Book review – The Editor’s Companion


Dec 2014 3You might think that I get enough editing and thinking about words in my day job as an editor, proofreader, transcriber and localiser, but in fact I’m always up for a good and interesting book on topics around editing, small businesses, language, words, etc. So reading this book on the business of editing was certainly not a chore and I learned something from it, too!

Steve Dunham – “The Editor’s Companion”

I understand this useful book to be intended as a guide for new editors or people who are assigned editing work in their organisation but might not have a full understanding of what this involves.

It helpfully defines and is then divided into chapters on editing for content, focus, precise language and grammar, with a section on typography and layout which will be very useful for proofreaders and a good section on editorial relationships. There’s a chapter titled “A Few Tips” which looks at some commonly misused words, homophones, etc., although this is a larger subject than can be treated in a short chapter.

A chapter on “The Editor’s Tools” includes a very useful checklist for editors, and points out the use of keeping a list of incorrect but “real” words, which Dunham charmingly calls his “Bad Words list” (asses, theses, form, etc.) to run a final search on. These are good, real-world and applicable tools which I’ve not seen in other books of this kind.

Dunham’s background is in working as an in-house editor, so there’s not much in the book about freelancing, although most of the general information in the book can be applied to freelancers and those who work on contract for publishers, for example. His general principles are very sound: here are two of them

If you have something worth saying, then care about communicating it (p. 17)

If you need to read something twice to understand it, then it needs editing (p. 58)

We can all learn something from even the most basic of guides, and I certainly picked up some pointers in this book. I usually work in Word with style suggestions turned off, so I didn’t know that you could set Word to pick up gender-specific terms in your document, which could be very useful (I’m planning to blog about this with screen shots soon!). I also found a good explanation of why you don’t hyphenate words ending in -ly (the hyphen shows you which words are connected, e.g. “best-known artist” (best known) vs. “best known artist” (best artist); a -ly word can only link to the verb, e.g. “barely known artist” (barely artist doesn’t work)).

It’s worth noting that the book and its author are American – this is certainly not a deal-breaker, but should be kept in mind when reading the sections on language use and also on style guides. For example, it mentions the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press Stylebook but not Oxford style. But mentioning style guides at all and pointing to their existence means the UK reader will soon work out which guides they should be using when dealing with UK content, and it’s useful for those who work with US English, too (I can’t be the only person to have a shelf of UK and US style guides).

All of the examples of errors and their editing are drawn from real life, including the author’s leisure reading on occasion, and this intensifies towards the end of the book which features “Ones That Got Away”. I tend to feel a little uncomfortable about criticisms of “bloopers”, but I appreciate that this is informed by my client base, which includes many non-native speakers and people who have issues with their production of English: the examples here are apparently all drawn from texts which should have been edited properly in the first place, and the tone is not particularly snarky. I can see the value of using real examples, especially for newer editors who may not be sure what to look out for; the problems are explained in detail and the solutions presented. Non-specialists will find something to amuse here, too.

Overall, it’s a practical and useful book for those considering a career in or newly in an editorial position or, indeed, for giving to people who wonder loud and often about what we actually do all day in this editing job.

This book is published in January 2015 in the UK and is out now in the US – here’s the page for it and the page and you can also visit Steve’s website for more information.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher after being contacted by the author. My work is quoted in the book and appears in the reference list and index. I did not allow this to influence my view of the book (I hope!).

Book reviews – The Bookshop Book and Youth and the Bright Medusa (plus Christmas comes early!)


December To Be ReadWhat HAVE I been doing? It’s 16 December and this is the first book review I’ve posted this month? I’ve looked around and I really can’t find that I’ve missed out reviewing some huge book that I’ve read. Oh dear! And my TBR has burst (more on that later) so I’ve really got to find the time for MORE READING! I am reading a book on editing to review, so there’ll be a standalone review later on in the week, and I have also been writing up my Iris Murdoch research, which has gone out for comments to my lovely mentors and will be going off to my reading groups once I’ve made a few amendments – that took a couple of evenings. Anyway, here are two book reviews that are both related to booky events.

