What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition By Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne: A MG Version of Great Book about Man’s Best Friend

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

by Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 325 pg.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019

Read: December 4-5, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Young Reader’s Edition of this book, was it going to be dumbed down? Was it going to be a soup-to-nuts rewrite of the book, telling the story in a cutsie fashion? Or . . . well, I don’t have a third idea, but you get my opinion. But what we got was the same book (as near as I can tell, it’s been 4+ years), just pared down—not dumbed-down or anything. But a lot of the detail has been removed, every chapter boiled down to its essence. Simplified, yes, more accessible for younger readers than the dense “adult” text, but it’s the same book at the end of the day.

After the end of the text, there’s a section directing the readers to some more information and a Young Readers Info section of Warren’s website.

As it’s so similar, I’m just going to use a lot of what I wrote back in 2015 to talk about the book, sorry for the re-run (I’ll focus on this edition in a few paragraphs).

Warren was a journalist, is now a professor, and knows her way around a sentence. She clearly cares about the subject and has invested a lot of time and effort into getting to know it, her style is engaging and charming (I was chuckling within a couple of pages), and she doesn’t mind showing her own failings and weaknesses.

Warren basically covers three topics: there’s the science and history of using working dogs (of all sorts of breeds, not to mention pigs(!), birds, and even cats) to find cadavers, drugs, bombs, etc.; there’s the memoir of her involvement with cadaver dogs via her German Shepherd, Solo; and anecdotes of other cadaver dogs and trainers that she’s encountered/learned from/watched in action.

The history and science of dogs/other animals being used for their sense of smell, is probably the most fascinating part of this book, but it’d be really easy for the material to be too dry to bother with—Warren’s voice keeps that from happening. I think it’s terrific that at the end of the day, no one knows what it is about the smell of the human body that dogs sense—she’ll explain it better than me, but that’s the kernel the story. I just really enjoy it when the best and the brightest have to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” The chapter she spends on the future of dogs and/or digital replacements is good for similar reasons. Actually, I could just keep listing little facts/factoids/ideas here, but I don’t want to steal Warren’s thunder.

The best part of the book—the part that I found most interesting, and most frustratingly small—is the Warren’s story about getting Solo, discovering he had just too much energy and personality, and needing to find an outlet for it all. Which is followed by the trials and tribulations of a newbie cadaver dog handler and her pup-in-training, growing into a capable working dog. Anyone who has a dog lover as a Facebook friend knows just how easy it is for someone’s stories about their dog to get to the point where you can’t stand to hear another*. Somehow, Warren avoids this totally—not an easy feat. It probably helps that dog does far more fascinating things than just hiking through the woods or chasing a ball.

* Of course, your friends don’t have dogs as cool as mine. Let me tell you a little bit about her . . .

The stories about the others—her friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.—round out the book. It’s not just about Warren and Solo, it’s not just about the military/police efforts with training animals—it’s about dedicated volunteers, K-9 officers and dogs all over the country (and the world) making a difference. In places and ways you wouldn’t expect. Really? Sending in one guy and his dogs into Vietnam decades later to search for POW/MIA? Also, seeing how different dogs act differently, yet get the same job done was mind-boggling. Especially for dogs trained together/by the same person, you’d think they’d act similarly.

I imagine it’s to spotlight the work of others, to not brag about Solo too much, to talk about things that she and her dog haven’t done/seen/smelled—or whatever reason there is, I wanted more Solo. A lot more. I have no problem with the rest of the book, it’s just that there’s not enough Solo (or Coda, her younger dog).

This new edition features some illustrations and instructional graphics. There were a couple that I wondered about the placement of, but they were all helpful, eye-catching and attractive. They added to, instead of distracting from, the text. Good stuff.

A fascinating, entertaining, and educational book—can’t ask for much more than that.


4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Friends: A Cultural History by Jennifer C. Dunn: The One Where I Liked 2/3 of a Book.

