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The Professor and the Madman
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary | Simon Winchester
Mysterious (miste ries), a. [f. L. mystrium Mysteryi + ous. Cf. F. mystrieux.] 1. Full of or fraught with mystery; wrapt in mystery; hidden from human knowledge or understanding; impossible or difficult to explain, solve, or discover; of obscure origin, nature, or purpose. It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story--a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly--and mysteriously--refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor--that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane--and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man's tortured mind and his contribution to another man's magnificent dictionary.
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blurb
stevesbookstuf1
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I've succumbed to the power of books. That, and the fact that proceeds go to support a crisis support line here in Brisbane. Here is my used book haul from the Lifeline Bookfest. (The Michael Connelly book is my husband's.)

I don't know how, or even if, I'm going to be able to fit these books into my luggage to take them back home to the US. I'll probably leave most of them here with relatives to dig into on our next visit. 📚 😃

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Cinfhen
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Pickpick

Wow!! This was truly fascinating, the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). This NF account is a richly detailed chronicling of the decades long process of gathering, defining and verifying the origins of the English language & the two men who greatly contributed to its creation. It‘s a short read but very compelling & an interesting look at life in Victorian London, especially for those living with mental illness. Enjoyable.

squirrelbrain Great review - stacked! 4mo
82 likes4 stack adds1 comment
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Cinfhen
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Anyone else feel like sharing their #SaturdayStack #PileOfPossibilities ….I think I‘m going with the tagged book! I‘ve read the first chapter and I‘m hooked🤓

TrishB Great possibilities! 4mo
squirrelbrain Say Nothing is great…that‘s the only one I‘ve read. 4mo
See All 16 Comments
BarbaraBB Oh wow, I don‘t know any of them 4mo
Megabooks Say Nothing was excellent. Tightrope was decent. 4mo
Megabooks You‘re in a nonfiction mood! 4mo
jenniferw88 I've got your tagged on my #tbr! 4mo
ChaoticMissAdventures The Professor and the mad man is fantastic, I had never heard anything about how the first dictionary was made before it came out and I was blown away. Say Nothing was one of my favorite books a couple of years ago, it goes deep and Radden Keefe has become 1 of my favorite authors. 4mo
Cinfhen Agreed @ChaoticMissAdventures it‘s fascinating!! I think you‘re gonna love it @jenniferw88 !!!!! 4mo
Cinfhen I didn‘t realize they were all NF @Megabooks 🤪 I had started Say Nothing on audio awhile back but I was having trouble following all the threads @squirrelbrain so I‘m excited to try again in print!! I loved his other book 4mo
Cinfhen I picked up TightRope first @Megabooks but I think im ready to donate it to my LFL - it‘s been on my shelf too long and my charity shop bookstore doesn‘t take hardcovers unless they are new releases 4mo
Cinfhen I‘m trying to whittle down my TBR shelves @TrishB @BarbaraBB 😅 4mo
squirrelbrain I read Say Nothing recently Cindy, and also couldn‘t follow the audio. I wondered what everyone was raving about, until I tried it in print. 4mo
Megabooks Yeah, I read tightrope and donated it to the library sale on my last trip. 4mo
Cinfhen Yes, im sure it‘s going to be fantastic @squirrelbrain even though I LOVED his Irish accent, I literally couldn‘t understand half of what I was listening too!!! 4mo
Cinfhen It‘s one of those books that probably should have been a #BorrowNotBuy @Megabooks 4mo
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Pogue
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Pickpick

A good book a bit slow but very informative. Reading it made me appreciate being able to google.

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Lauram
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Mehso-so

I can‘t remember if this was my #bookspin or #doublespin for January. My book club selected this title sometime in the past year and I couldn‘t finish in time for the meeting because I found myself rereading the same sections. I listened to the audiobook at 1.5 and even though my attention still wandered, I still feel like I tuned into the important sections.

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tokorowilliamwallace

When conceived it was a project of almost unimaginable boldness and foolhardiness, requiring great bravura, risking great hubris. Yet there were men in Victorian England who were properly bold and foolhardy, who were more than up to the implicit risks: This was, after all, a time of great men, great vision, great achievement. Perhaps no time in modern history was more suited to the launching of a project of such grandiosity....

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tokorowilliamwallace

The lexicographer, Trench pointed out, was 'an historian...not a critic.'...'A Dictionary,' Trench said, 'is an historical monument, the history of a nation contemplated from one point of view, and the wrong ways into which a language has wandered...may be nearly as instructive as the right ones.'

lynneamch Haven't read this yet, but surprisingly thought the movie was good and added a layer of understanding to this one which was excellent. 7mo
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Lauram
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Settling into one of my favorite evening routines- Herbal tea, quiet house, and January‘s #bookspin.

