The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. This wasn’t a can’t-put-it-down type of book, but still soooo interesting. I had never even considered how one would go about making the first comprehensive dictionary, and it’s mind-boggling that they were successful. I kept thinking to myself how easy that job would have been had they waited another 100 years. But at the time it was near-impossible. Loads of volunteers reading through every book they could get ahold of, looking for any and every word in the dictionary, and approximately when it was first used. I’m fairly bookish, but I would not have been up to the task.
Oh and then there was the mentally ill man who was locked away in an asylum for killing a man in a fit of paranoia. He happened to be very intelligent and also very bored, so he contributed a ton to the OED.
Then at the end there’s a pleasantly surprising discussion on mental illness. How things have changed so much since then. How perhaps this dictionary project may have failed if this man had access to modern medication. How his life could have been entirely different–normal even–with medication, but the literary world as we know it may have been different as well. Very sad, but also serendipitous.
I also checked out Xander’s Panda Party from the library, and I was pleasantly surprised. Usually I end up checking out stupid picture books, and my hopes were not too high for this one. Mainly because Xander is a really trendy name right now, so I expected it to be some author banking on all the parents of Xanders buying this just because it’s their child’s name. I’m a little jaded by the picture book industry. So many dumb books. But this one was pretty delightful.
Christmas. Knitting a pair of toddler mittens. You know. The usual.