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Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing
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Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,492 ratings  ·  376 reviews
What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover?

Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at our favorite authors and their masterpieces. There’s a famous piece of writing advice—offered by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and myriad writers in between—not to use -ly adverbs
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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Radu *EDIT 5/18/17* I just got my copy in the mail today! I noticed some sort of "Reject" sticker under the current postage. I am guessing there was a mix-…more*EDIT 5/18/17* I just got my copy in the mail today! I noticed some sort of "Reject" sticker under the current postage. I am guessing there was a mix-up in the postage which caused the delay. Hopefully the rest of you will be finding your copies soon too, if not already!

I was one of the winners as well. The books were marked as "shipped" over a month ago but I have yet to hear of any winner receiving their book. I even reached out to the publisher and did not hear anything back.(less)

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Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two months ago my seventh grade son chose to write his independent book report on I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever because it details how two friends used a computer algorithm to attend games at thirty different major league baseball stadiums in thirty days. In essence, the book's primary author is a grown version of my math and baseball loving son. So moved was my son by the book that he conducted a question and answer session over ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 What a fascinating book. Using math computations to find out who wrote something, who uses the least adverbs, thought verbs and other markers that makes ones writing their own. Different authors, different word choices, even punctuation all make a difference. Found it interesting that even authors who write a different genre under a different name such as Rowling can be identified. That though the name changes the writing does not. Words women authors use more often than men and visa versa. ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Yes! Mouthwatering DS for readers. The ultimate pleasure for people enamored with:
- data science,
- stats,
- history,
- reading,
- books,
- writing...

Numbers and words can work together, if you take it all in in a particular way!

So, Neil Gaiman works with doors and coats,
Palahniuk orgasms throughout his books,
Gillian Flynn is all about pissed girls with runner hair (kidding... not!),
James Patterson's work's always about murders by killers & kidnappings,
Janet Evanovich is maybe too much into doug
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
I am obsessed. I was browsing the literary criticism/essays shelves at Barnes & Noble, as one does, when I happened upon this treasure. It was one of those soul-meets-book moments. Like, I had no idea I wanted this book to exist, but once I saw it I knew I had actually been waiting for it my whole life. This is Google Ngram meets human researcher, and the result is delightful.

Blatt examines writing style via statistics, focusing on specific questions to get an idea of existing patterns. Some of
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Simple and sweet. Conceptually uncomplicated (but a very complicated project for the author!) and a pleasant read. Reading this one gave me a similar feeling to taking fun, mindless Buzzfeed quizzes. There’s no real point, ultimately, but it was lovely to think about and muse over. I was always pleased to have time to come back to it, but nothing was heart-pounding or dramatic. The perfect book for a stressful time in your life where you need something to hold your attention without freaking you ...more
Kathleen Flynn
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book, which uses data analysis to look at literature, is utterly fascinating and also very funny in places, like the chapter about cliches, which made me start laughing out loud in a crowded subway car.

My only complaint is that it wasn't longer.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
In his author bio, Ben Blatt refers to himself as a "data journalist," but the type of work he does in Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve reminds me of some of the tasks that scholars and graduate students are working on in the digital humanities. The anecdote that Blatt opens with, explaining how two scholars used statistics to determine the authors of some of the essays in the Federalist Papers in 1963, is one good example. Digital tools can make answering some of our pressing questions about wr ...more
Rebecca Renner
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm a big numbers geek, so this was an interesting peek into word usage analysis.
Basically basically Ben Blatt uses statistics to discern what writers use certain characteristics and to discern to what degree/statistical level. Blatt discusses a variety of topics, including word choices, types of writing, gender of writers. And much more.

It took me a few chapters to realize that Blatt was writing a style book. Instead of talking about writing in theory, he is using statistics to back up his assertions. One of the injunctions I came up with was to write using nouns and verbal
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: language-studies
Now that computers have demonstrated how the words of everyday life differ from words of academia and have produced corpi of words and phrases and from books, speeches and even overheard conversations, it was only a matter of time for a popular work exploring word and sentence patterns in literature to emerge.

Ben Blatt begins with the Federalist Papers which through word analysis determines (finally?) who wrote what. He checks word frequency of popular authors (hence the title), the use of short
Michael Perkins
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a gimmick book. Is it really a surprise that, by these metrics, the worst writers include the authors of Twilight, Fifty-Shades of Grey, and Dan Brown? Or that the the reading level for the NYT bestseller list has slid precipitously in the last 50 years? Ot that James Patterson uses the most cliches? Some of the charts can be interesting, but the surrounding prose is verbose. I'm glad I got this one out of the library.

Read (or reread) "The Elements of Style" instead.

"Omit needless words,
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This is excellent in the sense of being exact. Similar to an actuary figuring the precise percentage of possible future you own if recording enough honest and real criteria about you, your health, your lifestyle. But instead of the facts of cigarettes smoked, or number of beers you drink a week- it is the words of the product that are counted and analyzed to their importance repetitions or equivalencies of habits or parts of speech etc.