Jen Campbell – “The Bookshop Book”

(Borrowed from Ali)

This book was the Books Are My Bag book this month – you can read more about this and this book on Heaven-Ali’s blog and it was she who loaned me this lovely book to read (don’t worry: I’ve got her back with a lend of a little pile myself!).

This is a delightful wander though the bookshops of the world, celebrating the shops (whether selling new, second-hand or a mix of books), their owners, customer and pets, with interviews with writers about their favourite bookshops and pages of little snippets and facts. It’s really nicely done by someone who clearly has a huge love for bookshops, and some of the stories about pairing customers and books are very affecting.

It was great to see some bookshops that I know in the mix, and good to be reminded of the excellent second-hand bookshop in Reykjavik which I haven’t explored properly (yet). Bookshops do come and go, so it couldn’t be used as an actual guidebook for very long, but it’s a lovely book to dip into, with a gallimauphry of images and impressions of book shops and their owners.

We don’t have an independent bookshop in Birmingham, but I would mention the excellent arts bookshop in the Ikon Gallery. Other favourites of mine are Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, the Penrith Bookshop in the north of the Lake District, Fireside Books in Windermere (which is moving to East Sussex), Halls in Tunbridge Wells (which I think is still there) and the marvellous High Street Books in New Mills.

Willa Cather – “Youth and the Bright Medusa”

(Kindle book – downloaded in December)

7-14 December was Willa Cather Reading Week, and again inspired by Ali, I downloaded this book of short stories, reasoning that even if I only read one out of the collection, I’d still be taking part in the Reading Week (and read more about that here and the round-up here). I did actually manage to read the whole collection by the end of Sunday (but didn’t get round to writing this review).

I’ve read several of Cather’s  novels over the last decade and greatly enjoyed their construction and atmosphere, although these have tended to be her pioneer novels (with the exception of Alexander’s Bridge, which was partly set in London). Here’s a link to all of the reviews I’ve done so far – some early ones laughably wispy! These stories mostly address Cather’s other main strand of interest: the artist and their psychology, with “Coming, Aphrodite!”, the longest and first story, examining both a painter and a singer and their startlingly modern relationship. “The Diamond Mine” goes into the demands placed upon the goose that lays the golden egg, narrated by that marvellous type, the quiet sidekick who’s seemingly there for every event while not taking part in the action themselves. “A Gold Slipper” throws the artist up against the implacable but strangely erodable dislike of Industry. “Paul’s Case” takes a different direction and is a fascinating and hugely atmospheric piece about a boy whose only desire is to grab a bit of sophistication and luxury for himself; I really don’t know how Cather manages to foreshadow the rather grim ending so that it is entirely expected, but a shock all the same, but she does, and she does it well. “A Death in the Desert” is a superb exploration of identity, art, personality and family.

These are very good stories, old-fashioned in a good way (I’m one for a short story that tells a proper story) and reminiscent of Edith Wharton’s stories, or even Thomas Hardy’s. I love the way she describes people’s faces and clothes, and the unexpected details of a room in a shabby house or the birds in Washington Square. I have downloaded “The Song of the Lark”, which takes her heroine from the frontier town to a singing career, and will definitely get to that one soon.


Dec 2014 2Christmas started this year with the BookCrossing Christmas party, with its attendant Not So Secret Santa parcels flying around the table. I was thrilled to open the parcels containing these four lovelies, all from my wish list (some wished for aaages ago), as well as a lovely ornament, some chocolate and a Lush Christmas Pud bath bomb. Lucky me! I’m in another two Secret Santas this year – my LibraryThing Virago Group one has arrived and I can tell there are two books in there but I’m not opening it until Christmas Day, and I’m thinking the Project 365 Photo-A-Day one (not yet arrived) might NOT contain books, although you never know (and I will admit to sending my Santee a book …) I also have a little pile of grey-wrapped, grey books which I bought for myself from other people on my trip to the Persephone Bookshop in November – so that’s my own fault, isn’t it. There are two Dorothy Whipples in there, so what’s the betting I promote one up my TBR pile and get into it between Christmas and New Year.

