge Chunks of Hegel

More Hegel

Imagined Angst

Unimportant Hipster Stuff (meals, music, whatever)

Hegel Again

Oh Wow! A plot point!

Hegel. Hegel. Hegel.

Hipster Musings.

Hipster Thoughts on Hegel.

Hegel's Thoughts on Hipstery Things.

Wait! Is this a plot point?? No. Never mind. It's just blob of
Mar 31, 2014 rated it did not like it
I found that it had a lot of great writing, but it was covered up with awkward writing. The world building lacked, but I liked were it was going, I just needed more from it. I couldn’t get pass the footnotes and I didn’t know a lot of the words so I had to keep looking them up, which takes a lot of time ( that I could have used to try and enjoy the novel). I also think that it was over all too long and I just could get into it.
Jun 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is one of those novels where the author is just too clever for their own good. It's a mess of ideas, with a whiny heroine and a creepy alternating narrator.

I almost never give one stars, but dude. I have no idea how this book was even purchased by Doubleday and made it to print.
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Mar 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: a select group of readers
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Netgalley
I received a copy of The Word Exchange, the debut novel from author Alena Graedon, from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review. This book has been called "the dystopian novel for the digital age" and "inventive" and on some levels I agree with those descriptions. I loved the idea of The Word Exchange, which is set in the near future and deals with the constantly forewarned death of print media. Anana Johnson and her father Doug are working on the multi-volume third edition of ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have to preface this review by saying that a) if I get a book to read before publication (through NetGalley, like this one, or anywhere) I want to give it a real chance, finish the whole thing, etc. and b) the idea behind this book is one I’m thrilled about. With this book, I found it tremendously difficult to even finish.

The Word Exchange has a fascinating premise. Ana lives in a world where helpful technology has infiltrated our lives, our psyches, and our choices so fully that it is starti
Katie/Doing Dewey
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: possible-reread
I loved this book so much, I’m not sure I can add anything new to the many rave reviews I’ve already read. Everything about it was fantastic. The plot was action packed and full of surprising twists and turns. The futuristic world the author imagined didn’t seem like a stretch, but was still completely mind-blowing. Despite the dangers of the technologies so readily adopted in this future world, some of the conveniences and entertainments sound like a dream. The author’s imaginings actually remi ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm very much into all sorts of dystopian scenarios. This was by far one of the more original ones. Apocalypse via technology, social media and disappearing words. I wasn't sure I was in the mood for it at first, but then I read some reviews, one particularly memorable mentioned that this book was too smart for its own good. That intrigued me. Is there really such a thing as too smart of a book? Is it merely because we live in the world where the word smart usually goes with the word phone (or s ...more
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
The Word Exchange is about a future in which the printed media is practically obsolete. Everyone communicates by a device called a meme, which is not really explained until about a third of the way through the book. In this world, people was being affected by something called a "word flu" in which the inflicted loses the meaning of words, automatically substituting nonsense words. The incubation time needed for this flu to arrive seems be the duration of 50% of the book. Eventually this virus le ...more
Mar 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: advance-reads
I was so excited about this book. I love words... and books... and technology.

"A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word. "

The premise is that printed words are obsolete. A virus finds it's way into the smart-phone like devices people are using in the future. It causes people to start using wrong words and then transforms into a sickness that
Lee at ReadWriteWish
3 1/2 stars. This is a very difficult book to review. It's difficult to categorise, for starters. It seems to be far too immature to class as a sci-fi thriller for adults; and yet the characters aren't young enough for this to fall into the young adult genre. It's also difficult to explain the plot unless you've read. So, I'll give you the short version: in the near future we rely so heavily on electronic devices that once they are infected with a virus, it spreads to all corners of the globe wi ...more
Alison (Ali's Books) Flores
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 STARS!!!

Xet this meting book! I wot believe I emkl word flu!!

Wow! This book is one that will really leave you thinking!! Not to mention, it’ll make you wish you were holding a “real” book and not your kindle or nook. This book can be downright frightening because you can so easily visualize something like this happening! Got word flu???

This book was just so incredibly interesting! It’s not one of those books that just sucks you right in and never let’s go, but it’s more of a gradual thing.
I wanted to like this. I really did. For short bursts of time, it even engaged me. But then the idiotic heroine did something particularly idiotic that she had done before which proved its idiocy, but will she learn? It's kind of hard to get on board a really long, rather pointless adventure if this lady will behave like the dystopian equivalent of the horror movie dumb blonde who just couldn't leave whatever well enough alone.

Had she been, like her horror movie equivalent, killed right after h
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is about as good a debut novel as they come.

I would hate to be accused of hyperbole, but I think in a very short time this book could rank in importance alongside books such as Orwell's '1984', Huxley's 'A Brave New World'. The author, as all good authors, do uses the text discuss the bigger issues facing us right now. The differences between information and knowledge. How we obtain said knowledge. The purpose and use of language. The loss of the the skill of memorization through over reli
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I don't even fucking know what just happened. There is so much going on with this book, so many layers. It's not perfect, by any means, but the sheer originality of the story and the way certain words are used to both tell the story and to make a point about the story is absolutely face-slapping. And the references to Alice in Wonderland (both the literal ones and the super subtle ones) are just another layer of awesome in this awesome book.

And yeah, the irony is not lost on me that I was readi
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
My brother lent me this and I found it really fascinating. Seemed almost a companion piece to A.S. Byatt's Possession. I don't think I'll ever look at my phone the same again after this book. I also have a craving to thumb through a dictionary. ...more
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Alena Graedon's first novel, The Word Exchange, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and Paperback Row pick, and selected as a best novel of 2014 by Kirkus. It has been translated into eight languages. Graedon’s nonfiction has been published in The New York Times Book Review,, The Believer magazine, and Guernica, among other places, and her short fiction has appeared in VICE magazine ...more

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