Friends A Cultural History

Friends: A Cultural History

by Jennifer C. Dunn
Series: The Cultural History of Television

eARC, 288 pg.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2019

Read: November 15-December 3, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I’ve only read one other book in this series (Gilmore Girls: A Cultural History), which led to me expecting a few things from this book—most of which I didn’t get (which is both a positive and a negative comment). I’m going to try not to spend too much time comparing the two books because it seems unfair—but it’s inevitable, so . . .

When I requested that Gilmore Girls book on Netgalley, I noticed the publisher had a similar title about Friends available—and who doesn’t like Friends? So, I requested that one, too—really diving into The Cultural History of Television. Granted, Dunn has more episodes to work from, but she does a better job of getting examples from all over the series—using different episodes/lines/characters to make related points rather than grabbing the same episode/line/character over and over and over again. One of the biggest strengths of the book is the depth of examples she musters for almost every point, reading this book is almost like binge-watching the entire series.

She begins with a chapter describing the success of the show, its place in the history of sitcoms—building on what had come before and shaping its successors. Then she moves on to looking at the impact of the show, its characters, and its actors on mainstream American pop culture—I do think she tried to make a little more hay than was warranted with some of the intertextual links she made in this chapter, but it came across as a quirk rather than a flaw. The third chapter discussed the way that the show replaced a biological family for a found family of friends as the core relationships for the characters. I really appreciated this section of the book and it gave me high hopes for the rest.

The third section of the book explores the legacy of Friends on American—and global—pop culture, as seen in fashion, music, memes, the way we talk (e.g., try to tell someone to pivot without invoking Ross trying to get his couch up the stairs), and the actors’ future roles and shows. This part wasn’t as strong as the first part of the book, but it was entertaining and an interesting way to think about the show. Dunn follows that with her list of the best 25 episodes, including an episode synopsis and a few sentences describing why that episode made the list. Fans will quibble over this list (for example, I think she got 15-18 of them right, and I can’t understand why she picked the others)—but I can’t imagine any fan not enjoying reading it.

The thing that makes me reticent to heartily recommend the book is the second section of the book, which includes the chapters: “Friends Happy Not Doing Too Much,” “Friends Happy Not Thinking Too Much,” “Thin, White, Upper-Middle-Class Friends,” and “Stereotypes, Sexuality, and Friend-ly Tensions.” Dunn states that this section “interrogates cultural identities represented on Friends.” There is a lot of interesting material presented in this section—whether you ultimately agree with her analysis or not—and most of it is well-presented. However, it’s a pretty problematic section. First, it assumes the readers will share her Progressive views (or at least hold ones close to hers) and that 2019 Progressive positions ought to provide the basis for evaluating the shows portrayal of characters/issues/themes, rather than the standards of the time the episodes were produced.

I’m not going to get into a point-by-point evaluation of these chapters, that’s not what this post is about, I’m just looking at this broadly. For example, Dunn begins her chapter on the anti-intellectual bent of some of the humor by pointing to the re-election of George W. Bush as president as one bit of evidence to the rise of anti-intellectualism in the era. I’m not sure I see the wisdom in insulting conservatives, Republicans, or moderates who voted for Bush and who enjoy discussions of a beloved sitcom and might be reading the book.

Yes, the writers couldn’t have made many of the jokes they did if the show was being produced now—but I’m not convinced that means they shouldn’t have then. At one point (at least) Dunn does concede that 2019 standards are different from those of that era, but it doesn’t stop her from criticizing aspects of the show for being products of their time. It seemed to me that at any point where she judged the show’s treatment of something in these chapters, she condemned it rather than look for an opportunity to be charitable. Now, there is a certain amount of intellectual stimulation and pleasure to be found in arguing with a book—and my notes indicate that I did a lot of that during these chapters—but at a certain point I started wondering why someone who clearly disapproved of so much of the show would watch it as much as she clearly has. To me, that detracts from the overall experience.

I’m not trying to suggest that Dunn’s criticisms are baseless, or that I disagree with everything she said in this section. I just think she comes across as unexpectedly antagonistic to the show and doesn’t do herself any favors with many of her readers.

