The surgeon of Crowthorne (Simon Winchester)

This is such a fascinating book.  Prior to reading it, I had no knowledge of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, of the mammoth task of compiling an authoritative list of all words used in the English language, citing printed examples of the use of each word… And in a time long before the advent of computers!  I loved reading about the history of dictionary-making, including Samuel Johnson’s contributions to the task he set himself a century earlier than James Murray was asked to take on the role by the Philological Society in the late nineteenth century.  The very idea that volunteers were recruited to carry out the enormous task of collecting words, and written evidence of their existence in quotations is simply incredible, when we consider the already vast collection of books printed by the end of the 1800s.

When we learn about the life and work of one of the most important contributors, William Minors, the story of the origin of one of the biggest dictionaries of the English language in the world becomes one of fascination, intrigue and grisly horror!  Minors adds to the work of James Murray and his office staff whilst a patient in Broadmoor, built in 1863 and still a high security psychiatric hospital today.  We read of Minor’s deeply troubled mind, how events in his past affected, and may have contributed to, his mental health, and how his sharp intelligence and well-read brain assisted him in his tireless work on the dictionary. He was actively encouraged in his labours by the hospital staff and governor, until he could no longer work due to illness, and his subsequent release and return to his family in America.  So much is contained in the wonderful slim volume, I would definitely benefit from reading it again at some point.

surgeon

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Mr Cowie’s selection for World Book Day 2010

On Thursday 4th March, 2010, World Book Day, we asked teachers to talk to their classes about their favourite books or books they are currently enjoying.   Mr Cowies’ first choice was John Keegan’s book ‘The American Civil War’:

‘The American Civil War was one of the longest and bloodiest of modern wars. It is also one of the most mysterious. It has captured the imagination of writers, artists and film-makers for decades but the reality of it confuses and divides historians even today. In this magisterial history of the first modern war, the distinguished military historian John Keegan unpicks the geography, leadership and strategic logic of the war and takes us to the heart of the conflict. His captivating work promises to be the definitive history of the American Civil War.’  Nielsen Bookdata Online

And his second was ‘Inverting The Pyramid’ by Jonathan Wilson:

‘Whether it’s Terry Venables keeping his wife up late at night with diagrams on scraps of paper spread over the eiderdown, or the classic TV sitcom of moving the salt & pepper around the table top in the transport cafe, football tactics are now part of the fabric of everyday life. Steve McLaren’s switch to an untried 3-5-2 against Croatia will probably go down as the moment he lost his slim credibility gained from dropping David Beckham; Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, was often brought to task for trying to smuggle the long ball game back into English football. Here Jonathan Wilson pulls apart the modern game, traces the world history of tactics from modern pioneers right back to beginning where chaos reigned. Along the way he looks at the lives of great players and thinkers who shaped the game, and probes why the English, in particular, have ‘proved themselves unwilling to grapple with the abstract’. ‘   Nielsen Bookdata Online

Mr Cowie says: “Both first rate – if you like military history and football. More for the boys?”  Possibly, Mr Cowie, but you’d be surprised how many girls are actually interested in wars and  ‘the beautiful game’!!!