Dec 2014 3I’m currently reading this book on editing which was kindly sent to me by the publisher. I’m quoted in the book and appear in the index, which is quite exciting (but won’t influence my review, I promise). On reviews, I’ve sent off my piece on James Evans’ “Merchant Adventurers” to the folks at Shiny New Books and will point you to the review when it’s out in January.

Claire visitsOne more thing – I had a lovely afternoon with Claire from the LibraryThing Virago Group, up in Birmingham for a training day, on Sunday. We had two cuppas, looked round town and peered at the Library of Birmingham, and had a nice meal with Matthew at Woktastic. Here’s a photo for all those LibraryThingers who wanted to see one!

Have you received any book-shaped parcels yet? Are you getting any reading in among the tree decorating and card writing (if you celebrate Christmas) or are you planning a reading fest between Christmas and the New Year?

My year in first lines


December To Be ReadI have taken the inspiration for this idea from Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book and Fleur In Her World (both posts explain where they get it from and I’m sure I’ve seen it on other people’s blogs, too, but these were the ones that triggered me doing it). The idea itself? Take the first line from your first post in each month, and see what that tells you about your blogging life. Well, my usual first post of the month is my State of the TBR one, so I’m not sure how illuminating this will be, so I might cheat and pick the first line from the first review I’ve posted each month instead …

January 2014

“Well, it’s that time again – my friend Ali and I decided to have a month of re-reading every six months or so, to revisit those books we’ve loved and kept, but not got round to re-reading because of the huge, tottering To Be Read mountain.” (from A month of re-reading in January – my selection)

February 2014

“For once I’m doing a singleton review, not really for any reason other than the fact that I’ve got two pairs of Viragoes and two non-fiction books coming up, and this one really belongs to the Month of Re-Reading.” (from Book reviews – Jude the Obscure)

March 2014

“Well, I am pleased to say that I have made inroads into the terrible State of the TBR at the beginning of February – hopefully you can see from the picture that the blue book about two-thirds of the way along the shelf is the end of the front shelf.” (from State of the TBR – March 2014)

April 2014

“Here’s the TBR on 1 April and no, that’s not an April Fool and it’s looking quite good, isn’t it.” (from State of the TBR – April 2014)

May 2014

“Well, here’s my TBR looming out of the gloom: it’s not that “good” in terms of numbers, is it, but it is full of great books.” (from State of the TBR – May 2014)

June 2014

“So, here is the TBR shelf and it’s not actually looking that bad, is it! I’ve got quite a lot read, although I have removed some, too (sorry again, EJ Howard!) – and the reviews are stacking up waiting to be posted on here, as I’ve had a very busy couple of working weeks and got all behind with my reviewing (but not my reading!).” (from State of the TBR – June 2014)

July 2014

“Well, I have to say, the TBR is not looking too bad at all, is it?” (From State of the TBR – July 2014)

August 2014

“Just a quick post today because all my patient Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts were bombarded with stuff about my business, Libro’s, fifth birthday and my new website I’ve set up for the books I’ve written (did I mention I’ve written some books?).” (From State of the TBR – August 2014)

September 2014

“OK, so here is the full TBR as of 1 September 2014. Please note that there are no books in front, that’s just one shelf from left to … well, towards the right.” (From State of the TBR – September 2014)

October 2014

“Oops. I knew the wonders of the September TBR weren’t going to last – have a look at the Book Confessions category to see how this has come to pass!” (From State of the TBR – October 2014)

November 2014

“Well, here’s the TBR, and that’s not doing too badly, is it?” (From State of the TBR – November 2014)

December 2014

“Hello! It’s the first of December and time to report on the state of my TBR.” (From State of the TBR, a book confession mystery and why I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoyed that little excursion into the ups and downs of my TBR and my obvious need for reassurance from my readership that “it’s not too bad, is it?”! You can see it waxing and waning (and there are pictures on all the linked posts if you’re so inclined). I have never done this before, but I am going to extend it over to my usual round-up post on my Libroediting blog (last year’s example here) where I share the rankings for the most popular posts on the blog for the year)


A book confession and a bit of excitement!


