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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal

Bookcase 17's Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal was interesting if not gripping.

The book is basically a history of English spelling. I love reading books which explain why things are the way they are, and our English language is a classic example of something we just take for granted. English is though the work of thousands of people for over a millennia, not to mention the much longer period when speech and communication evolved. Untold legions of monks and scholars have puzzled over the spelling of words for centuries and we've inherited their work either directly or indirectly, yet few of us realise the gift we have been given.

This book is certainly not a blow by blow account of our complete spelling history, it picks examples of words which have changed their spelling throughout the history of our language, and explains lots of apparent anomalies while telling the main events in the story of English. It could be a lot longer, and it kept me interested with not many boring sections filled with lots of detail, so I felt the length was about right for a popular non-technical account which this is.

David Crystal is not Bill Bryson, I'd recommend reading Bryson's Mother Tongue for an overview of the history of English. This focuses entirely on spelling so is more detailed in that area than Bryson's work. But it's not quite as easy to read: Bryson has a singular talent of making even the most boring subjects interesting, which it is unfair to expect of others. I award Spell It Out 7 out of 10, it's a good book.

Bookcase 18 is devoted to Reference, and contained only about four books that were prose, the rest being mainly dictionaries and directories. Amazingly I had already read one of the four books (Surrey: A County History by John Janaway) I could have chosen. That left me with very little choice, and one of the books, Gray's Anatomy, was several thousand enormous pages long, and few will have read from cover to cover as I need to. I plumped in the end for a book about Choosing a Care Home by the organisation Independent Age

Although I don't have a need to find a Care Home at the moment, it's quite possible it will be something I need to look into at some point in the future for a relative, so this book may contain useful background knowledge I might come back to one day. I used to work in the Care industry as well a few years ago, writing software used by companies who ran homes, so I already know a bit about the funding options for paying for care, but it's not very fresh in my mind.

Choosing a Care Home is not a book I am allowed to take out the library so I am going to read it in the library itself. As it is only 80 pages long it shouldn't take very many visits to finish it.

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