55 likes1 stack add
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PaigeTurner
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Mehso-so

Just finished this well researched book for my AAUW book club. What a wild tale! It was definitely a bit of a slog at some points with the amount of detail and background. But definitely a fascinating story. I‘m really interested in the author and hope he writes an autobiography! Sounds like he‘s also led an incredible life. #history #nonfiction

tokorowilliamwallace Currently reading this! I love the little informational tidbits. Right up my Virgo alley, this is. 8mo
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tokorowilliamwallace

Page 92 on Samuel Johnson and the cries and iterative attempts at 'fixing' the common use of language. “And so the thinking of great literary men went---if longitude was important, if the defining of color, length, mass, and sound was vital---why was the same import not given to the national tongue?“

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BarbaraJean
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Pickpick

Oh, this was fascinating! I was impressed at how expertly Winchester wove together the story of the Oxford English Dictionary with the lives of two men who were central to its making: its primary editor and one of its main contributors. This was a delight for this word nerd to read: nerdy dictionary trivia, behind-the-dictionary-scenes stories, and a thoughtful exploration of how these two men‘s lives intersected.

BarbaraJean Also: it is a joy to me when I have just the perfect bookmark + book pairing. 😁 10mo
KCofKaysville I liked it a lot too! @BarbaraJean 10mo
BarbaraJean Oh! I forgot to mark this as my September #DoubleSpin! @TheAromaofBooks 10mo
TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!!! 10mo
49 likes3 stack adds4 comments
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BarbaraJean
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The English, who had raised eccentricity and poor organization to a high art, and placed the scatterbrain on a pedestal, loathed such Middle European things as rules, conventions, and dictatorships.

AlaMich This book is a favorite of mine. 10mo
32 likes1 comment
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BarbaraJean
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I do enjoy learning new words as I read… it‘s particularly appropriate that this is a book about the Oxford English Dictionary. 😁

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DivineDiana
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#TwoforTuesday

1. The Professor and the Madman- the beginnings of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary.
2. I think my current read would make a fantastic movie- The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.
@TheSpineView

Thank you for the tag @EadieB @Eggs !

EadieB You‘re welcome! Thanks for playing! I‘ll have to check out The Professor movie. Sounds interesting! 12mo
DivineDiana @EadieB It is a true story. Amazing! Starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn. 12mo
EadieB @DivineDiana Thanks for the information! 12mo
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Eggs Oh that movie sounds good 👌🏼 12mo
TheSpineView Thanks for playing! 😊📖💙📚📽 12mo
DivineDiana @TheSpineView My pleasure. 12mo
40 likes6 comments
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BookishMarginalia
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Revisiting this after reading the wonderful Dictionary of Lost Words

BkClubCare I recently saw the film and thought it quite good. It had been years since I read it and had forgotten that they were doing a movie. 1y
BookishMarginalia @BkClubCare I had no idea they made a movie! 1y
BkClubCare @BookishMarginalia - Sean Penn plays the Madman and Mel Gibson is Prof. I am one of those that usually likes movies based on books; husband and I both enjoyed it. 1y
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Dogearedcopy
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Mehso-so

I love and collect old print dictionaries, so I knew I was going to really get into the tagged book; but I think in the future, I‘ll stick w/print editions over audio. There‘s something a bit condescending & off-putting about the author‘s voice, though I know others love it. 🎧

📖📖Anyway, came away with a newfound appreciation for the OED. I have a 2-volume compact edition (pictured) but admittedly mostly use the online version these days!

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Dogearedcopy
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This book has been in and off my stacks for years but I‘m finally got around to it— this time in audio, narrated by the author.
The story is a double biography of the two men who were the most instrumental in creating the Oxford English Dictionary.
I always love the material the author chooses for his books, but I also always wonder why my enthusiasm gets tempered once I‘m “in it” 🤷🏻‍♀️

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AvidReader25
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Mehso-so

The nonfiction account of the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary & an insane murderer who contributed to the OED's creation. The first half was fascinating, but it began to lag around the middle. The murderer, a Civil War doctor, has a tragic story. I did love the info about the decades-long process of creating the dictionary. I had no idea it was such a complicated process & one that truly streamlined the English language for the first time.

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Mitch
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How could I not have read any of these! 🤣
The closest I‘ve come is the Mel Gibson movie of the tagged book (which was good !)

