The Adventure of English book review

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I just finished reading The Adventure of English.
Fabulous reading!  It’s a little “dry”, but really- if you like history or languages at all, check it out and pick it up.  The author, Robert McCrum, wrote this book to go along with the 8 part History Channel Series of the same name.  I really want to see the series, it is said to be more thorough then the book (well, yeah!  With 8 parts and visuals, you know I want to see it!)  I keep begging my DVR to record it- but alas, so far, it has not shown up on air  🙁 
Back to the book- which I loved!  I was so excited to read this one.  It is how the English language started (and what humble beginnings!) and how it spread and grew to become one of the most dominant languages in the world today.  Who used it, who influenced it, and why.  It was super interesting, and as a history geek, there was so much I didn’t know that I was excited to learn about. 
I have always loved history, and it was so interesting to read about how travel and trade, war and peace, religion and colonization all influenced the language that we speak. 
Here is some more info for all you nerdy folk out there- stand proud, ladies and gents!  🙂

This compelling and charmingly personal companion to an eight-part television documentary (scheduled for the fall) makes for an idiosyncratic rival to PBS’s bestselling blockbuster The Story of English, by Robert McCrum et al. Titling a history of the evolution and expansion of a language an “adventure” presupposes a hero, with such obvious choices as Alfred the Great, for defeating the Danes; Chaucer, for his Canterbury Tales; Shakespeare, for his poetic inventiveness; or Samuel Johnson, for his groundbreaking dictionary. Bragg, a British TV and radio personality and novelist (The Soldier’s Return), gives all their contributions their due, but English itself, with its “deep obstinacy” and “astonishing flexibility,” emerges as his favorite character. Bragg’s enthusiasm for his subject-hero, whether the Old English of Beowulf or the new “Text English” of the Internet, makes up for his shortcomings as a linguist: his sources, unfootnoted, are at times at variance with the OED or Webster’s Third. For instance, Bragg furnishes only one putative origin for the disputed “real McCoy.” Moreover “candy” does not seem to have Anglo-Indian origins (it’s from the Arabic “qandi”), and the first recorded use of “vast” is not from Shakespeare (the OED cites Archbishop Edwin Sandys). Nevertheless, this “biography” succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative, carrying the reader from the origins of Anglo-Saxon through the Viking and Norman invasions to the consolidation of “British” English and outward to America, Australia, India, the West Indies and beyond. After some 1,500 years, with one billion speakers now worldwide, according to Bragg, the English language has displayed an amazing ability to repair and reinvent itself, as Bragg ably shows. 32 pages of color illus.


  1. Looks like an interesting book…especially for homeschoolers! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. I’ve been horrible about reading… especially lately! This looks like a great read though, thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. I’m not really much of a book reader but this sounds good! Thanks for the review

  4. I actually think I’ll look for this book to buy. Great review

  5. I seem to have trouble getting through books like that! But maybe I will pick it up at the library and give it a try!

  6. Stopping in for some Alexa love! 🙂

  7. sounds like a book i’d enjoy reading! Looking forward to the documentary in the fall.

  8. How fascinating! I’m not sure I’d be able to read it all, but this is the type of information I’d love to watch a documentary on or listen to a lecture. You can teach me about it! 🙂

  9. I love history and this book does sound interesting. We are always watching the History Channel so I will definitely be on the look out for this documentary. Thank you for sharing!


  10. I would also like to watch the series, but this looks like a good read

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