Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

Michael Rosen. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $25 (448p) ISBN 978-1-61902-483-0
What could be more straightforward than the alphabet? And yet those familiar 26 symbols offer much food for thought, as Rosen (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt), former Children’s Laureate of Britain, so delightfully shows here. His beguiling journey through the alphabet will entrance anyone interested in the quirks of language and its history. Each letter receives a brief description of its written evolution and the pronunciation of its name and its sounds, followed by a relevant topic beginning with that letter, such as “D is for Disappeared Letters” and “O is for OK.” The chapter on Rosen’s personal history with typewriters, “Q is for QWERTY,” will be a particular highlight for readers of a certain age. The diverse topics he covers also include printing fonts, diacritics (“U is for Umlauts”), and the ways that the alphabet can be manipulated to encrypt secrets. Rosen has written a charming and thought-provoking book about what written language represents, how we use it, and the joys and mysteries therein. His humor and obvious love for his subject are winning elements. The individualized graphics of each letter at the start of their respective chapters add an extra note of whimsy and pleasure. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/10/2014
Release date: 01/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-61902-516-5
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