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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6004 comments The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester
Audiobook narrated by the author
4****

The subtitle is all the synopsis you need: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

James Murray is the professor, a learned man who became the editor of the OED. Dr William C Minor is the madman, an American Civil-War veteran and surgeon whose paranoid delusions caused him to commit murder and resulted in his life-long commitment to an asylum for the criminally insane. Yet …

Simon Winchester crafts a compelling non-fiction narrative. I previously read his book on the explosion of Krakatoa, which was interesting, but I felt bogged down in detail. This is a much shorter book. Though it’s clear that Winchester did significant research and he includes details of how the OED was conceived, and the laborious efforts to get volunteers to submit citations to support word usage definitions, he never lost the story arc of these two remarkable men. He captured my attention on page one and held it throughout.

Winchester narrates the audiobook himself and he does a fine job. I could listen to his British accent all day, especially pronouncing the marvelously rich vocabulary he employs. As a bonus, at the end of the audio book there is an interview between Winchester and the OED’s current editor, John Simpson. THAT was equally as interesting to me as the main story.


LINK to my review


message 2: by KateNZ (new) - added it

KateNZ | 2503 comments This was my introduction to Simon Winchester books and I loved it. I know what you mean about Krakatoa - and Atlantic was similar. The OED book was more of a single story line, which helped a lot. But I liked the others a lot too and I’m now eyeing up ‘Exactly’ in the bookshop ...


message 3: by Jeremiah (new) - added it

Jeremiah Cunningham | 717 comments I read this book several years ago and really enjoyed it. I recommend it on a regular basis. Glad you enjoyed it.


Joy D | 3879 comments I enjoyed this one too and gave it 4 stars. Who knew a book about the assembling of a dictionary could be so fascinating?


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