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

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What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover? Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at 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 What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover? Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at 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 “fitfully.” 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 compared to other celebrated authors? What’s more, do great books in general—the classics and the bestsellers—share this trait? In Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, statistician and journalist Ben Blatt brings big data to the literary canon, exploring the wealth of fun findings that remain hidden in the works of the world’s greatest writers. He assembles a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words, and starts asking the questions that have intrigued curious word nerds and book lovers for generations: What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Are bestsellers getting dumber over time? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? What makes a great opening sentence? How can we judge a book by its cover? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?


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What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover? Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at 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 What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover? Data meet literature in this playful and informative look at 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 “fitfully.” 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 compared to other celebrated authors? What’s more, do great books in general—the classics and the bestsellers—share this trait? In Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, statistician and journalist Ben Blatt brings big data to the literary canon, exploring the wealth of fun findings that remain hidden in the works of the world’s greatest writers. He assembles a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words, and starts asking the questions that have intrigued curious word nerds and book lovers for generations: What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Are bestsellers getting dumber over time? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? What makes a great opening sentence? How can we judge a book by its cover? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?

30 review for Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    Two months ago my seventh grade son chose to write his independent book report on I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever because it details how two friends used a computer algorithm to attend games at thirty different major league baseball stadiums in thirty days. In essence, the book's primary author is a grown version of my math and baseball loving son. So moved was my son by the book that he conducted a question and answer session over Two months ago my seventh grade son chose to write his independent book report on I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever because it details how two friends used a computer algorithm to attend games at thirty different major league baseball stadiums in thirty days. In essence, the book's primary author is a grown version of my math and baseball loving son. So moved was my son by the book that he conducted a question and answer session over email with the author, this while he had just published a second book. This correspondence became my family's reading story of the year. I was touched by Ben Blatt's willingness to answer questions for a seventh grader's English assignment, so I decided to read this aforementioned second book for myself. Scientists maintain that the majority of people are either left or right brained dominate, with one's ability to solve mathematical equations and write quality stories being on opposite sides of the brain. Ben Blatt decides to use mathematical algorithms to delve into the writing processes of various authors from Charles Dickens to Stephen King and a myriad of genre authors in between. In his introduction he uses the example of who wrote the Declaration of Independence: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, or anonymous authors. By plugging the usages of the words whilst and while into a computer program, Blatt found that the evidence supports Madison as the lead writer. Fifty years ago, mathematicians attempted to answer the same question but they did not have the luxury of a computer and had to solve the same algorithm by hand. Their evidence matches Blatt's, revealing that math does play a significant role in written language. Each chapter in this book details a different variable as a determinant for authorship. Blatt uses his favorite authors as examples but collects a large enough sample size to create accurate data. Some of the more intriguing chapters pinpointed various word usage in male and female authors and how language usage has changed or remained the same over the past two hundred years. He placed classic, New York Times best sellers, and modern literary fiction authors into different categories, explaining how their word usage is both the same and different. In this demonstration of compare and contrast, he notes the use of action words or verbs, adjectives, and adverbs across the spectrum of writers, tabulating the data in charts that he includes in the final book. Stephen King, for example, urges promising writers to avoid the adverb. I have attempted to cut down on -ly words for the purpose of this review, and Blatt cuts down on his preference toward adverbs during the chapter where he discusses this caveat of language. He also plugs King's adverb usage into his algorithm to reveal whether or not he uses the part of speech more or less than other writers. In the final chapters, Blatt notes of two trends in the publishing industry today. The first is how authors of both popular series and stand alone books tend to write longer books over time. The first Harry Potter book was only 306 pages long because J.K. Rowling did not know if her book was going to be famous or not. Each successive book became longer in length, both because of Rowling's success and because fans demanded longer stories. Blatt reveals that this trend