It’s annoying that I had to spend that much time attempting to explain my problems with that section—it’s dicey so I tried to do a good job of that, but now that’s taken the majority of my space here. By importance, it should be about 1/3 of what I say about the book (maybe 40%). But to expand my comments on the rest would render this too long to read (and write, honestly).

I had one other stumbling block with the book—but this is more stylistic and is easily forgettable. You’ve probably read or heard the line: “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” I’ve seen it variously attributed, but E. B. White seems the most likely candidate. It’s a trite observation by now, but mostly because it’s true. Dunn explains too many jokes for little profit—generally, they’re jokes that don’t require an explanation in the first place (especially for fans who know the joke, but I think it’s true regardless) and her explanations frequently border on condescending. White (or Twain or whoever) would probably have been willing to say “Explaining a joke or a meme” had they been aware of the concept. Neither one of these things is a major issue, but it grates on the nerves and makes the experience less positive

Ultimately, while I enjoyed the Gilmore Girls entry more, I think this book makes the series seem more promising and will likely lead me to read more of it. On the whole, this was a very enjoyable read and die-hard fans will easily dive into most of the book and relish the experience. And even on those points, a reader will disagree with her on, they’ll enjoy ransacking their memories for counter-arguments. Really, this is an excuse to think deeply about a favorite show for however long it takes you to read 300 pages, not much wrong with that.


3 Stars
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Catch-Up Quick Takes: Best. State. Ever.; Live Right and Find Happiness; You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty (Audiobooks) by Dave Barry, Dick Hill

I’ve mentioned before here that I think that Dave Barry is just about the funniest writer around—I used to gobble up his stuff in the newspaper and bookstore as quickly as it came out. I’m not sure what changed, but there are a handful of books by him that I haven’t gotten to yet. Thankfully, my Library had a few of them available to listen to last month. Here are a few thoughts about each of them. Quick reminder: the point of these quick takes post to catch up on my “To Write About” stack—emphasizing pithiness, not thoroughness.

Best. State. EverBest. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland

by Dave Barry, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., and 47 mins.
Recorded Books, 2016
Read: November 21-22, 2019

(the official blurb)
The best parts of this one for me were the introduction (explaining some of the phenomena behind the widespread mockery of Florida) and the chapter giving a history of the state. I chuckled a lot at both of those.

When he moved onto looking at various tourist attractions and or locations in the state, it lost a little bit for me. There was something in each chapter to make me grinmaybe even laugh. But not as much as I’m used to from Barry. The Key West chapter came close, but even that stumbled. I do think if I’d ever been in the state to get a feel for some of these places it might have been better.

The biggest revelation for me from this is just how funny Dick Hill can be. No offense intended, but the voice of Jack Reacher and other thrillers is just not what you think of when it comes to silliness. But man, he was really, really good at this.
3 Stars


Live Right and Find HappinessLive Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry

by Dave Barry
Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hrs., and 39 mins.
Recorded Books, 2015
Read: November 26, 2019

(the official blurb)
This is more like it: pieces of wisdom (and other things) Barry’s passing on to his daughter and grandson. The driving tips for his daughter were fantastic (not just because my daughter is in the process of getting her license right now). The letter to his infant grandson was funny and touching.

Barry also looks at his parents’ generation (the Mad Men generation) and their ability to party, Google Glass, and a trip to Brazil for the World Cup (not being a sports guy, I didn’t think that last one would do much for me, but it was really funny). Oh, yeah, then he talks in-depth about a trip that he and Ridley Pearson took to Russia to talk about writing.

As much as I liked Dick Hill, Barry’s a better narrator of his own stuff.
3.5 Stars


You Can Date Boys When You're FortyYou Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About

by Dave Barry
Unabridged Audiobook, 3 hrs., and 22 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2014
Read: November 8, 2019

(the official blurb)
This one ticked all the right boxes for methe stuff about his daughter dating was the kind of thing that fathers everywhere can relate to and second; taking his daughter to a Bieber concert was even better. It was probably not a good idea for me to listen to his chapter about Fifty Shades of Grey at work, thankfully no one asked me why I was laughing (I did not want to have to explain that). Oh, and his funeral instructions were priceless.

