Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

Ben Blatt (Author)
Available

Description

Data meets literature in this "enlightening" (The Wall Street Journal), "brilliant" (The Boston Globe), "Nate Silver-esque" (O, The Oprah Magazine) look at what the numbers have to say about our favorite authors and their masterpieces.

There's a famous piece of writing advice--offered by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and myriad writers in between--not to use -ly adverbs like "quickly" or "angrily." It sounds like solid advice, but can we actually test it? If we were to count all the -ly adverbs these authors used in their careers, do they follow their own advice? What's more, do great books in general--the classics and the bestsellers--share this trait?

In the age of big data we can answer questions like these in the blink of an eye. In Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve, a "literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing" (Brian Christian, coauthor of Algorithms to Live By), statistician and journalist Ben Blatt explores the wealth of fun findings that can be discovered by using text and data analysis. He assembles a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words, and then he asks the questions that have intrigued book lovers for generations: What are our favorite authors' favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? What makes a great opening sentence? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?

All of Blatt's investigations and experiments are original, conducted himself, and no math knowledge is needed to enjoy the book. On every page, there are new and eye-opening findings. By the end, you will have a newfound appreciation of your favorite authors and also come away with a fresh perspective on your own writing. "Blatt's new book reveals surprising literary secrets" (Entertainment Weekly) and casts an x-ray through literature, allowing us to see both the patterns that hold it together and the brilliant flourishes that allow it to spring to life.

Product Details

Price
$17.00  $15.64
Publisher
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date
March 20, 2018
Pages
288
Dimensions
5.4 X 0.8 X 8.3 inches | 0.55 pounds
Language
English
Type
Paperback
EAN/UPC
9781501105395
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Ben Blatt is a former staff writer for Slate and The Harvard Lampoon who has taken his fun approach to data journalism to topics such as Seinfeld, mapmaking, The Beatles, and Jeopardy! He is the author of Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve and, with Eric Brewster, the coauthor of I Don't Care if We Never Get Back, which follows the duo's quest to go on the mathematically optimal baseball road trip, traveling 20,000 miles to a game in all thirty ballparks in thirty days without planes. Blatt's work has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Deadspin.

Reviews

"Illuminating entertainment ... Literary criticism by the numbers."
--Kirkus Reviews
"Amiable and intelligent ... literature enthusiasts will enjoy the hypotheses [Blatt] poses and his imaginative methods."
--Publishers Weekly
"What fun this is! Ben Blatt's charming book applies numerical know-how to questions of literary style, teasing out insights about cliffhangers, adverbs, and whether Americans write 'more loudly' than the British. (Spoiler: WE DO!!!)"
--Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
"It was statisticians, rather than historians, who cracked the centuries-old mystery of the Federalist Papers--and they did it with mere paper and pencil. Operating in the same investigative spirit--and with the benefit of vastly more powerful tools--Ben Blatt probes the literary canon for unexpected revelations and insights. The result is a literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing."
--Brian Christian, co-author of Algorithms to Live By
"[A] fun and interesting book ... his breezy and engaging volume fulfills its promise to provide the reader with an appreciation or deeper understanding of an author or favorite writer ... and alerts the writer to the trends, patterns and uses of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation in one's own writing."
--New Romanticist
"Ben Blatt's delightful book gives us an original big data perspective on great writers' work. Its humor, insights, and statistical displays are fasci-nating to behold, even as it helps us develop our own writing."
--Carl N. Morris, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, Harvard University
-Enlightening-
--Wall Street Journal
-Nate Silver-esque number crunching meets the canon in this quirky, arresting deconstruction of literature's greatest hits.-
--O, The Oprah Magazine
-Fascinating ... the book had me humming with pleasure.-
--The Sunday Times
-Delivers a statistical study of literature in the vein of Freakonomics ... [Blatt] approaches the subject with the right mix of humor, hand-holding and literary love ... yield[s] insights which would be impossible to recognize on their own.-
--Paste Magazine
-Lively ... worthwhile ... Read this book thoughtfully. It's fun. And, I think, the shape of some very interesting things to come.-
--The Times (London)
-Book-lovers will delight in Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve ... accessible, entertaining, and enlightening.-
--Bustle
-This is really the most delicious kind of rabbit hole ... If you're a writer, you won't be able to resist it. If you know a writer, give this as a gift and find yourself adored. ... It can be dipped into like a squirrel's nut hoard, enjoyed a quick nibble at a time, or dived into headfirst, one fascinating tidbit leading to the next to the next to the next. -
--Publishers Weekly, Shelf Talker column
-Illuminating entertainment ... Literary criticism by the numbers.-
--Kirkus Reviews
-Amiable and intelligent ... literature enthusiasts will enjoy the hypotheses [Blatt] poses and his imaginative methods.-
--Publishers Weekly
-[A] fun and interesting book ... his breezy and engaging volume fulfills its promise to provide the reader with an appreciation or deeper understanding of an author or favorite writer ... and alerts the writer to the trends, patterns and uses of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation in one's own writing.-
--New Romanticist
-What fun this is! Ben Blatt's charming book applies numerical know-how to questions of literary style, teasing out insights about cliffhangers, adverbs, and whether Americans write 'more loudly' than the British. (Spoiler: WE DO!!!)-
--Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
-It was statisticians, rather than historians, who cracked the centuries-old mystery of the Federalist Papers--and they did it with mere paper and pencil. Operating in the same investigative spirit--and with the benefit of vastly more powerful tools--Ben Blatt probes the literary canon for unexpected revelations and insights. The result is a literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing.-
--Brian Christian, co-author of Algorithms to Live By
-Ben Blatt's delightful book gives us an original big data perspective on great writers' work. Its humor, insights, and statistical displays are fasci-nating to behold, even as it helps us develop our own writing.-
--Carl N. Morris, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, Harvard University