is similar in current best selling series as Divergent and Twilight while the trend holds for popular literary fiction writer Amy Tan. Another point he presents is how as best selling authors get more famous, their name takes up a larger percentage of space on the book's cover. Stephen King's name only took up seven percent of the cover with his first book when he was an unknown author, and his percentage has plateaued at forty six percent. In essence, popularity sells, revealing how current best selling authors market themselves as much as the content of their books, leading to multiple publications per author per year, increasing the likelihood that these authors enjoy extended stays at the top of the New York Times best selling list. Blatt points out that as the trend toward churning out formulaic books increases, that perhaps as a society we have dumbed down in terms of what we read. He has taken questions about the quality of literature that I often ask myself and plugged them into algorithms in order to come up with concreate data about the word choices that make up both best selling books, literary fiction, and classics. I found each of the chapters engaging and enjoyed the graphs and charts that backed up the data. Blatt's use of mathematical equations to pinpoint language usage has been a full brain exercise that I found fascinating. As I often point out that one book leads to another, I am happy to note that my son's positive experience with Blatt's first book lead me to his intriguing second effort. 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I am obsessed. I was browsing the literary criticism/essays shelves at Barnes & Noble, as one does, when I happened upon this treasure. It was one of those soul-meets-book moments. Like, I had no idea I wanted this book to exist, but once I saw it I knew I had actually been waiting for it my whole life. This is Google Ngram meets human researcher, and the result is delightful. Blatt examines writing style via statistics, focusing on specific questions to get an idea of existing patterns. Some I am obsessed. I was browsing the literary criticism/essays shelves at Barnes & Noble, as one does, when I happened upon this treasure. It was one of those soul-meets-book moments. Like, I had no idea I wanted this book to exist, but once I saw it I knew I had actually been waiting for it my whole life. This is Google Ngram meets human researcher, and the result is delightful. Blatt examines writing style via statistics, focusing on specific questions to get an idea of existing patterns. Some of his questions I had asked (with no ready answer) long before picking up this book (like the jumping-off point for the first chapter: Did Hemingway avoid adverbs?), while other questions Blatt addressed had never occurred to me. His survey of written works spanned classics to fan fiction to erotica, and he detailed the process of gathering relevant samples from each category. Tables and graphs, all shaded mauve, accompanied the written summaries of his research. His explanations of the data and parameters were clear and straightforward. It has been a while since I've studied statistics, but I realize that not much math was included in this book. As I've said, the results were, although Blatt did not go into detail (e.g. we were not given p-values for any result that was claimed to be significant). If I were a statistician I might wish he had included more about the mathematical process, but I found Blatt achieved a balance by describing how he selected his samples and providing illustrations of his results. This book was readable and, while math can be interesting, I don't know that the book would have been as engaging if there had been more of a focus on the equations/programs used to arrive at the results. A few gems: The three words appearing together at the beginning of the most sentences in Fifty Shades of Grey are: "Christian Grey CEO" ("My inner goddess" is phrase number three); the most distinctive word in US erotica is "comforter," while in the UK it's "wanked"; and 42 of Danielle Steele's 92 opening sentences mention the weather. In case I've just made this book seem judgmental (I definitely have), it actually isn't. I am, but Blatt presented information alongside respectful commentary. This book is funny, but the humor is not mean-spirited. Despite the breadth and depth that Blatt covered, I want more. If he ever feels like following the trend of inflation in follow-up books, I'll be here to read the result.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Simple and sweet. Conceptually uncomplicated (but a very complicated project for the author!) and a pleasant read. Reading this one gave me a similar feeling to taking fun, mindless Buzzfeed quizzes. There’s no real point, ultimately, but it was lovely to think about and muse over. I was always pleased to have time to come back to it, but nothing was heart-pounding or dramatic. The perfect book for a stressful time in your life where you need something to hold your attention without freaking you Simple and sweet. Conceptually uncomplicated (but a very complicated project for the author!) and a pleasant read. Reading this one gave me a similar feeling to taking fun, mindless Buzzfeed quizzes. There’s no real point, ultimately, but it was lovely to think about and muse over. I was always pleased to have time to come back to it, but nothing was heart-pounding or dramatic. The perfect book for a stressful time in your life where you need something to hold your attention without freaking you out. And guess who makes an appearance (on multiple occasions) but our own beloved Goodreads! Fun takeaways to follow. ------------NATIONALITY------------ Lists of the best books by Americans (e.g. New York Times, Time magazine, Amazon.com) tend to include four times as many American authors as British authors, whereas lists by Brits (e.g. Telegraph, Amazon.co.uk) tend to include about four times as many British authors as American. This surprised me! I feel like I read a huge number of British authors, and I imagine I’d include a greater percentage of Brits to Americans if you asked me to draw up a list of the greatest authors of all time. ------------INTELLIGENCE------------ Our books are getting dumber. The objectively scored reading grade level for the average bestsellers and the average literary books are going way down compared to where they used to be. ------------IDENTIFICATION------------ Writing styles are so distinct that