Something I wasn’t prepared for was a long piece about a trip his family took to Israel. Listening to Barry juggle travel humor (searching for A/C and Wi-Fi in the midst of historic/cultural wonders), sensitive political discussions, and even getting close to the spiritual was fantastic. It’s not the kind of writing that you often see from Barry, and it’s easy to forget he can be really effective doing things that aren’t just verbal slapstick.

This is probably one of my favorite collections from someone I’ve been reading for decades. This is just great.
4 Stars

2019 Library Love ChallengeHumor Reading Challenge 2019

The Hero by Lee Child: Lee Child Traces the Development and Use of “The Hero”

The Hero

The Hero

by Lee Child

Hardcover, 77 pg.
TLS Books, 2019

Read: November 28, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

There are only two real people in fiction—the storyteller and the listener. The story proceeds based on the teller’s aims and the listener’s needs. If the listener needs light entertainment, and the teller aims to be loved, then light entertainment is what the listener will get. But if the listener needs reassurance of some kind, or consolation, and the teller aims to better equip her family for future trials, then the story will likely be suspenseful in nature, replete with dangers and perils, over which a memorable character will eventually triumph in a decisive manner, such that the listener finishes the tale with a tight and determined smile, with moist eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

Child’s first Non-Fiction look is an essay exploring the concept of the hero through human history. On the one hand, I had no idea what to expect from Child doing Non-Fiction. But if anyone has something interesting to say about the idea of Hero, it’s gotta be Child, right?

I’m glad I came into it with almost zero expectations because I wouldn’t have guessed this.

Child starts off with a brief discussion of the history of opium, right up to the point where heroin needed to be named.

Then he treats us to a theory of the concept of hero, using a combination of evolutionary theory and speculation, history, and a little more speculation. He begins this look with Neanderthals, so there’s a lot of ground to speed through in a work so brief. Finally, on page 60, we come full circle and get back to heroin before getting to the good stuff.

Child has three definitions of “Hero,” all with separate uses. He then discusses them for a few pages. It’s these last 17 pages or so that we get to the meat of the subject—you could think of the first part of the book as a prolonged introduction (and you’d be a little right).

We get a brief look at The Iliad and The Odessey and their heroes, and even briefer assertion that Dr. No and a work by Ovid about Theseus are the same. I’m not that familiar with Ovid, but given the way we recycle stories now. It’s not too difficult to think that our narrative culture is the only one to be that redundant.

The best part of the book is the several paragraphs looking at the character of Robin Hood. Child looks at how the Outlaw was originally depicted, and then how that grows and changes through time—as well as how the story of Robin Hood added characters and perspectives. By this point, I was starting to hope that the book had just been a few examples like this.

Finally, he talks a little bit about his own understanding and application of the concept and why our contemporary narratives need Heroes.

What is the purpose of fiction? I think it can be summed up in a simple phrase: To give people what they don’t get in real life.

While I did think this was an interesting little book, with a couple of great points and insights. But I’m really looking forward to the next Reacher book—because unlike this dose of real life, it’ll be tightly organized, compelling and a joy to read.

Still, I’d recommend the book—it’s intriguing, thought-provoking, and gives a good look at the way Child thinks. Serious fans would appreciate this for the insight into Child. People interested in the development of Hero might be a bit disappointed overall but will appreciate the last part of the book (maybe I’m the only one who isn’t grabbed by the buildup).


3 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

The ABCs of Metallica by Metallica, Howie Abrams, Michael Kaves: A Book for Everyone Who’s Wanted to Use “Cute” and “Metallica” in the same thought

The ABCs of Metallica

The ABCs of Metallica

by Metallica, Howie Abrams, Michael Kaves (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 48 pg.
Permuted Press, 2019

Read: November 26, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I’m struggling to come up with something to say about this. I want to go on for a few hundred words, but the book is too short for that. And honestly, if the concept doesn’t make you curious enough to check it out, it really doesn’t matter what I say.