December 2014 1Regular readers might recall me claiming not to be acquiring any new books during this season of Christmas, not so secret Santa schemes and upcoming birthday. Well, unfortunately, this appears to have happened … what am I talking about? It’s fortunate – it’s lovely!

First off, one I forgot to include in November as it got itself into a pile of handbags – my good friend known in this household as Editor Laura (to distinguish her from the other 1,000 Lauras I know) visited us at the weekend with her other half, and kindly gave me “Unbridled Spirits”, which is a book about women of the English Revolution and looks fascinating. Then I was in The Works yesterday, picking up bits and bobs, and I found a copy of “Mr Selfridge”, which patently Doesn’t Count because I did have a copy I’d picked up in a second-hand shop, but it was really manky with odd stains and I ended up … discarding it. I did want to read it, though, and now I can. And then a biography of Dolly Parton. I’m kind of assuming that none of my friends or secret santas will be buying me a book on Dolly Parton for Christmas. But I love her, I have done for years, and was reminded of this only the other day while watching a TV programme about Nashville. So, Dolly’s on the TBR shelf.

And the exciting thing? Well, only last Monday I was talking about how I was glad I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo but I was going to carry on working on my Iris Murdoch research anyway. I had a free evening tonight and I sat down and FINISHED writing up an extended version of the presentation on book groups reading “The Bell” which I gave at the Iris Murdoch Society conference in September. It’s with my mentors now for a read-through, and with any luck it’ll be going out to my book group leaders and other interested parties before the end of the month. Hooray! And thank you to everyone who’s supported and encouraged me through that.

I also worked on my longer piece, which will look at both aspects of the research I have done and pull it all together with a bit of theory and discussion. Who knows *what* that is going to turn into, as it’s an awkward 18,000 words long at the moment, but this piece will feed into it and we’ll see what happens then. But I have Research Output, and it feels like a good milestone. Night night! (or good morning if you’re reading this tomorrow!)

State of the TBR, a book confession mystery and why I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo


December To Be ReadHello! It’s the first of December and time to report on the state of my TBR. I also have some book confessions, a MYSTERY and a note about NaNoWriMo, so we’ve got a lot to get through this month. Let’s get started …

Well, the TBR is not looking bad (confession – I added two books to the end of the shelf after I took this pic. BUT they slotted in the gap at the end, so it’s still only one shelf long.

Oct 2014 1Yes, that’s right – only one shelf long still. I’ve been carefully Not Buying Books because it’s Christmas (and Not So Secret) season – I’m in three Not So Secret Santa schemes this year, two booky, one not specifically booky, plus I have a lot of booky friends, so I’ve had to be good just in case duplicates ensued. See below for a slight slip off the non-buying wagon, but I have done OK with that on the whole. I did acquire one Persephone during November,  but I was in charge of the Big Persephone Trip this year, so I just made sure I didn’t buy it for myself from anyone!

Dec 2014 next to readI currently have “Merchant Adventurers” on the go – I’ve just got them sailing off in their three new ships to find the North-East Passage. I’m reading this for the Shiny New Books Newsletter, coming out in the new year, so I’ll point you towards the review when it’s out.

Coming up next, I’ve got a lovely book, “The Bookshop Book”, which my friend Ali has kindly loaned me – I suspect I’ll be buying copies for a few people in the near future. I loaned Ali “The Constant Nymph” for a Margaret Kennedy reading week but fancy re-reading it myself, so that might slot into this month or maybe my January of re-reading.

