Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review - The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg

When I was in college, I took a linguistics class and absolutely loved it and felt I had a good grasp of the language's history. When I saw this book on sale, I wasn't sure it would include enough additional information to justify the time to read it. I was wrong.

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language is a nonfiction history of the English Language (hence the title) written by Melvyn Bragg. It's available in all formats: eBooks, Audiobooks, and those paper things your grandparents used to read.

The Good

Information. This book is chuck full of information and answered questions about the language I didn't realize I had. I thought I had a pretty good knowledge of English's development. Nope, I didn't.

Comprehensiveness. This book covers the topic very completely both in length and breadth. Even the difference between North American, British, and Australian English are covered. Some of the more modern developments in the twentieth century were skipped over such as Ebonics, but that's most likely because they didn't a measurable impact. 

Examples. The author includes many great examples that illustrate the point and the changes, although a few of the examples get a little long.

The Bad

Pacing. This book is very even paced which makes it feel longer and slower than it really is.

Social Commentary. I get it, this is the twenty-first century and if you wan to appear "educated" and "open-minded" you have to profess certain social beliefs, but the point of this book is to trace the story of English, not for the author to shoe horn in judgement and commentary to pander to the politically correct. A few parts of the developments of English some might find a little horrifying, but that's history. It happened. Nothing can change that. Present it without judgement. Most of the time this was done, but not all the time.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I really enjoyed the information an all of the examples, but I wish there had been a more interesting and engaging way to present the material. The book felt very long and, as much as I love linguistics, I found myself struggling to finish it.


The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language is an interesting and comprehensive look at the language (as far as anyone really knows) from the beginning to the modern day and its current variations. 
Because of how comprehensive and in depth it goes, students of linguistics will find it fascinating while those who aren't students of linguistics may find it a little slow and boring. I give it 4 out of 5 eReaders.



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