Review | The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman is a non-fiction book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. It tells the story of two men: William Minor and James Murray and how they worked together to create the OED. James Murray was a professor and the editor of the OED. Dr. William Minor was a Civil War Veteran who was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

There were parts of this book that I found totally fascinating. The storyline about the characters was very interesting. I did not however like the story about the history of the OED itself. I got quite bogged down almost halfway through the book. After skipping a handful of paragraphs, I was able to get back into the stories that followed the characters lives and was re-engaged in the book.

This book is worth reading if you enjoy non-fiction. I both read some and listened to some of this book. The audio version was good, especially the interview after the book is over with the author and the current editor of the OED which contained more fascinating information about how our language is evolving and how lexicographers track it.


Overall Rating: 3 of 5 stars false1/2

Parent’s guide:

  • Sex: none, though there are references to William Minor’s battle with sex addiction
  • Violence: there is a fairly disturbing description of Minor hurting himself with a knife
  • Language: none