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Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Got wit?

We’ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit—that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time.

This engaging book brings together the gr
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by TarcherPerigee
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Alex Reborn
Mar 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
I made an effort to finish this book, but I'm forced to say that I wouldn't call it a good read. Not at all. I'm still not sure what exactly I was expecting to find here, but whatever it was, I surely didn't find it.

For the most part I was bored. The chapters were focused on certain aspects that one might associate with wit, but the author talked mostly about different people (from the past and the present times as well - men of politics, rappers, comedians and writers) that apparently are examp
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
A promising introduction, with an excellent definition of what "wit" really is. Basically, wit is "spontaneous creativity," a way of looking at the world "sideways."

While the title of the book hints that readers will "master the art of being interesting," it doesn't offer any real advice. It is an essay, describing various psychological studies, witty people throughout history, quips, etc.

One frustrating aspect of this book is that it is inconsistent. For example: One chapter urges readers to
It wasn't groundbreaking, but I did like it. I feel like it's less "Mastering the art of," and more "Here's a bunch of stuff about... also it's broken down into handy component sub-topics."

Most valuable, probably, are all the references that inspire further reading. I'm absolutely going to check out Fran Lebowitz, for example, as well as delving deeper into Wilde and Parker. And I may even give Russell Brand a try, with several heapings of salt?
Jan 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I couldn't finish reading this book after less than 100 pages the author had named no less than 4 music rap artists as examples of wit usage. ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
This is not quite a good book. I would rate it 2.5 stars if that would be possible. However, the subject matter is really difficult. Additionally, the author makes an honest attempt of identifying key factors that make one witty. While doing so, he introduces some interesting historical characters that were witty and offers explanations for the wit. For this reasons, I decided to round my mark upwards to 3 stars.

What I disliked the most in the book is the authors attempts at being witty. Most o
Deedra Lapray
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Book 1 of our orientation road trip. Interesting listen. Definitely not my usual, but I enjoyed it.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
You cannot learn wit from a book that is neither witty nor interesting. Is this an academic research text? A bathroom reader? Yeah, it's not sure either. ...more
Devin Ambron
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Wit is comedy minus time. Making wit work in a variety of contexts involves avoiding platitudes in common writing. If you're going to go through the trouble of writing a thank you note, for example, spend time expressing an original and specific example. To write a perfect toast you should record the entire speech, rehearse it, then break into sections for ease of memorization. Brevity packs a punch in wit by removing unnecessary context. "If you're not pretty, make sure to be witty." A fun read ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and thought-provoking. The goal is cultural literacy and fluency. Wit is like salt. I enjoyed his ruminations on the Great Wits and the elements of wit: hustle, flow, intuition, confidence, refreshment, righteousness, charm, romance, resilience, compassion, conversation, and brevity.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Wit: Quid Erret Est?

Wit: Quid Errett Est?, December 27, 2015

This review is from: Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting (Paperback)
My estimation of this book started well but drastically declined until about page 140 when it improved again. The initial definition of wit was reasonable, but the author tried too hard make the topic fit into the 12 qualities he used as chapter headings - Hustle, Flow, Intuition, Confidence, refreshment (drinking), righteousness, Charm, romance
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is all over the place in its citations of people and characters, from Winston Churchill to George Costanza from Seinfeld, Dorothy Parker to the Simpsons. Clearly some ups and downs. In the end, though, the reader can reflect on the cohesiveness of the presentation. Not after reading the entire book in one sitting, though. This is definitely one of those books I've read in chunks, spreading the, uh, wisdom out over days and weeks, lest I become overwhelmed with boredom. As with any sing ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
It’s okay. Errett should’ve condensed this to half the size, keeping the first 3 chapters and smooshing the rest into the space left.

It’s a decent enough primer to wit and the Great Wits, as the author says—however, it’s certainly not going to let you ‘Master the art of being interesting.’

I read this book primarily because I work in marketing and I wanted to write fewer platitudinous statements for my clients; writing something delightful is always a goal.

Has this book helped? Somewhat.

What I
Kelly Johnson
Jun 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
I am no closer to having wit after reading this book.
-The quip quiz are ridiculous. They are random quips never mentioned before the quiz and make me feel bad for not knowing the answer.
“A drunk rambling on when writing a book” is a quote from this book that sums this book up nicely. He says much but reveals nothing. At one point endorses drink and at another condemns it vehemently. He also goes into the life of Ernest Hemingway and seems to get lost for pages before remembering this book is a
Amber Taylor
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio version of this book, but I think a physical or ebook format would be easier to reference in the future, because I definitely will want to reference certain parts. There are a few high-level aspects of wit that he goes into, and a lovely surprise recommendation of a graphic design book (graphic design is my day job), about visual wit.

