The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and actually kept forgetting that it was a non-fiction account and not a novel!  In The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester brilliantly recounts the little-known story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary.  If you are fascinated with language this is a must-read. Contemplating the massive task of describing every known word in the English language is almost like imagining the size of the universe and Winchester describes the numerous challenges throughout the decades-long process in storybook fashion, making you forget that this should be a boring subject! Winchester drives the point home at the end of the novel of how the success of the dictionary was largely due to a murder committed by the eponymous ‘madman’, a bittersweet fact which Winchester feels deserves to be more acknowledged so that credit can be given to the ‘madman’ whose name has been largely forgotten.  I definitely recommend this book, particularly if you are interested in the evolution of language.


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