'If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on. I have read the OED so you don't have to...'
Weighing in at 137 pounds, the Oxford English Dictionary is the word lover's Everest and the world's most exhaustive and exhausting dictionary - for instance, there are over 60,000 words on the various meanings of set and un- goes on for 451 pages.
Like a lexicographical Edmund Hillary, Ammon Shea set out to boldly read, where no reader has gone before - from cover to cover.Reading the OED gives a very funny account of his coffee-fuelled twelve months lost inside its 20 volumes.
Divided into 26 chapters, one per letter of the alphabet, this book is part personal narrative (exploring everything from love to glasses to the superiority of books over computers) and part a collection of Shea's favourite discoveries. These span from the oddly useful (parabore - a defence against bores) to the downright bizarre (natiform - shaped like buttocks) and takes in Nashe's eight different kinds of drunkenness and all kinds of other strangely memorable information along the way.
Filled with curiosities, delights and surprises, Reading the OED is a feast for language obsessives, from a man who loves words (perhaps a little too much).
Ammon Shea has been reading dictionaries since he was ten years old. Along the way he has supported this habit by being a street muscian in Paris, a gondolier in San Diego and a furniture mover in New York City. He lives in New York with his girlfriend (a former lexicographer) and a large number of old dictionaries. Visit his website at www.ammonshea.com.