Book Confessions, including a Mystery

November 2014 3My friend Laura came to visit with her other half at the weekend. We’d promised them the delights of Kings Heath’s charity shops and had a good old rummage. I was mainly shopping for my two booky Not So Secret Santa gifts, but I couldn’t resist these two. I’m not sure anyone else is going to spring on Tony Benn’s diaries for me in the next couple of months – in fact we ran into the person who would be most likely to do that on the day, so I carefully showed it to her. And “Estates” is a book I have on my Kindle, so a weird buying of the print version of something I have electronically, but more importantly, it’s not on my wish list!

November 2014 2Now to the mystery. I found this copy of Iris Murdoch’s “Henry and Cato” in one charity shop. That pic is to show the spine colour, as there has been some confusion over whether it’s a first edition – one known first I’ve seen pictured has a yellow spine where mine is red, but I can’t see from their pic if it’s faded.

November 2014 2aThis one has the known first edition cover, and the back of the title page seems to suggest that it is one, so I’m going to put it on my small shelf of firsts. Oh, and also, in case anyone’s wondering, I’ve already popped back to the charity shop and give them an extra donation, because it’s worth more than I paid for it and that seems fair.

November 2014 2bBut here’s the mystery – on the title page, it has this round sticker that reads “Presented by Britain” with a crest.

It’s really hard to Google that, or the book title and presented by Britain. So I’m hoping a blog reader might know what this signifies! Do comment if you know or can point me to a resource.

On losing NaNoWriMo

So, finally, congratulations to my readers who wrote their 50,000 words in November and “won” NaNoWriMo. Hooray! I’m so pleased for you – it’s a big commitment and achievement. I started doing NaNoWriMo, convinced that I was going to write up my Iris Murdoch research. I’ve been working on this for years, first reporting at the Iris Murdoch Society Conference in 2012 on my scheme to read all of her novels with a group of friends, then getting 24 book groups to read “The Bell” and answer a questionnaire on various aspects including what they knew of Murdoch and whether they thought “The Bell” was a good book group read.

I was planning to write up A Book of some sort. I’d considered the possibility of registering for a PhD, but I know only too well what that entails, and it didn’t work with my life. I am used to writing and I’m OK with self-publishing, although I had had a very, very, very preliminary chat with a publisher about submitting a synopsis etc. I started off, put all of the text I had already in place, zeroed my word count and started adding words.

A few days in and it became patently, blindingly obvious that I do not have the ability to understand, synthesise and apply literary theory to my work. And to produce a work that’s academically relevant, I would need to. Oh dear. Tears ensued. Discussions ensued. Lovely people offered their kind help.

But when it comes down to it, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to write up my research in a much shorter form (and yes, patient book group members, I will produce something by the end of the year (this year: 2014) reporting on my work with you). I’ll add the chronological read to the book group research, fill in the background, draw conclusions and include a tiny bit of theoretical background. It won’t be a PhD, it won’t be a full-length book, it won’t be publishable by a publishing house, but I’ll probably make it available electronically. My hard work will be recorded and I will have produced something, just not what I thought I was going to produce.

I’m glad I started NaNoWriMo because I found out what was going to happen to my research a lot sooner than I would have otherwise. So I’m glad I “lost” NaNoWriMo!


Whew, a long post – did you make it to the end? Any thoughts on any of this will be eagerly read, and I hope you all have a lovely December reading time!


Book Reviews – The Hotel and Underground to Everywhere


November 2014 books to readTwo disparate books again, although they’re both about places you go (a hotel, on the Tube, maybe??). Both of them are to do with occasions, too, as “Underground to Everywhere” was a LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa book from my friend Verity (yes, I know I skipped ahead of it in my reading order, but it was one I had to read in the house rather than out and about, as it’s a large hardback) and “The Hotel” was borrowed from my friend Ali, who took part in an Elizabeth Bowen Reading Week in a Facebook Group we both belong to (Undervalued Mid-20th Century British Women Writers)  – her review is here and I came a little late to the party, as I didn’t have a copy of my own. And I enjoyed both of them, so there’s a win!

