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Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A collection of very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from various dictionaries, perfect for fans of The Lover's Dictionary and The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?

Dictionary Stories brings to literature the spirit of the musical mashup, digging in the crates to find old hooks and arrange them into new delights with an appeal that’s not merely academic but
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Harper Perennial
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  158 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
‘’Why limit divination to sacred books? Why not let an atlas tell you where to move? Or let the Yellow Pages find you a soul mate? Or let a dictionary, with its tens of thousands of narrative signposts point you in the direction of a good story?’’

This paragraph from the Introduction made me fall in love with this books instantly. It reminded me of myself being a student, trying to guess the exam topics by throwing the book on the floor, watching with glee as it landed in this page or that chap
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
**I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.**

I'm going to be honest, I'm not 100% sure I understand what was going on in this book, but I still really enjoyed it! The micro-fictions were very entertaining. And it gave me an idea for writing exercises for myself! So YAY! :D
Stewart Tame
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I won a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Should be on sale as of April 10, 2018 according to the cover.

The entire book revolves around a simple concept. You know how, when you look up a word in a dictionary, there's often a sample sentence or phrase that uses the word, as well as the definition? Well Jez Burrows took those sample sentences and phrases and assembled them into short, short stories--some of them merely a paragraph or two. He lays out his process in t
Ingrid Contreras
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jorge Luis Borges once demeaned the dictionary, writing, "It is often forgotten that [dictionaries] are artificial repositories, put together well after the languages they define. The roots of language are irrational and of a magical nature."

I don't disagree with Borges — I love dictionaries precisely for the reasons he outlines. One can crack one open and, at the sight of the neat classification of meanings, imagine and nearly hallucinate the scent of formaldehyde no doubt involved in the disse
Jul 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: quit, shorts
Burrows takes example sentences from dictionaries and weaves them into found stories. Let me say at the beginning that this is an interesting concept that is difficult to execute well, and he does a good job at it.
My rating ("I didn't like it") is because the stories don't work as a collection, at all. The idea is exciting. The first few stories are as well, interesting in their humor or form or unexpectedness or conveyance of a subtlety. The author suggests in the introduction that you could o
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Honestly, I only got halfway through this. The premise is original: super-short stories constructed entirely of example sentences from various dictionaries. I thought the stories worked, but the layout was impossible. Every sentence had one underlined word, to show what the sentence was defining. The underlining distracted me from these tightly plotted, twisting vignettes. I was reading an ebook version, and kept thinking how the possibilities of online text are underused. It would be great if w ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jez’s book immediately gets my attention for its ludicrous premise, but it also has to pass the test of, are these stories made up of example usage sentences from dictionaries actually… you know, good? The answer is: boy howdy! If you DIDN’T know how the book was constructed, you’d still be charmed as heck by the tiny plot twists, comedic repartees, and heartbreaks in its tales. This is how you marry form and meaning and guarantee a lifelong happy union between the two.
Doug Glenning
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amazing Concept and such a creative idea! I loved reading this book.
Mark Doton
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
An ingenious idea; putting together sentences from dictionaries to create stories, poems and lists. As you might expect, the stories are a bit disjointed, but clever and often funny. I especially liked the lists, which usually took some random and hilarious turns.
Vivek Tejuja
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
You know the feeling when you want to enjoy a book, when you think you will love it as you pick it up, only to be massively disappointed? Sigh. That rarely happens to me but when it does, it sure does break my heart. “Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings” by Jez Burrows is written in the manner of “The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan, except that it isn’t quite like that book and can never be.

I read it cover to cover and not a single story either struck a chord or has man
Christa Van
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a treasure of short stories made up of dictionary entry example sentences. Some of these are very short, as little as a haiku, others are up to a couple of pages long. Almost all of them have something unexpected, often hilarious. Once I started, I could not stop reading. This is great for anyone who appreciates vocabulary words and spelling tests.
Jana Hall
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a cool idea, but would be better read in small chunks.
Cloud D'italia
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Different. Interesting. Funny sometimes. Bizarre sometimes. Only a few parts I didn't care for.
Luella Lee
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
A very different read but very clever too. I found it was a bit disjointed at times as each letter a stand along story in itself.
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book as a word-nerd. Would give it 4.5 stars for creativity, fun to read short stories, and being genuinely impressed that writing a story from dictionary example sentences is possible. Would highly recommend if you were like me and did read the dictionary as a kid, but would also recommend for those who like short poem-like stories. It is a great book to read a little before sleep or if you don't have a lot of time to commit to a novel.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wasnt sure what to expect upon reading this. The cover and title grabbed me right away though. 

When looking up a word or phrase in the dictionary there is always a sample phrase/sentance of the word and a definition. Well Jez Burrows has taken those samples and phrases and assembled them into very short stories. Some only a paragraph long. I found this very interesting and original! 

Definitely check this one out!

For more of my book content check out
Jun 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Some entries were very good; evocative. Most were not. A new way to look at writing. I read it in small chunks on the MAX whilst commuting.
Daniel Howells
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Dictionary Stories in a single sitting, which I haven't done since reading Jurassic Park. Truly innovative, hilarious, and poignant. I can't fathom the pain Jez must have gone through to collect and simply organise the snippets, let alone jostle them into place to compose coherent, brilliant stories.
Tim Belonax
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
You can feel the love and care that went into every sentence of this book. Not only is its concept a stroke of genius but it’s a stupendously enjoyable read.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What cute way of making stories out of words.
Paul Wilner
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Smart, funny, hip.

My review, for the San Francisco Chronicle:
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mathematical poets
Recommended to Kate by: Lit Hub
Shelves: short-stories
What is the volume of a cube with sides 3 centimeters long, one afternoon in late October, as the sunset tinges the lake with pink?

A train runs hourly from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the rate of 60 kilometers an hour. I get up at 6 every day. If the meeting starts at 9:30 sharp, and the journey takes two hours by train, what are we all doing here?

At a latitude of 51° north and a longitude of 2° west, Mary laid a clean square of white towelling carefully on the grass. She was like a child. Careful. Thou
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
The gimmick is interesting but the writing is both bad and un-compelling. It is very reminiscent of reading the dictionary but not in a good way. I was annoyed by all of the vocab words being underlined, which was very boring. If there hadn’t been rules and instead the dictionary sentences were an initial creative inspiration it could have been really interesting but the language was so bland and stilted. Two stars because it could have been good and the idea behind it was interesting but it jus ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pieces I liked most:

-The Lord's Prayer, From Memory
-Sample Problems: Intermediate Mathematics for Poets
-Genesis I (Reprise)
-Our Descent
-Madame Eva
-News at Eleven
-My True Love Gave to Me
Taylor Gilmore
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5- I love the premise of this book. It makes me want to go buy some dictionaries and see what I can create. However there were quite a few "stories" that got a little confusing and were lost on me. I would still recommend this to everyone though, it's definitely worthwhile.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I can only imagine the record keeping he had to do to write this. The shifts of tone made me laugh pretty constantly. Yes, it got a little staccato-y at times but well worth it.

Reminded me a lot of Joey Comeau.
Nicole Hersh
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was fun. Some stories were better than others, but it was overall very enjoyable. I loved that I could stop easily after each letter and pick it up again at another time.
Madeleine Howard
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I love the concept of this book. Some stories flowed better than others, some were just plain confusing.
Rachel Smith
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars for such an interesting concept and some excellent stories
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A five star concept that only amused or moved me about 50% of the time.
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Jez Burrows is a British designer, illustrator, and writer. He lives in San Francisco.