This is a great springboard book, in that it suggests many other books that expand upon the concepts mentioned here. Overall, I'd definitel
In the chapter of Elements of Wit entitled "Brevity", Benjamin Errett mentions that people tweet "witty" things, only to realize that thousands of others have already said the same thing.

Something similar can be said of Goodreads reviews: I see that others have said that Elements of Wit starts off well, but loses steam. Others have said that the quizzes are a bit silly. Others have said that some of the reference have inspired them to look deeper into the writers. I have the say the same thing.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is far more than a quick self-help book designed to make you stand out at cocktail parties. It's the second half of the title that should interest you. The book explores the history (Oscar Wilde is give at least half a chapter), but also how creativity, flow and emotional engagement are intertwined. Within the first quarter of the book, a nice and intelligent assessment of Jay-Z that actually fits within the context of the chapter. ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
It is a cutesy read in the vein of chicken soup books. The book has no intentions to define or educate one on the topic of wit, instead it is full of vaguely related aphorisms some may find inspirational. Given wit is an art, expect this book to be less like an art history book, more of a curated pinterest board and you won't be disappointed. ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
I could not finish it. Maybe because this book was not what I imagined or maybe it was the tone of the entire novel, but it just didn't sit well with me. I found the way the author wrote the book to be a bit strange and I never felt enticed to keep reading. ...more
Kathryn Bagg
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author and I have different interpretations of wit. For me, it should never be snarky or crass. I am not a fan of Ricky Gervais. Rather I look for humour and grace. I do admire Seth Myers. Christopher Hitchens suggested that wit is “the unfailing symptom of intelligence “. So true.
Anthony Locke
There was a pretty big gap between expectations and execution. The book had a lot of stories that were only tangentially related to the chapter principle cultivating wit. It was more of a book on examples of great wit than helping readers become more interesting.
May 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Profane and crude. A lot of praise for rappers, those who have mastered the double entendre, and people who have extinguished their "moral inhibitions," which, according to the author, greatly enhances wit. Honestly, this reminds me of everything I dislike about some colleagues in the rat race. ...more
Cyndie Courtney
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Uses the example of famous wits to describe a process of learning to be clever. Interesting and fun read.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Second time reading this. There are plenty of genuinely enjoyable bits, but the overall effect is like binging on pop culture articles in the guise of self-improvement.
Elisabeth Bridges
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm trying to think of something witty to say in this review... But my mind is letting me down. I can't flow.

At any rate, it's a fun little read.
Justin Hill
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up
Started out interesting and entertaining. Halfway through it took a turn that really lost me. Maybe that's one of the elements of wit - I'll never know. ...more
Murfious Lee
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Focus on many famous people and psychologists who use wit in everyday life to influence people
Jack Vincent
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wit is fun. Strive for wittiness.

Read lots, be immersed in culture and the conversation youre in if you want a shot at acheiving it.
Mar 30, 2021 rated it liked it
Disappointing. I found it to be dry and uninteresting.
Overall, a well-researched and interesting read, peppered with the author's own quips. Benjamin Errett breaks down wit and analyzes its key components mostly through examples of great figures, allowing you to develop your own sense of what being witty is all about. I enjoyed this approach, which resembled a rough outline to build on more than a definitive step-by-step process to follow. At times I found the plethora of mini-biographies to be a bit tiresome, but there's definitely a lot to take a ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: selfhelp
More erudite than I expected, and well written and yes, witty ... but also vaguely unsatisfying.

Quite simply, it doesn't fulfill the premise of the title. After reading it, I don't feel I have a much better idea of Wit than I did before, much less that I have "mastered the art of being interested".

Some good history and anecdotes about Christopher Hitchens, Oscar Wilde and Grouch Marx though.
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“Wit is the thought process that generates truly funny observations, as well as the most incisive comments, lasting quips, and brilliant asides. To say wit is mean is like saying the sun is mean for burning you: The giant ball of hot plasma at the center of our solar system is bigger than that, and why weren't you wearing sunscreen in the first place?” 0 likes
“Does drinking make you wittier? One might as well ask if witting makes you drinkier, which it may.” 0 likes
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