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October 22, 2014

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21,730 Pages to Go

slj081201cc shea 21,730 Pages to GoReading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (Penguin, 2008).

Ammon Shea has been reading dictionaries for the past decade or so. He acknowledges owning about a thousand of them, along with assorted thesauri, lexicons, and glossaries (in a New York City apartment, no less). So, how does this avid word lover and collector feed his insatiable curiosity? Well, one project Shea tackled was the 20-volume, Second Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, reading it cover to coverfrom “a” to “zyzzogeton” (a large South American leaf hopper)over the course of a year. You might wonder about the wisdom (oh, the eye strain) or the
logic of such an enterprise, until you delve into his disarming and genuinely entertaining account of his efforts.

In a mere 225 pages, readers of every stripe are treated to a wide ranging and dazzling array of words and commentary. Shea notes in his introduction, “I have read the OED so that you don’t have to.” The author shares dozens of exquisite gems, as well as some outlandish finds and oddities, and comments on how the experience informed him as a reader. This engaging volume will capture the attention and soul of language lovers everywhere, and engender their gratitude.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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