The lover of words needs but two things: more words and deeper knowledge of them.
The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English
By Henry Hitchings
FSG; 440 pages
Henry Hitchings wrote The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English to encourage us to stop and think about the words we use. But he’s no grammar-disciplinarian–instead his book traces the history of English vocabulary and words’ witness to the past and social change to spin enchanting real-life stories of the people, places and things that shaped the words that fall from pen and tongue. (He also reminds us that English has co-opted words from more than 350 other languages – where does shampoo come from?).
Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, … With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory
By Roy Blount Jr.
FSG; 364 pages
In his thoroughly enjoyable twenty-first book, the product of one hell of a forty years of making a living as a writer, Blount asserts, persuades, illustrates, humorously plays around, instructs, and argues that the relation between a word and its meaning is far from arbitrary by assembling his own “glossographia” of words. Like “agenda: Why is this a pejorative term? What’s wrong with having an agenda? I wish to helpp I had more of one. (Is that good English? ‘More of one’?)…”, muskrat, louce, scratch, love… You won’t be able to utter another word without deconstructing and smiling.
Through the perceptions of five poets and recent University of Hawai’i-Manoa master’s graduates, this newest Tinfish release aims to portray not the Hawai’i of marketing campaigns but the real place known to those who live here now. Throughout, puzzles and games entice readers to connect and deconstruct, making plain our own participation in the creation of this portrait of words — perhaps the book’s most remarkable achievement.
Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai’i
By Susanna Moore
Grove Atlantic; 195 pages
Writers must be lovers of words, influenced by their potions from an earlier age. Author Susanna Moore is no exception, and she details the power of words over her girlhood in her native Hawai’i in her delightful new memoir, Light Years. Woven throughout spare yet penetrating recollections of childhood and island life (like body surfing off Makapu’u) are treasured literature excerpts such as from The History by Herodotus, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and Heyerdahls’ Kon Tiki. But it’s glimpses of Moore’s inner life that mesmerize above all.
From Unincorporated Territory
By Craig Santos Perez
Tinfish; 98 pages
Poet–an architect of words–and co-founder of Achiote Press, Craig Santos Perez uses the verse in his latest collection to give voice to past Guamanian narratives that have been silenced, contextualizing his efforts to be one of remembrance and recovery. A native of Guam, Perez unpacks his country’s political fury, empowering himself and his fellow Guamanians through stories and personal journeys, standing up for the place that on some maps, doesn’t even exist.