#nfn2020

Heideschrampf Could you please post the link, too? Now I wanna check whether Thursday Next has her rightfull place! 2y
Heideschrampf And she did NOT! List is bogus then... 2y
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Mitch @Heideschrampf 🤣👍🏼🤣 2y
Palimpsest Thanks for the link. I love books about books. Read 2 and The Club Dumas has been on my shelf forever. I also love and read a lot of non-fiction books about books. It‘s an addiction. ❤️ 2y
Clwojick I haven‘t read any of them either. 😜 (edited) 2y
Mitch @Clwojick I‘m in good company then! 2y
Hooked_on_books Disappointing yet somehow unsurprising that there‘s only one book by a woman on this list. But it was put together by a man, so there you go. 😑 2y
50 likes9 comments
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Milly_Bagle
Pickpick

Informative

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Mitch
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Settling in for a movie this afternoon- based on the tagged book ..... all about the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. #booktoscreen

Prairiegirl_reading I had no idea they made this into a movie! 2y
TracyReadsBooks A truly fascinating story. I had no idea there was a movie. I‘ll definitely have to take a look. (edited) 2y
Mitch @TracyReadsBooks @Prairiegirl_reading I really enjoyed it👍🏼 2y
69 likes3 comments
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BreakingRad1977
Pickpick

Very interesting on so many different levels. Very enjoyable.

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Gina
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Pickpick

I found this non fiction 1998 book fascinating. Has anyone else read it. Thoughts?

LiteraryinLawrence I started it several years ago but never finished it. 2y
KCofKaysville I liked it a lot too. Movie is too. Felt bad for the prisoner. 1y
Gina @KCofKaysville I felt the same way. Unfortunately in those days there was not much you could do for someone with paranoid schizophrenia 1y
15 likes1 stack add3 comments
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DrexEdit
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Another #abookandamovie pairing. I think I'm watching too many movies and not reading enough books this weekend! Lol! 😄

28 likes2 stack adds
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Tex2Flo
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#fallisbooked @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks @OriginalCyn620 #OctoberTBR
Two because of the season and two because they have been ALMOST for a couple of months.

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks I‘m curious about the Greenwood book! I wasn‘t a fan of 3y
OriginalCyn620 👌🏻😊📚❤️ 3y
Tex2Flo @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks I DID like Ugly and Wonderful, but have still been putting off this new one. I have to balance the heavy reads with some lighter ones. 3y
Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks @Tex2Flo I was in the #Unpopular opinion vote on that one 🤷🏼‍♀️ 3y
19 likes4 comments
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Well-ReadNeck
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Freespirit Good book🤗 3y
81 likes4 stack adds1 comment
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gallowbraids
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"Dog turds" was used to tan leather back in the day in London.

Learn something new everyday. ??

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gallowbraids
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Been wanting this book for the last few years, but the price for a copy was always a bit much. Couldn't find it on Book Outlet but I did on Thriftbooks via the app.

Great discounted books from Book Outlet, brand new books that mainky have faint blemishes or dents. Thriftbooks seems to be books from thrift stores as the copies all seem to be a bit old if not marked as "like new."

Super excited to read this finally!

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Vivlio_Gnosi
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Added this 250+ page #Nonfiction #biography / #autobiography #historical account of the English language and the Oxford #Dictionary to my #TBR stack.
#GreenvilleSC

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MsJPilkey
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This will be book one of my summer reading list. I can‘t wait to dive in, I‘ve heard such great things 📚🌊🏊🏻‍♀️

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gracemom
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Murder, insanity, and the OED?!?! The trifecta of wow!

2 likes1 stack add
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VinceReads
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Pickpick

Quite the interesting story about two of the men who worked on the OED.

4/5

JackOBotts Wasn‘t this fascinating?! 4y
50 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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VinceReads
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First book by Winchester, I‘ve heard great things.

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Librarybelle
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Who would have thought that the Oxford English Dictionary had such a colorful history? I liked this book! #50WordsForSnow #WinterWonderland

AlaMich Wasn‘t this an unpredictably interesting book? It‘s a hard one to recommend, though, because as soon as you say “it‘s about the creation of a dictionary,” the eyes glaze over. 😂 4y
Cinfhen It‘s on my TBR since my son recommended it to me!!! I hear it‘s excellent!!! Great choice 💙 4y
OrangeMooseReads This is an interesting book. 4y
See All 7 Comments
TrishB Great post 👍🏻 4y
Librarybelle @AlaMich I know! So many people are turned off about the subject matter, but it‘s so good! 4y
100 likes6 stack adds7 comments
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ravenlee
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I love language, languages, and all the weird little quirks (especially in English - what a discombobulated beast!). I homeschool my daughter, and it‘s such fun to share words with her. We recently learned “crepuscular,” is one of my favorites. We also studied Catal Huyuk (chatal hooyook) in history, and it‘s just fun to say. Another favorite quirk is false cognates - embarazar in Spanish means to become pregnant!

