Beginning his career on a lark as a freelance contributor to SCRABBLE News , John D. Williams fell down a rabbit hole inhabited by gamers, geeks, and the grammar police. For twenty-five years, as the executive director of the National SCRABBLE Association, Williams served as the official spokesperson for the game, and as the middleman between legions of fanatical word-game fans and the official brand.Read more...
Beginning his career on a lark as a freelance contributor to SCRABBLE News, John D. Williams fell down a rabbit hole inhabited by gamers, geeks, and the grammar police. For twenty-five years, as the executive director of the National SCRABBLE Association, Williams served as the official spokesperson for the game, and as the middleman between legions of fanatical word-game fans and the official brand. Now Word Nerd takes readers inside the byzantine, dog-eat-dog world of top tournament players, creating a piquant (seven-letter word, 68 points ) work that is part pop-cultural history, part anthropological study. Indeed, what Christopher Guest did for the world of dog shows in his film Best in Show, Williams does for the world of competitive word games in this funny and perfectly observed memoir.
As readers will discover, Word Nerd explores anagrams, palindromes, the highest-scoring SCRABBLE plays of all time, the birth of the World SCRABBLE Championship, as well as many of the more colorful figures that inhabit this subculture. Die-hard word fans will find invaluable tips on how top players see their boards and racks to come up with the best play, how they prepare, and the psychology of tournament competition. Those uninitiated in the mysteries of SCRABBLE mania will find a delightful, madcap memoir about all the fun people have with language and how words shape our lives and culture in unexpected ways.
Whether reminiscing about past national champions, detailing the controversy over efforts to purge the Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary of all offensive words, opining on the number of vowelless words that are allowable (cmw for a Welsh deep-walled basin or nth for the ultimate degree), noting how long it takes a word to get into a dictionary, or explaining why there remain more male than female champions, Williams crafts a loving tribute to words and the games people play with them. Word Nerd will fascinate both amateurs and seasoned experts alike.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-16
- Reviewer: Staff
Williams, the first and only executive director of the National Scrabble Association, joyfully and enthusiastically recounts his unlikely 25-year tenure as the official national spokesman for the world-famous word game. Though he came from a family of avid gamers, John Williams wasn’t all that familiar with Scrabble as a youngster, but that all changed when he was asked to apply his advertising and PR skills to help get the fledgling Scrabble Players Bulletin off the ground. His job included overseeing and even participating in numerous tournaments around the world, contributing to the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, promoting the game through various outlets (including appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Martha Stewart’s show), as well as dealing with vendors and the bureaucratic red tape that goes along with working with corporations. Williams offers sage advice for players (the best play doesn’t always yield the most points—you need to make sure you retain some letters to work with on succeeding plays) and some word exercises to strengthen one’s game (and brain). An appendix offers the full list of words banned from play. Casual gamers will find this light read to be a fun escape, while avid grammarians and fellow word nerds will devour it in a single sitting. Agent: Regula Noetzli, Regula Noetzli Literary Agency. (June)