this formula invented in the 1950s can identify whether the same writer wrote two pieces 99.4% percent of the time. Think about how staggering that percentage is. Just by looking at how many times you use the words when, sometimes, how, if, is, etc., they can be basically CERTAIN that I wrote something, not you. That’s like, fingerprint-level identification. We all use many of the same words, but we use them so distinctly that nobody can replicate us. No matter who we are. Isn’t that lovely? Our writing is completely and totally ours, whether it’s good or bad, it belongs to us in a unique and unreplicable way. ------------GENDER (AUTHOR)------------ A writer’s gender can be predicted 80% of the time by measuring the frequency of a few dozen words that you wouldn’t think gendered at all. Like actually, everything, their, above, something, the. But this isn’t perfect. Virginia Woolf, Ayn Rand, and Willa Cather all write very masculinely. Their books fall on the list of the ten “most masculine classic novels” the author calculates. And Anthony Burgess, JD Salinger, and DH Lawrence write very femininely, their books falling on the ten “most feminine classic novels” list. (When you start to think about it, those names- with the exception of Anthony Burgess- probably shouldn’t surprise you. I would have guessed Rand wrote masculinely and DH Lawrence would write femininely!) ----------GENDER (CHARACTERS)---------- When you go and calculate how many times “he” versus “she” is used in a novel (essentially, this lets you know how much the book is about men doing things versus women doing things) the results are STAGGERING. Women writers give a pretty decent split. About 50% he and 50% she. But men writers? On average they write “he” THREE TIMES AS MANY TIMES as they write she. Think about the implications of that. A 3:1 ratio when in reality, half of the people in the world are women. Think about the fact that women literally disappear from men’s consideration when they write, that their perspective narrows into tunnel vision like that. And it’s not just old books, either. Those numbers hold true for modern bestsellers. Men’s perspective is male-centric. Women are made irrelevant to the stories they choose to tell us. This infuriates me so much that I have committed to making this year the year of women authors. For every one book I read by a man, I’m reading two by women. I refuse to devote so much of my time to male authors if they can’t be bothered to devote book space to women. Also, there's a difference in how people write about male characters versus female characters. Both men & women authors write about women “screaming, shivering, weeping, murmuring, and marrying” far more than their men characters, while they write about men “muttering, grinning, shouting, chuckling, and killing” far more than the women characters. Men authors (but not women authors) write about women “interrupting” far more often than they do men. But interestingly, while men authors describe both men and women as having “fear,” women authors tend to not assign “fear” to their male characters. On the other hand, women authors describe both men and women as “sobbing” but men don’t use this word to describe men, only women. More interesting still: both genders use the following words to describe characters of the opposite gender more often than their own: kissed, exclaimed, answered, loved, and smiled. Wish fullfilment on both ends, perhaps? In contrast, both genders use the following words more often to describe characters of their own gender than the opposite: heard, wondered, lay, hated, ran. Typical every day action words that put the character at the center of the story. ------------FAVOURITE WORDS------------ Some favourite words of famous authors: Yes, indeed, Nabokov uses the word “mauve” many times over what other writers do. Ray Bradbury uses “ramshackle” and numerous spice words, such as “spearmint” and “cinnamon” far more often than nearly everyone. Michael Connolly= “nodded”; Jane Austen= “civility, fancying, imprudence”; Charlotte Bronte= “my, am, me”; William Faulkner= “hollering, realized, immobile”; F Scott Fitzgerald= “facetious, muddled, sanitarium”; Nathaniel Hawthorne= “subtile, betwixt, remoteness”; EL James= “murmur, hmm, subconscious”; DH Lawrence= “round, dark, sat”; Chuck Palahniuk= “says, inside, dead”; Nicholas Sparks= “final, wanted, real”; Alice Walker= “black, white, women”; Edith Wharton= “herself, seemed, her”; Virginia Woolf= “flushing, blotting, mantelpiece.” As the author sagely says, these “fallback” words can “be revealing of the inner mechanics of certain authors’ writing— the devices and tics they tend to fall back on to keep the plot moving or to get from one scene to the next. Gaiman fills the gaps with walking; Cheever’s reality is shifting, focusing on how things seem. These favourite words “go beyond rarity and become common for that author, almost as if they’re a part of the way that author thinks and operates.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    Statistics and novels are like peanut butter in chocolate. They go well together but you would never know till someone tried it. This book takes data mining techniques to great and popular works of literature and finds some really interesting patterns. You will find that Hemingway was right to avoid adverbs ending in -ly. You will find differences between men and women, Brits and Yanks, Texans and New Yorkers, and an identifying signature in the words of every writer in word counts and statistic Statistics and novels are like peanut butter in chocolate. They go well together but you would never know till someone tried it. This book takes data mining techniques to great and popular works of literature and finds some really interesting patterns. You will find that Hemingway was right to avoid adverbs ending in -ly. You will find differences between men and women, Brits and Yanks, Texans and New Yorkers, and an identifying signature in the words of every writer in word counts and statistical frequencies. Some of this stuff is fun some of it is hard data on what kinds of things to avoid and incorporate into writing. Good stuff.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    This book, which uses data analysis to look at literature, is utterly fascinating and also very funny in places, like the chapter about cliches, which made me start laughing out loud in a crowded subway car. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Renner

