Language books wanted

With Christmas coming up, I’d like your recommendations for books about language. I’m looking for something more substantial and engaging than, say, Lynne Truss but not as demanding as a full-blown academic linguistics textbook.

Three books I’ve heard encouraging things about are:

  • Strictly English by Simon Heffer
  • The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings
  • The King’s English by Kingsley Amis

Are they any good? Are any others any good?

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  • Mil  On November 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve got a Cambridge encyclopaedia (which spells itself encyclopedia for some reason) of the English language by David Crystal. It’s a lot of Dorling Kindersley kind of fun (and usefully so). There’s another book by the same author called The English Language which I also remember liking very much. Though its current version is over 300 pages according to Amazon – I don’t recall it being that long at all.

  • Tom  On November 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Well, I had a look at Crystal’s website and he reckons Heffer’s book is a shambles – so I think I’ll take that off the list…

    • Mil  On November 25, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      I haven’t read the Kingsley Amis book, but it’s likely to be idiosyncratically pedantic (if there’s such a thing) – surely a good thing as far as language is concerned …

  • Laura Payne  On November 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I have been thoroughly enjoying Stanley Dubinsky and Chris Holcomb’s “Understanding Language Through Humor”.

  • Stan  On November 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    To complement Crystal’s review of Strictly English, here is Geoffrey Pullum’s. It’s even more severe. I second Mil’s recommendations of Crystal’s books; his more recent Evolving English and The Story of English in 100 Words are also very informative and enjoyable.

    I haven’t read Hitchings’ book but I’ve heard good things about it. It’s on my to-read pile. And something tells me you’d like Steven Poole’s Unspeak, if you haven’t read it already.


%d bloggers like this: