Nonfiction November – Pair ‘Em Up!

Nonfiction-November-2018It’s week two already, holy cow! My month has gotten off to an academic start – I chose three books with a more serious bent, which may not have been the best choice!  I’m still making progress though, so that’s good.

This week’s prompt is to come up with a fiction/non-fiction book pairing.  This year I’m going with a pairing that I haven’t read yet but am excited to get to, especially if I can get my husband to buddy read the fiction book with me. So let’s get ready to dive into the exciting world of… dictionaries!

The Great Passage by Shion Miura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

33291314Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics.

Led by his new mentor Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

I tried this one in Japanese but, ironically, I had to look up a few too many words for it to be enjoyable. 😅 I now have the English translation and look forward to reading it that way.  Afterwards I plan to dig into:

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

30781490While most of us might take dictionaries for granted, the process of writing them is in fact as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography–from the agonizing decisions about what and how to define, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define, how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. Throughout, Stamper brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a world inhabited by quirky, erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate.

The only bad thing about this pairing is I can’t think of a third book to follow it up with!

What kind of start has your Nonfiction November gotten off to? Any standout reads so far?

36 thoughts on “Nonfiction November – Pair ‘Em Up!

  1. Susie | Novel Visits

    My Nonfiction November is seeing my TBR list grow at a rapid rate. That’s both good and bad.

    Dictionaries seems like an odd topic for a book, but you’ve found two and I’ve read a couple of terrific review of Word by Word. Enjoy!

    1. The simultaneous joy and dread of a growing TBR is so real! I’m hoping that the dictionary books are delightfully quirky, but we’ll see. 🙂

    1. I know, right? I’ve seen plenty of books about grammar and choosing the right word when you’re writing, but not so many about the dictionaries themselves.

  2. Michael

    Word by Word seems promising! Thanks for the introduction to it. I’m coming across more interesting nonfiction books than I can possibly read this month, but there’s always next year.

    1. I would never want to put my TBR on a diet, but even if I did November is the wrong month for it. Thank goodness recommendations don’t spoil or turn moldy in the fridge! 😉

    1. That sounds wonderful – instant access anywhere! I still remember the huge dictionary on a stand in my high school library and how satisfying it was to know that no matter the word, it HAD to be in there, hehe.

  3. buriedinprint

    I love this pairing! A third that I can imagine would nestle in nicely is Xiaolu Guo’s A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for lovers, which is actually a novel, but very much about learning to speak another language and making changes to not only language but expectations as you settle into a new culture and a new relationship.

  4. I love books about words and dictionaries & I think I have your third book – The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester –
    Also know as The Professor and the Madman,
    “masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history.”
    Adding the Japanese one to my own wishlist 🙂

    1. buriedinprint

      I was thinking about this one too: it’s also very enjoyable on audio (even though you might think you need to see the pages for the words and all those etymological details). Well, enjoyable for dictionary geeks like us!

    1. Ooo, I haven’t heard of The Lover’s Dictionary before – thanks for the recommendation! I’ve only heard Levithan’s name coupled with praise.

  5. You could pair these with Ammon Shea’s memoir, Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages. It’s about the year he spent reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary. I read this several years ago, loved it, and still think about it sometimes.

  6. What a fun pairing! I wouldn’t have guessed there was fiction to match this theme 🙂 If you’re looking for other books to go with these, I’d recommend The Word Exchange (dystopian fiction structured like a dictionary about the impact of tech on language); Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing (interesting and beautiful essays on language); or The Professor and the Madman (I’ve not read this book about creating the OED, but have liked others books by the author).

    1. All of these sound great, thank you for the recommendations! The World Exchange immediately made me perk up, I’m going to have to check that out.

  7. Pingback: Nonfiction November – New to My TBR | JulzReads

  8. Pingback: Nonfiction November – New to My TBR | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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