    I'm a big numbers geek, so this was an interesting peek into word usage analysis.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Briana

    In his author bio, Ben Blatt refers to himself as a "data journalist," but the type of work he does in Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve reminds me of some of the tasks that scholars and graduate students are working on in the digital humanities. The anecdote that Blatt opens with, explaining how two scholars used statistics to determine the authors of some of the essays in the Federalist Papers in 1963, is one good example. Digital tools can make answering some of our pressing questions about wr In his author bio, Ben Blatt refers to himself as a "data journalist," but the type of work he does in Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve reminds me of some of the tasks that scholars and graduate students are working on in the digital humanities. The anecdote that Blatt opens with, explaining how two scholars used statistics to determine the authors of some of the essays in the Federalist Papers in 1963, is one good example. Digital tools can make answering some of our pressing questions about writing, reading, and authorship so much faster, and Blatt demonstrates how. The book is divided into different topics, and I admit some are more interesting than others. I particularly enjoyed the first chapter, "Use Sparingly," where Blatt investigates whether the old writing advice "use -ly adverbs minimally" is "good" advice. (Of course that will always be somewhat subjective, but he takes a look at classic authors, generally deemed "good" authors, to see see if they tend to follow this rule. Frequently he analyzes fan fiction to get a sense of how more amateur writing compares.) His conclusions on this and similar writing advice questions can be useful to writers looking to improve their own work. I also had fun watching Blatt analyze whether authors follow their own writing advice, or whether they're full of hot air. Blatt also delves into issues of co-authorship, such as: Can you tell who wrote "most" of the book that has two author names on the cover? (Or just one name, with an uncredited ghost writer?) And he addresses questions of readership, such as whether the books on the new York Times Bestseller list are getting less complex. (Spoiler: They are.) Blatt covers an interesting array of topics, leaving much of the analysis open to the reader. (Does it even matter that todya's bestsellers are written at a lower grade level than in previous decades?) My least favorite chapter was "How to Judge a Book by Its Cover." While a lot of Blatt's points are fascinating, occasionally he stumbles onto the obvious, and that was the most true in this chapter. He takes pages just to point out that the more famous you are as an author, the bigger your name tends to be on the cover of your books. Well...duh. Of course, he attaches numbers to the issue (What percentage of the cover does your name take up? What's the largest your name is ever likely to be?), but overall I didn't think the issue was worth going on about. This is a fascinating book. From here, I think the only real questions are what we, as readers, will do with the information Blatt provides. Highly recommended (particularly for those of you looking to read more nonfiction! It's a book about books!).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    Now that computers have demonstrated how the words of everyday life differ from words of academia and have produced corpi of words and phrases and from books, speeches and even overheard conversations, it was only a matter of time for a popular work exploring word and sentence patterns in literature to emerge. Ben Blatt begins with the Federalist Papers which through word analysis determines (finally?) who wrote what. He checks word frequency of popular authors (hence the title), the use of short Now that computers have demonstrated how the words of everyday life differ from words of academia and have produced corpi of words and phrases and from books, speeches and even overheard conversations, it was only a matter of time for a popular work exploring word and sentence patterns in literature to emerge. Ben Blatt begins with the Federalist Papers which through word analysis determines (finally?) who wrote what. He checks word frequency of popular authors (hence the title), the use of short opening sentences, the frequency of anaphora (repetition of phrase) and the frequency of one sentence closing paragraphs. There is data about the size of the author’s name on a book cover, the use of exclamation points and more. Most incisive for me, was the longitudinal study of word length in NYT best selling fiction. Charts on pages 108-112 show, but do not discuss, the dramatic trend to shorter words. Is this a dumbing down of the reading public, or does it signal a preference for sleeker prose? This is browsing book. It can entertain you for an afternoon.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    This is a gimmick book. Is it really a surprise that, by these metrics, the worst writers include the authors of Twilight, Fifty-Shades of Grey, and Dan Brown? Or that the the reading level for the NYT bestseller list has slid precipitously in the last 50 years? Ot that James Patterson uses the most cliches? Some of the charts can be interesting, but the surrounding prose is verbose. I'm glad I got this one out of the library. Read (or reread) "The Elements of Style" instead. "Omit needless words, This is a gimmick book. Is it really a surprise that, by these metrics, the worst writers include the authors of Twilight, Fifty-Shades of Grey, and Dan Brown? Or that the the reading level for the NYT bestseller list has slid precipitously in the last 50 years? Ot that James Patterson uses the most cliches? Some of the charts can be interesting, but the surrounding prose is verbose. I'm glad I got this one out of the library. Read (or reread) "The Elements of Style" instead. "Omit needless words," especially adverbs. And go easy on the exclamation points. Got it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    I learned so much about novels and authors throughout this entire book. Normally not a fan of nonfiction, I couldn't stop talking about this book and recommending it to everyone. It may be nerd lit but it's well worth a read if you're interested in books about books/classic literature.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bohli

