Ben Blatt | Nonfiction
If you LOVE reading fiction and can manage simple arithmetic comparisons, such as 32% vs 78%, you just may love Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve as much as I did. Blatt does arithmetic comparisons among 1500+ books by famous and successful authors, to answer such questions as:
- Did Hemingway really use fewer “ly” adverbs than other authors? And who uses them the most?
- Do male and female authors use different words? (we do)
- Is there an underlying “signature” for an author that can identify who wrote the book, whether written alone or as a co-author?
- What are our favorite authors’ favorite words (and oh, by the way, how do they differ for British and American authors)? I am going to run a test on my blog posts for my “favorite” words.
The fascinating and illuminating patterns he reveals will inform your reading and your writing.
Blatt also offers data-based evidence to support my occasional rant about the New York Times Bestseller list. When considering the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test, the median grade for books on the NYT list in the 1960’s was 8.0. In the 2010’s, it has dropped to 6.0. Our most popular books are filled with simpler sentences and have been “dumbed down.” This isn’t all bad, of course. It makes books accessible to more readers. AND there is a price we pay for less challenging reading.
I adore this book. (“Adore” is probably a word used more by female authors, I would venture). I highly recommend it.
p.s. My most used words are relevant to the topic. I used “read” 397 times. I used “write or writer or writing” 118 times. Beyond that, more content related words I use frequently: “fun” or “funny(36); “style”(28); “engaging”(14); “warm 11); “profound”(10).