But, oh, well—let’s give it a shot.

This is your basic A-B-C’s book, with a short burst of rhyming text starting with consecutive letters, acrostic poem style. The focus of this book is the history, personnel (Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo, anyway), and music of Metallica. Just your typical picture book, really. Kid-friendly, but Metallica fans who aren’t afraid to be silly should be able to enjoy it, too.

It’s a little wordy for a picture book, but nothing terrible. I don’t know how much of the text Metallica is really responsible for and how much Abrams should get the credit for (my hunch is more the latter), but that’s not important. There’s some nice info, cute rhymes (sure, some of the rhymes are stretches, but who cares?), and fun ways to come up with something for every letter.

The illustrations are great. Again, kid-friendly but adult-friendly, too. McLeer is a Graffiti and Tattoo artist and it really comes through—I can see my son, a real Metallica fanatic, getting a couple of these tattooed on him, actually.

It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s a great idea—and proceeds are going to charity. Grab a copy, really.


3.5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Catch-Up Quick Takes on Audiobooks of This is Where I Leave You, When You Reach Me, How Not to Die Alone, The Right Stuff

Trying to clear the decks here with these quick takes on Audiobooks, like I indicated I would be doing yesterday (which also helps from the deep dive I took on Hands Up yesterday, too).

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You

by Jonathan Tropper, Ramón de Ocampo (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 17 mins
Recorded Books, 2009
Read: October 9-10, 2019

(the official blurb)
This is not my favorite Tropper novel—but it’s a really good one, and I get why this is his most successful and the only one that’s actually been adapted as a movie (or anything).

From the hilarious (and painful in many senses) opening to the heights of hope, the lows of sorrow, the uncomfortable nature of sitting shiva with estranged family, oh, and the obligatory Tropper awkward fight scene, this is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read (or, listen, in this case)

de Ocampo does a better job than I’d anticipated anyone doing with this—he captures Judd’s anger, heartbreak, grief and everything else. He also gets the other characters—including some of the more difficult ones (Phillip, Tracy, Alice). I was really impressed with him, and am a little tempted to get a Wimpy Kid audiobook just to see how he does with that.
4 1/2 Stars


When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead, Cynthia Holloway (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 19 mins.
Listening Library, 2019
Read: October 29, 2019

(the official blurb)
I didn’t realize this was an MG novel when I grabbed it—I thought it was YA—it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, it just would’ve been good to know what I was getting into.

Miranda is in 6th Grade, has one friend (who has just decided not to be friends anymore), and is obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time. Her mom is a paralegal and is dating a lawyer in her firm. It’s the late 70’s and latch-key kids are becoming more common, but not as much as they will be.

As Miranda tries to find new people to connect with, she receives odd messages about needing to write a thorough and completely true account of something that’s about to happen. She’ll know the thing when it happens. Totally normal, right?

There’s some time travel, there’s some personal growth, there’s some tribute to L’Engle’s novel. It’s a charming little work, really. Sure, I could see most of it coming from miles away, but that’s because I’m a few decades older than the audience, not because Stead didn’t know what she was doing.

Holloway does a fine job, too. Capturing the bouncing emotions just right. I dug it, upper MG readers probably will, too (L’Engle fans are shoo-ins).
3.5 Stars


How Not to Die AloneHow Not to Die Alone

by Richard Roper, Simon Vance (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 52 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2019
Read: October 14-16, 2019

(the official blurb)
The concept for this novel feels like something that’d happen to George Costanza, but what makes this novel work is that Roper makes Andrew a believable, sympathetic human being—not the dumpster fire of a person that George was. It’s utterly preposterous, really. But you can’t help but believe it happening (and can likely see yourself doing something similar).

I’ve seen repeated—almost ubiquitous—comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. And I get that, and can kind of agree with it. I found the character and story in this novel better than Ms. Oliphant or her life. Although that book seems much more plausible. (and I quickly decided not to care).