    Bücher zu analysieren kann Spass machen, wie auch Mathematik. Ben Blatt fügt in "Nabokov's Favourite Word Is Mauve" somit mit Literatur und Statistik zwei Welten zusammen, die wunderbar gemeinsam dahinschreiten und für unterhaltsame Erkenntnisse sorgen. So werden nicht nur die Schreibstile bekannter Autoren auseinandergenommen, sonder die Geschlechterfrage oder die Eigenheiten von Fan-Fiction. Blatt geht sogar soweit, dass er Bücher anhand der Cover und in den Texten enthaltenen Klischees bewerte Bücher zu analysieren kann Spass machen, wie auch Mathematik. Ben Blatt fügt in "Nabokov's Favourite Word Is Mauve" somit mit Literatur und Statistik zwei Welten zusammen, die wunderbar gemeinsam dahinschreiten und für unterhaltsame Erkenntnisse sorgen. So werden nicht nur die Schreibstile bekannter Autoren auseinandergenommen, sonder die Geschlechterfrage oder die Eigenheiten von Fan-Fiction. Blatt geht sogar soweit, dass er Bücher anhand der Cover und in den Texten enthaltenen Klischees bewertet - dabei auf erstaunliche Resultate stösst. Sicherlich ist dies nicht die absolute Wahrheit, aber mit seinen unterhaltsamen Beschreibungen und dem richtigen Mass an Bücherfanatismus bietet dieses Sachbuch für jede Leseratte humorvolle Stunden.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Fascinating concept, really: the author analyzes fifty English language authors for most of his results revealing such things as bestsellers are are using simpler terms and shorter sentences as the years pass. Is our attention span shorter? Among Texas erotica's most distinctive terms are "Trailer", "Soldiers" and "Bunk". NYorker's? It's "Museum", "Senator" and "Popsicle". Odd. And Agatha Christie novels are 'action filled' but are on the 'quiet end' of the 'loud/quiet' spectrum. I never thought Fascinating concept, really: the author analyzes fifty English language authors for most of his results revealing such things as bestsellers are are using simpler terms and shorter sentences as the years pass. Is our attention span shorter? Among Texas erotica's most distinctive terms are "Trailer", "Soldiers" and "Bunk". NYorker's? It's "Museum", "Senator" and "Popsicle". Odd. And Agatha Christie novels are 'action filled' but are on the 'quiet end' of the 'loud/quiet' spectrum. I never thought of Jane Marple knitting and thinking 'action filled'. Oh, and Proust (non-English, natch) used 'mauve' incessantly also, but that's not noted here. I think Blatt could have had thousands of pages and created a doorstopper of a book and I found myself thinking of the things Blatt might have included or excluded. It's a fun read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    SoLe Puella

    Ove sam se knjige dočepala u pravom trenutku. Počela sam je čitati malo prije nego što sam krenula na seminar o statističkoj obradi lingvističkih podataka i bilo mi je beskrajno zanimljivo listati strane i strane zanimljivih pristupa knjigama, pisanju i piscima kojima je zajednička težnja ka spoju statistike i pisanja, brojeva i riječi. Nije ovo jedna od onih knjiga koje nastoje umjetnot predstaviti kao nešto što se svodi na čiste mjesre i odnose, to i sam autor navodi. On je samo iz perspektive Ove sam se knjige dočepala u pravom trenutku. Počela sam je čitati malo prije nego što sam krenula na seminar o statističkoj obradi lingvističkih podataka i bilo mi je beskrajno zanimljivo listati strane i strane zanimljivih pristupa knjigama, pisanju i piscima kojima je zajednička težnja ka spoju statistike i pisanja, brojeva i riječi. Nije ovo jedna od onih knjiga koje nastoje umjetnot predstaviti kao nešto što se svodi na čiste mjesre i odnose, to i sam autor navodi. On je samo iz perspektive nekoga ko se bavi brojevima i statistikom pokušao da da odgovore na zanimljiva pitanja kao što su koliko često se određena dužina prve rečenica javlja u romanima pojednih pisaca, da li na osnovu jezika možemo uvije i u svakom slučaju prepoznati i iodrediti pisca, da li neki pisci imaju svoje omiljene riječi, koje koriste mnogo više nego svi ostali, da li postoje neke razlike u pisanju muškaraca i žena... Tekstovi su praćeni dijagramima, tabelama i raznim grafičkim prikazima i može ih lako pratiti i onaj ko nema nikakvo iskustvo u statističkim pristupima i obradama podataka.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christian Paula

