The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester
The story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. A real history lesson and etymological safari. It took 48 years to complete the dictionary (called “the big dic” by the London Philological Society members). What stands out is the editor, James Murray, and his dogged determination to make a dictionary of the history of words the way it should be done: no scrimping, no corner cutting, no taking “NO” for an answer.
The Group by Mary McCarthy
A group of eight Vassar grads walk from tassels and dorms into 1933 New York City. The hardships they face as women (not just it being the slide into economic depression) is McCarthy’s aim, and well done her, because what we see is a generation of women who, for all their education, most of them are stepped on by husbands, boyfriends, bosses, careerism, and society. Through the maelstrom a few make it still with their heads screwed on, but several don’t know whether they’re coming or going.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Atwood can flat out write good story. In this Rocky Mountain of a book, she tells the story of a family that is made up of skeletons in the closet, failed traditions, lunacy and desperation, and two young women who, because they were never taught anything valuable, found themselves at the mercy of the world.