For me it was a 4 star at the least in the interest it held
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Fascinating concept, really: the author analyzes fifty English language authors for most of his results revealing such things as bestsellers are are using simpler terms and shorter sentences as the years pass. Is our attention span shorter? Among Texas erotica's most distinctive terms are "Trailer", "Soldiers" and "Bunk". NYorker's? It's "Museum", "Senator" and "Popsicle". Odd. And Agatha Christie novels are 'action filled' but are on the 'quiet end' of the 'loud/quiet' spectrum. I never thought ...more
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I learned so much about novels and authors throughout this entire book. Normally not a fan of nonfiction, I couldn't stop talking about this book and recommending it to everyone. It may be nerd lit but it's well worth a read if you're interested in books about books/classic literature.
Blythe Beecroft
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was quite simply enthralled by this book. It is the perfect nexus of data science and literature. My favorite chapters delve into aversion to adverbs, gendered word choice, famous opening sentences, and the frequency of anaphora. I was impressed by how clearly the author articulates his methodology throughout the book. It was such a joy to make connections and compare some of my favorite authors and literary works, like encountering old familiar faces but seeing them with new eyes. After each ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Summary: This book was wonderfully entertaining with lots of great fun facts, but a little bit light on the statistics.

As book bloggers or avid reads, I suspect most of you reading this post have thought at least a little bit about what qualities make a book one of your favorites. In this book, the author tries to answer that and other intriguing bookish questions objectively using statistics. Questions he addresses include: "What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write
Bryan Alexander
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
What can digital technology add to the humanities?

The digital humanities field has emerged as a robust academic answer to this question (and I once got into a shouting match with Stanley Fish about it). Ben Blatt's Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve is a very quick and accessible introduction to some aspects of this field, namely machine analysis of literary texts.

Each chapter of Blatt's book sees him applying data crunching to different literary questions. Some are interesting and even provocativ
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This book was wonderfully fascinating, both as a reader and a writer. Have you ever wondered what makes a book a bestseller? If writers follow their own advice? Or many other things about the composition of books? This book can tell you. It answered questions that I didn't even know I had in an insightful, interesting, fun way. I will think of the things that I learned from it often.
Patti Miller
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Quite a bit of fun! Learned a few new ways to look at writing and reading.
Christian Paula
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Cool look into the big data of writing. A fun romp.
K.M. Weiland
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating stats that provide an insightful “behind the scenes” look at what make great books and authors tick.
Jamie Collins
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
A fun book if you like metrics and statistics. It opens with a discussion of an effort to determine the authorship of 12 essays in The Federalist Papers which were claimed by both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Never mind the intellectual concepts therein: in 1963 a couple of statisticians analyzed the frequency of several common words in the other essays which were known to be written by either author - for example, Madison used the word “whilst” in over half of his essays, while Hamilto ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-favorites
i bought this, today, on a whim, at the same time as laini taylor's new book (which, THANK GOD, is out now !!!!!!!!!!1).

i also, on a whim, binged the whole thing at a café.

it was cool as fuck.

as i said to a couple of my friends, i wanted it to go on for another couple hundred pages. [how cool this would be as a series!! or perhaps we can get longitudinal and follow some of the young authors cited here (e.g., gillian flynn, jonathan franzen, zadie smith, veronica roth, etc.), who haven't relea
victor harris
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
" Numbers" in the title is the operative word. If you love data, charts, and graphs as applied to literature, then you will be in your element. Mildly interesting in spots, such as use or overuse of adverbs, but on balance quite tedious. The basic methodology is computer generated information about what author preferred what words. I am not sure writing can be reduced to quantification and statistics. The book makes some statements to that effect but is not very convincing and the delivery was l ...more
Kevin Hodgson
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Did more scanning than reading, but his lines of inquiry were interesting to follow .. and the charts of data were worth careful looks
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I liked the intersection of math and writing. This book has some great insights and funny discoveries. There was a good sample of authors included and it highlighted some great writing.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun and an easy read. For the right person, this qualifies as a beach book.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Who says Data Analytics can't be fun?
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This number-crunching look at literature is a fun filled treat for book nerds. For instance, How many times is the word "she" used in The Hobbit? Once! Please note, I am neither upset nor outraged by this. Just fascinated.
Women write measurably differently from men, as do British writers from Americans, and it's pretty much as impossible for a writer to disguise his or her style under a pseudonym or for a co-author's style not to be distinguishable when a primary author uses multiple collaborato
Thomas Edmund
You'll often hear that writing is subjective, to take writing rules with a grain of salt (or more). However in Blatt's analysis he takes a statistical and scientific approach to analyzing novels and attempts to settle some concepts objectively.

The result is a slightly unusual read, as a science AND writing nerd I absolutely loved it. A creative type may find the statistical aspects somewhat boggling, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book as part of learning to write creatively (perhaps m
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Ben Blatt is a former staff writer for Slate and The Harvard Lampoon who has taken his fun approach to data journalism to topics such as Seinfeld, mapmaking, The Beatles, and Jeopardy!. Blatt’s work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Deadspin.

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