Elizabeth Bowen – “The Hotel”

(borrowed from Ali, November 2014)

I think Bowen might be better known for her novels about Ireland, and I certainly haven’t read her for a long while (she doesn’t appear in this blog apart from being mentioned as having a short story in a collection I read back in 2005), so I wasn’t sure what to expect, apart from having an idea that she might be a bit mannered and distant, like Elizabeth Taylor, maybe. In fact, this novel about English expats in a 1920s hotel abroad does have a slightly detached and Tayloresque air about it, although the shifting perspectives and zooms in and out make it sometimes feel like a more modernist and experimental novel.

The book starts and finishes with the slightly touchy, difficult and very mid-century women writers-y relationship between two middle-aged, single women who seem to live permanently in the hotel and have a deep but somewhat troubled friendship. In between, we visit various types, from the groups of raucous girls to the professionally difficult Sydney, who has another odd relationship with an older woman, this time, Mrs Kerr. When Mrs Kerr’s son makes his intention to visit known, everyone perks up, but we also have a Church of England chappy who makes a bit of a blundering mess of things, and the stage is set for gossip over the bridge table, arch looks, stolen kisses and all sorts, all seen through a shifting lens of various characters’ eyes.

It does come across as slightly a cold book, although I don’t mind that. You can kind of see the mind of the author moving the characters around and forcing them into confrontations with each other, exploring what love and marriage mean. It’s not a quick read, for all it’s a slender book: for one thing, the type is quite small, and for another, the sentences can get a bit complex (there are also a couple of typos, one of which threw me for a moment as it changes someone’s gender). There’s an air of menace which never quite gets resolved, and a feeling that the author is at the hotel, or has been at a similar one, coolly observing.

PS Hooray – I just checked and this fills in another year in my Century of Reading, without trying at all!

Stephen Halliday – “Underground to Everywhere”

(25 December 2013, from Verity)

I have read quite a few books on the Underground recently, and I started to worry a little when I started this book and got the same story of the Metropolitan Line, Yerkes’ plans for the Tube, the fights between rival companies over the Circle Line and all that stuff. But never before have I been informed that Yerkes rhymes with turkeys, and it’s in its description of the war and inter-war years that this book really comes into its own, really picking up on the idea given in the subtitle that it’s about “London’s Underground railway in the life of the capital”. We learn lots of fascinating information alongside good illustrations and informative maps; for example about the methods they had for blocking off the sub-Thames tunnels in the event of a bomb striking the river and the use of stubs of tunnels for war work.

I need to mention that Iris Murdoch’s novel “A Word Child” is mentioned in a box on p. 88, with reference to the bars that used to be open on the underground. Such little touches add a lot to the book, and, although it tails off a bit into committees and a small rant about under-investment, it’s a useful addition to the literature on the history of the tube, with much to recommend it.


I don’t feel that I’ve read much this month; I’m not sure what’s happened really, although I was working on writing up my Iris Murdoch research at the beginning of the month in a failed attempt at doing Nanowrimo that I will blog about elsewhere in the fullness of time, but I haven’t acquired many books this month, either, so the TBR is still holding at a shelf and only a shelf. I’ll be getting on with the book I’m reviewing for Shiny New Books tomorrow, and I’m having a go around the charity shops to pick up some Secret Santa gifts tomorrow, too – the struggle there will be to resist temptation on my own behalf!

I’m also looking forward to starting to re-read “The Forsyte Saga” along with a non-blogging friend and some other book bloggers, and starting to look at the Anthony Trollopes (I have them on e-book, but should I repurchase the print books, which I carefully deaccessioned a while back to save on shelf space?). I’m also going to have a month of re-reading in January, as I’ve been noticing reviews of lots of books I’ve read and loved on other people’s blogs, and am itching to make a lovely pile to wallow in!

What are you reading as the winter closes in? Are you thinking of next year’s reading challenges or taking it as it comes?

Book reviews – Learner English and The Horologicon


November 2014 books to readAfter last time’s totally disconnected books, today I have two that are all about words and language. Hooray! One’s an e-book and one’s a paper book, and I have no record at all about when I bought either of them, although I’m pretty sure that both date back to 2013 [update: I went on to Amazon to check the date of publication and discovered that Amazon has recorded when I bought it – hooray again!]. I work with words all day and I love thinking about and reading about them, too, so this has been a lovely bit of reading for me.

