Those aficionados who love words and the language or who are big-time Scrabble fans will love this book, while others will...

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WORD BY WORD

THE SECRET LIFE OF DICTIONARIES

Strange words and how to find them.

When Stamper first interviewed for a job at Merriam-Webster, she was excited. It was her dream job, and she got it. She was now a practicing lexicographer working at the oldest dictionary publisher in America. These “drudges at their desks” practiced a noble art, part creative process, part science. Her book is a “nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, worm’s-eye view of lexicography.” Along with other “word nerds,” Stamper writes and edits dictionary definitions, thinks “deeply about adverbs, and slowly, inexorably” goes blind. To be successful, you must, first and foremost, possess something called sprachgefühl, or “a feeling for language.” If you don’t have it, you won’t last six months. Stamper goes into great detail describing the inner workings of how dictionaries come into being, with each chapter focusing on a specific task or topic. She provides a short history of grammar and then spends an entire chapter on how much lexicographers hate the word “irregardless.” The author also covers the history of dictionaries with a special shoutout to “His Cantankerousness,” Samuel Johnson, whose 1755 dictionary set the standard for all future dictionaries. “Bitch” discusses how crude, vulgar, and embarrassing words get included, and other chapters deal with defining, small words, etymology, and pronunciation. And then there’s the reading. After lexicographers answer all kinds of correspondence, they read everything, from magazines to TV dinner boxes to beer bottles and takeout menus. Stamper notes that the internet, which has put many dictionary publishers out of business, must be trolled for new words, too. She loves her work, and her enthusiasm adds a real zest to her tales of usage and the chase for words—e.g., “onymous,” “cromulent,” “vecturist,” and “dope slap.” Look them up.

Those aficionados who love words and the language or who are big-time Scrabble fans will love this book, while others will feel like they’re in over their heads.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-87094-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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