Sarah's Reviews > Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages

Reading the OED by Ammon Shea
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's review
Apr 08, 2010

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Read from April 09 to 17, 2010

A lovely book that should definitely read by those who love words and lament the falling away of finer words from the English language. On more than one occassion I found myself more than delighted to find words that I never knew existed, but so aptly describe things one encounters often. I also appreciate that Shea's ultimate reason for reading dictionaries is not to impress others, but to have a greater awareness of what exists in the world. For once you have a word to describe something, you are more aware of it; your imagination is enriched.

For someone who loves words so much, however, I would agree that Shea does not have much of a finesse over narration; the writing is quite clunky at times. While some reviewers say that the idea of writing about reading a dictionary is not sustainable in itself, I would disagree and say it is. I was very intrigued by the idea behind the book and was more than eager to read it. Shea just, unfortunately, falls short of its potential; at several points the book feels very dull, and is bound to feel even more tedious for those who wouldn't understand why the writer undertook such a mission in the first place.

Readabiilty aside, one thing is for sure: this book will greatly enlighten the way one approaches dictionaries.

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