#LasagnaHogGiveaway @jmofo

ravenlee Thanks for the fun giveaway! And I hope you‘ll share the secret of LasagnaHog when the time is right. 4y
jmofo 👏💜YAY thanks for playing @ravenlee ! 4y
LibrarianRyan The vocabulary in is amazing. I have a pretty hog vocabulary and I have had to look up 2 words so far. It‘s been a really fun kids book so far. You might check it out. (edited) 4y
ravenlee @LibrarianRyan Thanks! This has been on my real-life TBR, but not on here. Glad to know it‘s good! 4y
20 likes1 stack add4 comments
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marginalia_misfit
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A word nerd's dream; a "truth is stranger than fiction" story: Including both serious historical research and journalistic dramatic intrigue, this is a history of the dictionary, but it is also a glimpse into some of the strangest corners of the social world. his glimpse is through the lives of two central figures: a self-educated scholar, and a delusional murderer.

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emwank25
Pickpick

Good

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TracyReadsBooks
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Pickpick

What a fascinating & wholly unexpected story. This is a book about precisely the sorts of people in history that often don‘t make it into books because they are minor actors in larger events/moments. Once a highly regarded surgeon, Dr. Minor was committed to Broadmoor after murdering a stranger. (He was undiagnosed but likely had schizophrenia.) While there he made an important & improbable contribution to the writing of the OED. Recommended.

17 likes1 stack add
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TracyReadsBooks
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The madman in this book, Dr. Minor, was referenced in the book I just finished (The Wicked Boy)! Apparently, he and the subject of that book, Robert Coombes (committed after being found guilt but insane in the murder of his mother) where in Broadmoor at the same time. So, this is my next grab-n-go book. Fascinating when it‘s such a small world in the books you‘re reading, right?!? Love it.

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TracyReadsBooks
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I hope everyone had a fantastic day! Mother‘s Day started with a pancake breakfast (yum). Then, on the way to see Avengers (so much Benedict Cumberbatch which was super fantastic), we made a brief detour to one of our local Indy favorites where I browsed the sale aisle. This is my #bookhaul—5 fiction & 3 nonfiction. The tagged book is a true story about a friendship between the editor of the OED & a ‘madman‘ locked up in Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum.

mrozzz Great haul! Looks like you enjoyed your day ☺️ 4y
ElishaLovesBooks Woohoo! The tagged book is good! I enjoyed it! Happy Mother‘s Day!!🌸🌸 4y
22 likes2 comments
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annalibris
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Pickpick

I love listening to non-fiction in the car, and this was a great one for my daily commute. Interesting and sensational, sympathetic and informational, and really well researched. The author happens to be a good narrator, too, which isn‘t always the case.

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JessNevertheless
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Pickpick

Never thought I would be so engrossed in this book about the making of the Oxford Dictionary. Fascinating and surprising, I‘d definitely recommend this as a quick nonfiction read (or listen).

47 likes4 stack adds
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BridgetteM
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Starting this audiobook today! It‘ll fit nicely into the microhistory category for the #popsugar18 reading challenge.

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MallenNC
Pickpick

I have had this book on my shelf in hard copy forever, but I finally listened to the audiobook instead. I had no idea the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary took so long, and was such an elaborate process. That was very interesting, and the "madman's" involvement made it more so. Dr. Miner's story is a sad one to read, but it was gave a good look at what treatment for mental illnesses was like in this era.

AlaMich I loved this book!! When I made the mistake of telling one or two non-bookish people about it, their eyes started to glaze over. 😂 4y
MallenNC @AlaMich I bet! On the surface it doesn't sound that thrilling. 4y
29 likes2 comments
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RachLovesTV
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My book club met today to discuss this one, the last of our current round, and to pick books for our next round! It was cool to see all the word definitions at the start of each chapter, since I listened to the audio version and it was harder to absorb those parts.

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prowlix
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My newest #audiobook and I‘m finding it fascinating! The history of the Oxford English Dictionary 🤯. The author is the narrator which is also surprisingly well matched. You can really hear his love for this topic

Tjackson 💚💚💚💚💚 reading it! 4y
35 likes1 comment
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RachLovesTV
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Mehso-so

Interesting, but ultimately frustrating. Minor's story highlights how incredibly privileged he was as a rich, white man from an affluent family. The excellent work and intense focus Minor put into the dictionary project was a productive use of his confinement, but I'm left wondering about all the people who weren't cared for quite so carefully, who were abandoned because their mental illness had become a bother (or injurious) to others.

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Jbakesmcgee3
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Not upset

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Jbakesmcgee3
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Can‘t wait to dive into this one!

drokka It's such an interesting story, and to think it's how the modern dictionary was established. 5y
Jbakesmcgee3 @drokka so far it is wildly interesting!!! 5y
17 likes2 comments