Michael Swan & Bernard Smith (eds.) – “Learner English”

(Bought 2013)

This is a reference book all about how people’s first language affects their production of English – spoken and written. It takes a language or group of languages (so, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian languages, West African languages) and goes through the ways in which the structure, grammar, pronunciation, gender division etc. in that language affects the speaker’s learning of English. Some languages are similar to ours, some seem to be similar but aren’t, and some are extremely dissimilar – if you want to understand what this book is about, you just have to think about how we native English speakers can grasp a lot of French because the structures and vocabulary are quite similar, but struggle to remember which gender particular words are supposed to have (because we don’t gender our nouns and French does), or with pronouncing the French ‘r’ sound (because we don’t have that sound in our language) or with the different endings to verbs (because we don’t tend to change verbs by speaker so much), or have trouble with Russian and Greek because we have to master new alphabets as well as words, or Arabic, because it has a different alphabet that reads right to left.

The book is pretty comprehensive – it doesn’t cover all languages, unfortunately missing out Icelandic (which is a Scandinavian language but isn’t mentioned in that section) and Finnish (however, most Finns I have met speak and write almost perfect English, and this is primarily a book designed to help English language teachers to deal with the common problems experienced by language learners). Although each chapter is written by a different set of experts, the structure and the areas dealt with remain broadly the same, all covering the same areas of grammar, for example, and most containing lists of those fascinating and annoying things, ‘false friends’ (where a word that sounds the same in two languages means something different in each, for example ‘actuel’ and variants meaning ‘at that time’ rather than ‘actual’ in the “Actually, I’m going to the cinema, not the theatre” kind of sense).

I got an awful lot out of this book, although I appreciate it wouldn’t be everyone’s fun-filled bedtime reading. I specialise in working with non-native speakers, so read a lot of texts created or translated by people whose English isn’t their first language, and I have long noticed the similarities between the English produced by my sets of Arabic, French, Chinese etc., speaking clients: now I can see exactly why they write in the way that they do, and how the structures of their languages affect the way in which they produce English. Fascinating stuff!

This completes the 1987 entry for my Century of Reading!

Mark Forsyth – “The Horologicon”

(E-book, bought 5 Jan 2013)

This book is based on an interesting concept: it looks at lost and interesting words in the English language, taking as its structural basis the hours of the day and night, so words about having trouble getting up in the morning, staying in bed, being warm under your duvet and getting dressed are grouped together into a narrative, while there’s a later section on lunch, office lunches, etc. and one on love lives in the evening section. This makes the material even more lively and interesting than it already is, and is an effective way to navigate the book, too. It’s written in a lively, amusing and accessible style with a great deal of dry wit and very funny asides. I’d read these words in a list, but the structure and themes serve to enhance rather than confine the writer’s style and subject.

I have to admit to knowing some of the words in this book already, but then I would suspect that most people reading it would find the little thrill of “Oh, I knew that, ” which is engendered when you come across one that you recognise. A good read and I would actually go back and look up the word for this and that, as the author suggests (he warns against reading it cover to cover, but I found that fine – however, I’m the kind of person who reads the book reviewed above from cover to cover, too, so it might be more of a dipping-in book for other people.


No acquisitions recently, as it’s present-buying season – unless you count a copy of a book I can’t mention because it’s on the wishlist of one of my Secret Santa giftees which arrived damaged in the post (yes, the vendor refunded me immediately, but sending a hardback book out in a thin plastic envelope doesn’t seem the best idea in the world – it arrived with a puncture through the wrapping and through the SPINE of the poor book, and I can’t give it as a gift now!). I’m currently reading “Underground to Everywhere, which is a lovely history of the London Underground within its context of London, and pondering what paperback to start next.

What are you reading? Do you like reading books to do with your job, or would you rather leave that at the end of the day?

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