    Cool look into the big data of writing. A fun romp.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    What can digital technology add to the humanities? The digital humanities field has emerged as a robust academic answer to this question (and I once got into a shouting match with Stanley Fish about it). Ben Blatt's Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve is a very quick and accessible introduction to some aspects of this field, namely machine analysis of literary texts. Each chapter of Blatt's book sees him applying data crunching to different literary questions. Some are interesting and even provocativ What can digital technology add to the humanities? The digital humanities field has emerged as a robust academic answer to this question (and I once got into a shouting match with Stanley Fish about it). Ben Blatt's Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve is a very quick and accessible introduction to some aspects of this field, namely machine analysis of literary texts. Each chapter of Blatt's book sees him applying data crunching to different literary questions. Some are interesting and even provocative, like investigating male and female styles (31ff). Others are useful advances on classic text authorship questions (59ff). Others are entertaining at first, but ultimately not too interesting, like looking for how often authors use adverbs (9ff), or how often opening sentences are short (197ff). The chapter on relative sizes of author's names on book covers (177) adds nothing to the understanding of even the most casual book shopper. Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve is very easy to read, and spikes the data with enough humor and love of reading to win over the most math-phobic reader, as befits a journalist who's also written about baseball. If you haven't looked into applying technology to the humanities, it's a good first read, especially the better chapters.

  16. 4 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    Fascinating stats that provide an insightful “behind the scenes” look at what make great books and authors tick.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: This book was wonderfully entertaining with lots of great fun facts, but a little bit light on the statistics. As book bloggers or avid reads, I suspect most of you reading this post have thought at least a little bit about what qualities make a book one of your favorites. In this book, the author tries to answer that and other intriguing bookish questions objectively using statistics. Questions he addresses include: "What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write Summary: This book was wonderfully entertaining with lots of great fun facts, but a little bit light on the statistics. As book bloggers or avid reads, I suspect most of you reading this post have thought at least a little bit about what qualities make a book one of your favorites. In this book, the author tries to answer that and other intriguing bookish questions objectively using statistics. Questions he addresses include: "What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Are bestsellers getting dumber over time? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? What makes a great opening sentence? How can we judge a book by its cover? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?" (source) The answers to all of the questions above were entertaining and informative. I loved learning about what books categorized best sellers, classics, or literary fiction all had in common and where they differed. The author did a great job writing about all his results in entertaining and thoughtful ways, even when those results related to sensitive topics such as gender. He also was clear about the limitations of his work. I had a ton of fun reading this book and I think that will be true for any lover of books. The graphs the author used were designed very cleverly to make the concepts he was discussing as clear as possible. His verbal descriptions of the questions he was asking were also clear and precise. My one complaint with this book was that several times the author said something like "but you're not interested in the details of the statistics". Oh, but I was! Having read The Signal and the Noise, I know it's possible to write a book that includes some technical details about statistics while still being entertaining. That's what I really wanted from this book. I would definitely still recommend this. It was such an enjoyable read! But don't go into expecting a lot of depth on the stats. This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  18. 5 out of 5

    Beanie

    This book was wonderfully fascinating, both as a reader and a writer. Have you ever wondered what makes a book a bestseller? If writers follow their own advice? Or many other things about the composition of books? This book can tell you. It answered questions that I didn't even know I had in an insightful, interesting, fun way. I will think of the things that I learned from it often.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patti Miller

    Quite a bit of fun! Learned a few new ways to look at writing and reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    victor harris

    " Numbers" in the title is the operative word. If you love data, charts, and graphs as applied to literature, then you will be in your element. Mildly interesting in spots, such as use or overuse of adverbs, but on balance quite tedious. The basic methodology is computer generated information about what author preferred what words. I am not sure writing can be reduced to quantification and statistics. The book makes some statements to that effect but is not very convincing and the delivery was l " Numbers" in the title is the operative word. If you love data, charts, and graphs as applied to literature, then you will be in your element. Mildly interesting in spots, such as use or overuse of adverbs, but on balance quite tedious. The basic methodology is computer generated information about what author preferred what words. I am not sure writing can be reduced to quantification and statistics. The book makes some statements to that effect but is not very convincing and the delivery was largely as dry as the statistics.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Hodgson

