I’m going to start off by saying this is the complete opposite of books I usually read. I, for the most part, stay away from non-fiction. Not completely, but for my classroom and for pleasure, I’m much more drawn to fiction.
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester is a detailed look into the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, the dictionaries that came before it, the road to getting started, and the actual making of the most extensive dictionary of all time.
Sounds completely dry and boring, huh?
Well, some parts were.
For my undergrad, I took an etymology class which was all about the history of our language, the science of sounds and how our tongues make sounds and dialects. It was as exciting as it sounds. I barely got credit for the course with a C-, I just couldn’t care about it. Some parts of this book were like that. I felt like I was back in college, living in Hanna Village, and trying to focus on homework while watching Bridget Jones’ Diary for the millionth time.
But for the most part, this book was crazy. And intriguing and crazy.
The story centers on Professor James Murray, who led the OED project, and Dr. W. C. Minor, who submitted more than ten thousand entries for the massive assignment. Where things get interesting is that Minor did all his work while being committed to an insane asylum. And watching this brilliant, yet mad man work so diligently while going crazy is fasinating.
And the end, when he finally loses it is shocking. I still can’t believe what happened.
I would recommend The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. It’s a turn from my normal reading material and it definitely took me longer to get through it, but it was interesting and worth it. And not just because I’m an English teacher and I love words. It’s interesting from a historical standpoint, a medical standpoint, and because watching this train wreck happen is something you just can’t turn away from.
Have you read this one before? Have you ever heard of it? It was first published in 1999 so I’m a little late to this one.
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.