Adventures in Reading


Nonfiction: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

Roughly once a year I try to dip into a grammar, usage or style guide simply to brush up on my own lackluster skills. Additionally, reading a new guide is interesting to see what and how language has evolved since the last book. Though apparently quite the podcast success, I picked up Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty on impulse.

This user-friendly guide to grammar, punctuation and usage promises the reader to be “right most of the time.” Much of the advice Mignon gives is hokey, but Mignon knows she’s being hokey and that the antics of Aardvark and Squiggly actually will help the reader recall different rules.

With Grammar Girl’s I picked up the difference between pronouncing the prior to a vowel sound versus a consonant sound or using by or on accident. But it’s the final chapters of Grammar Girl’s that really makes it stand out from the rest of the usage crowd: chapters on Internet use as well as brainstorming tips for creative and nonfiction writing. Both of these are areas mostly neglected in other guides.

Though not nearly as funny as June Casagrande’s grammar books, Fogarty’s book is a terrific guide superbly suited for high school students and undergraduates. Fogarty comes out as a more progressive usage user, which certainly makes me quite partial to her book and prods me to look into her podcast.

Q&A from Conjugate Visits.



Revisted Reviews: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande and Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Connor

While reading Grammar Snobs, I kept wondering if it was healthy to be laughing so much at a book on grammar. I read the book in one sitting (excluding a short walk with the dog and a few minutes hiding from a door-to-door salesperson) and it has to be one of the most-user-friendly books I’ve ever encountered when it comes to grammar. In addition, Casagrande may be the first author I’ve encountered who doesn’t immediately disparage modern “netspeak” and attempts at countering racism and sexism in language. A great read for anyone looking to brush up on grammar or to become more familiar with writing.

Woe Is I was suggested to me some years ago by an English literature professor and I’ve only finally gotten around to finishing it. As the title states, it’s a grammar guide written in (mostly) plain English. Woe Is I is a an easy and enjoyable read for anyone wanting to brush up on their grammar, spelling, and punctuation and O’Connor makes use of terrific and creative sentences that make the various rules easier to recall. I certainly had some disagreements with the book (after all, language is living) and the biggest turn off for me was the lack of acknowledging more progressive and modern language.

It’s not really much of a secret: I’m quite the fan of evolving language and progressive usage. This has led to heated arguments with more antiquarian language sticklers, but unless you’re writing for a specific style guide (e.g. for work or an academic paper) most usage rules (and even some grammar) seem pretty damn flexible. (Even dictionaries disagree!) In nearly a year of blogging at Adventures in Reading, I have received a small amount of nit picks from persnickety grammar readers, which I always find curious because my blog of all places is so casual and informal. Regardless of the “snobs” out there, language is fun and entertaining and one of my secret joys is perusing recently published grammar and usage guides.



If You Love Me Buy Me Books

dscn1526.jpgMuch to my surprise, my parent’s neighbors (who I have only briefly known through sibling and parental association) stumbled across some lovely 1918 New Education Readers and have gifted them to me. I am quite the geek for old reading and grammar guides if only to see how things have changed (or not changed). However, it is a lovely collection of books and if I can get to a scanner I will be making use of it.

Over the weekend I barely read anything, and instead spent a great deal of time and money purchasing new books. In addition to the books I mentioned in my last post I also acquired a few more including: Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

A few years ago I invested in a Book Collector account only to realize today – the day I decide that I am going to begin the great adventure of cataloging my books – that my account now appears defunct. While I do have a LibraryThing account, I am not quite decided whether or not to invest in an upgraded account. So how do you catalog your books or do you not bother? At work I always come across (usually) older people with their books jotted down on a variety of notepads and napkins, and while my failing memory has not set in yet it would be nice to have my books listed in one place and keep track of what I have and have not read (and not to mention for insurance purposes as well).

Now, what I did read this weekend were portions of Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Short Stories, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. The latter two are (mostly) rereads, but I decided on Clarke’s short story collection as a test to see whether or not I should bother with her much lengthier novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I first listened to a good portion of the novel and could not make it through, and have since then heard many disparaging remarks directed at the book. Most of these remarks criticize the book as being overly polished, which put me in mind of Bernini’s beautifully unpolished St. Longinus statue at St. Peters. However, very quickly into the short story collection it dawned on me that Clarke’s book is by no means overly polished but that she (and with quite a fair hand) has taken upon herself to write in the literary tradition of the 19th Century. How perfect!