    Did more scanning than reading, but his lines of inquiry were interesting to follow .. and the charts of data were worth careful looks

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    A fun book if you like metrics and statistics. It opens with a discussion of an effort to determine the authorship of 12 essays in The Federalist Papers which were claimed by both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Never mind the intellectual concepts therein: in 1963 a couple of statisticians analyzed the frequency of several common words in the other essays which were known to be written by either author - for example, Madison used the word “whilst” in over half of his essays, while Hamilto A fun book if you like metrics and statistics. It opens with a discussion of an effort to determine the authorship of 12 essays in The Federalist Papers which were claimed by both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Never mind the intellectual concepts therein: in 1963 a couple of statisticians analyzed the frequency of several common words in the other essays which were known to be written by either author - for example, Madison used the word “whilst” in over half of his essays, while Hamilton never used it. Then they counted the frequency of those same words in the disputed essays, and used the results to assign authorship. Here Blatt shows that the same technique can be used to provide strong evidence of authorship in all kinds of books. He provides nice charts to demonstrate, for instance, that the number of uses of the words “what” and “but” per 10,000 words can clearly show that Robert Galbraith’s books were written by J.K. Rowling and not Louise Penny or Michael Connelly. (There are several charts and graphs in the book, and I'm not sure how readable they would be on an e-ink reader.) Citing the common advice to avoid adverbs in prose, particularly the “-ly” adverbs (e.g. “he said angrily”), Blatt counts the use of those adverbs in books which are considered great (from authors such as Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Austen) and others considered less great (authors Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Stephen King). He examines the critical rankings (including the Goodreads rankings) of the books to see if there is a correspondence. There’s a section on guessing whether prose has been written by a man or a woman. There’s a discussion about the frequent use of exclamation marks, which Elmore Leonard advises strongly against. The author downloaded every sex story on Literotica.com (“76 million words of pure filth”) to determine how often American writers and British writers used certain words, like “brilliant”. He downloaded a ton of Twilight fan fiction to see if any of the work would pass for Meyer’s. The are lots of other fun statistics, like the fact that 46% of Danielle Steel’s novels mention weather in the first sentence (in reference to another of Leonard’s rules) and that James Patterson uses 160 cliches per 10,000 words. The notes at the end list every single book used for these analyses, and the author describes how he chose “great” and “non-great” books. He worked mostly with authors who published multiple novels, so that he could get adequate statistical samples.

  23. 5 out of 5

    hayden

    i bought this, today, on a whim, at the same time as laini taylor's new book (which, THANK GOD, is out now !!!!!!!!!!1). i also, on a whim, binged the whole thing at a café. it was cool as fuck. as i said to a couple of my friends, i wanted it to go on for another couple hundred pages. [how cool this would be as a series!! or perhaps we can get longitudinal and follow some of the young authors cited here (e.g., gillian flynn, jonathan franzen, zadie smith, veronica roth, etc.), who haven't relea i bought this, today, on a whim, at the same time as laini taylor's new book (which, THANK GOD, is out now !!!!!!!!!!1). i also, on a whim, binged the whole thing at a café. it was cool as fuck. as i said to a couple of my friends, i wanted it to go on for another couple hundred pages. [how cool this would be as a series!! or perhaps we can get longitudinal and follow some of the young authors cited here (e.g., gillian flynn, jonathan franzen, zadie smith, veronica roth, etc.), who haven't released many books (or at least have potentially fruitful futures), through their careers and see if things change as time passes!! i would buy all of them. just sayin'.] i didn't give it five stars because i was extremely triggered by this sentence: "The rest of the [trade paperback] list had some more literary fiction, but also works by authors Gillian Flynn, Nicholas Sparks, and James Patterson, who seem to defy the list's goal of giving "more emphasis to literary novels." *heart attack* WHAAAAT?! gillian flynn is leagues above the other two in terms of literary merit and basically every other metric by which writing can possibly be measured, except maybe prolificacy . . . she does take her time, that one. i can understand where he's coming from if he's separating literary fiction and commercial fiction purely in terms of popularity, but i don't think that's what he's doing. oh, well. the rest of this was bomb diggity dawg ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marni

    Fun and an easy read. For the right person, this qualifies as a beach book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leona