Andrew’s friendship with Peggy is wonderful, I wish we had more time with them working/hanging out. Peggy’s a great character on her own—and if Roper were to write one of those ridiculous “same story just from someone else’s POV” sequels, I’d have to cast aside my prejudice against those so I could spend more time with her.

Vance gives one of those audiobook narrations that convinces you there’s no other way for the book to sound—if you read the text version, the voice in your head would have to be Vance. And if you’d never heard of him before, that’s okay, because your subconscious would invent a voice just like his.

Moving, amusing, hopeful. Great job.
4 Stars


The Right StuffThe Right Stuff

by Tom Wolfe, Dennis Quaid (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 15 hrs., 42 mins.
Audible Studios, 2018
Read: October 29-30, 2019

(the official blurb)
I read this book about 2-3 times a year from Middle School to the first or second year of college, and haven’t been able to do it since (I’ve tried off and on). But when Audible had a sale on this earlier in the year, I had to give it a shot. Especially with one of the stars of the remarkable movie adaptation doing the narration.

Now an audiobook of Wolfe is a tricky proposition (at best). Wolfe’s a master stylist. But so much of it (to me anyway) is how the words are on the page. His idiosyncratic capitalization, punctuation, visual rhythms . . . it’s all about how the text shows up in the book. But Quaid gets close enough. So I was able to fully enjoy and immerse myself in this story about the early years of the US/USSR Space Race—the test pilots around Yeager’s feat and then transitioning into the Mercury Program and a little beyond.

Wolfe educates and then entertains with the way he tells the story, editorializes about the events and people, and captures the essence of the various people involved. Listening to this brought me back to the first time I read this book and reminded me why I fell in love with Wolfe.

Quaid did the near-impossible here, he got as close to humanly possible to capturing Wolfe’s style, sensibilities and je ne sais quoi. He didn’t quite get it, but I can’t imagine anyone doing better. It’s probably one of my favorite audiobook performances to date. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Quaid guy just might have a future in show biz.
4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch: Emojis, Tweets and Memes May Not be the End of Language…

Because Internet

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

by Gretchen McCulloch

Hardcover, 274 pg.
Riverhead Books, 2019

Read: October 18-21, 2019

I’m a linguist, and I live on the internet. When I see the boundless creativity of internet language flowing past me online, I can’t help but want to understand how it works. Why did emoji become so popular so quickly? What’s the deal with how people of different ages punctuate their emails and text messages so differently? Why does the language in memes often look so wonderfully strange?

That encapsulates the book right there, McCulloch looks into each of these questions—along with some related and foundational questions—about how communication online has and is changing the way we write at each other.

If I was going to do this the right way, I’d need a dozen pages (at least), and I just don’t have the patience to write something that long (and, let’s be honest—who’d read it?). So let me be brief: this is an entertaining and informative book. She discusses the advantage of studying informal writing over edited and published works (and how the Internet Age makes that so much easier), “typographical tone of voice,” emojis and other emotional indicators, memes (and the like), and offers a new metaphor for considering language.

The tone is light and informal, but this isn’t a breezy read. It’s not that difficult, however. But there are times that I will confess that my eyes glazed over when she does some of the nitty-gritty explanations about how this works (and how it’s researched). But that doesn’t happen as often as I might think it would. What she does with the nitty-gritty, how she applies it? Love it. But when she’s “showing her work” (as we used to say in math class), I have a hard time tracking—that’s on me, I want to stress. McCulloch goes out of her way to make even that kind of thing interesting and approachable.

The way she frames the discussion for each chapter is fascinating. Then the conclusions she makes, or application of all that work, is simply insightful and even more fascinating. It’s just the stuff in the middle that didn’t need to be as long. But that’s very likely just me. McCulloch is a bit more open to changes and innovations than a guy who likes the idea of language standards (like me) can truly be comfortable with—but she almost wins me over.

This is probably the most entertaining book about language that I can remember reading (and, yeah, I used to dabble). It feels as alive as the language she’s considering. This is one for the language lover in your life.


3.5 Stars
2019 Library Love Challenge