Here is the “Pick for the Week” series, I’ll help you pick your ‘to becoming’ favourite books, fiction as well as well as non-fiction, ranging from all genres and all ages, through a weekly series of mini completely spoiler-proof reviews.
The following two aren’t just books, they are feast for the beast-sized hunger that you have for literature, for the love that you have for the English language, or shall I say in the words of Kory Stamper, for your sprachgefuhl.
#1 Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
We look forward in dictionaries for words and their meanings, and turns out dictionaries look forward towards us. We care too much to use “correct” English, while we ourselves make and change this “correct” English. So, a dictionary isn’t something that tells us how to use a word, rather it tells us how the word is used, by us.
The book is a non-fictional account of Miss Stamper of her days as a lexicographer at Merriam Webster Dictionary. The book is a long and an interesting definition of “dictionary”, in that, the author explains what a dictionary is and what it isn’t. And it definitely isn’t some authority on the language English. Through examples, she also discusses the various conflicts in the English language, for example, Merriam Webster was fired with e-mails calling on them to remove the word “irregardless”, which they claimed wasn’t actually a word but people used it.
The most beautiful part of the book, perhaps is her treatment of the English language as something “alive”, a living creature, here is a beautiful excerpt and a reason why you should read the book.
“We love and nurture it (English) into being, and once it gains gross motor skills, it starts going exactly where we don’t want it to go: it heads right for the goddamned electrical sockets. We dress it in fancy clothes and tell it to behave, and it comes home with its underwear on its head and wearing someone else’s socks.”
#2 The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Sir Ernest Hemingway (as I like to call him) is often credited for his influence on American literature. His writings were short, and straightforward. He didn’t depend on beautiful words, but his writings always came out beautifully. He produced many classics in American literature, and one such is a Pulitzer Prize winner of 1953, The Old Man and The Sea.
If I’m to define this novel is one sentence, it is a hundred page long character sketching of a stubborn old man. After having caught no fish for 84 days, the undaunted old man sails on his skiff for the 85th day, which awaits an adventure ahead of him.
The old man is fun to explore, and the best of his character comes out during his isolation on the adventure, just as the best of us comes out in isolation. The novel is a tale of courage, bravery and dedication. The writing style is captivating, and the book, a short escape. And it is one of the few books for which I didn’t want an end, but short length to it, is its another beauty.