    Who says Data Analytics can't be fun?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I liked the intersection of math and writing. This book has some great insights and funny discoveries. There was a good sample of authors included and it highlighted some great writing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Edmund

    You'll often hear that writing is subjective, to take writing rules with a grain of salt (or more). However in Blatt's analysis he takes a statistical and scientific approach to analyzing novels and attempts to settle some concepts objectively. The result is a slightly unusual read, as a science AND writing nerd I absolutely loved it. A creative type may find the statistical aspects somewhat boggling, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book as part of learning to write creatively (perhaps m You'll often hear that writing is subjective, to take writing rules with a grain of salt (or more). However in Blatt's analysis he takes a statistical and scientific approach to analyzing novels and attempts to settle some concepts objectively. The result is a slightly unusual read, as a science AND writing nerd I absolutely loved it. A creative type may find the statistical aspects somewhat boggling, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book as part of learning to write creatively (perhaps more a laugh for more jaded writers). Chapters I particularly liked were the first, an examination of adverbs, chapter 7 on cliche and chapter 9 on beginnings and endings. While anther chapter 'write by example' focused on writing advice it felt like a very brief overview (it really only captured a couple of points like don't use ! exclamation marks and be succinct, I felt like a whole book could be spent on analyzing writing advice) The other chapters ranged in quality and interest, my main complaint of the whole book was that the topics seemed somewhat random, it wasn't clear whether Blatt set out to answer questions like 'are there differences between UK and US writers?' or these were some of the various factors that arose from his analysis. The net effect is that reading through Nabokov's... felt somewhat meandering. Overall I really enjoyed the subject even if just for the stronger chapters.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    If you love both words and numbers, you will love this book. If you love words, but are more than slightly suspicious of numbers (I fall into this category), you may well love this book anyway. Spoiler alert—in the battle between words and numbers in this book, words win. That outcome never fails to make me happy. What the author has done is to take massive amounts of text from classics, bestsellers, and even fanfiction, and used specialized software to analyze word use for the purpose of compari If you love both words and numbers, you will love this book. If you love words, but are more than slightly suspicious of numbers (I fall into this category), you may well love this book anyway. Spoiler alert—in the battle between words and numbers in this book, words win. That outcome never fails to make me happy. What the author has done is to take massive amounts of text from classics, bestsellers, and even fanfiction, and used specialized software to analyze word use for the purpose of comparing author to author. The results are fascinating. I’m not sure it ultimately means anything. The author, being primarily a numbers guy who likes words (as opposed to the correct way of living), finds significance in places where I’m not convinced it exists. But even when I didn’t buy his conclusion, I was still entertained. Sample data: The chart titled “Most Clichéd Popular Books of the Twenty First Century”, lists ten titles, five of which were written by James Patterson. ♥♥♥

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    3.5 rounded up Parts were really good, the test to determine authorship was fascinating, and the determination of favorite words was interesting. The parts where the author looked at whether authors followed their own writing advice and whether that advice really held up was interesting at first but became repetitive after a while, and the discussion of the dumbing down of literature was rather depressing, even while he tried to assert that it was not necessarily a bad thing. I would have enjoyed 3.5 rounded up Parts were really good, the test to determine authorship was fascinating, and the determination of favorite words was interesting. The parts where the author looked at whether authors followed their own writing advice and whether that advice really held up was interesting at first but became repetitive after a while, and the discussion of the dumbing down of literature was rather depressing, even while he tried to assert that it was not necessarily a bad thing. I would have enjoyed finding out if possible whether a translators writing was more like other translators of the author or more like books they authored on their own. Won a free copy from a Goodreads giveaway.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This number-crunching look at literature is a fun filled treat for book nerds. For instance, How many times is the word "she" used in The Hobbit? Once! Please note, I am neither upset nor outraged by this. Just fascinated. Women write measurably differently from men, as do British writers from Americans, and it's pretty much as impossible for a writer to disguise his or her style under a pseudonym or for a co-author's style not to be distinguishable when a primary author uses multiple collaborato This number-crunching look at literature is a fun filled treat for book nerds. For instance, How many times is the word "she" used in The Hobbit? Once! Please note, I am neither upset nor outraged by this. Just fascinated. Women write measurably differently from men, as do British writers from Americans, and it's pretty much as impossible for a writer to disguise his or her style under a pseudonym or for a co-author's style not to be distinguishable when a primary author uses multiple collaborators. Just a couple more examples of the fun stuff here: Of 21st century bestsellers, James Patterson has 4 of the top 5 highest number of cliches per 100,000 words when compared to entries in The Dictionary of Cliches: A Word Lover's Guide to 4,000 Overused Phrases and Almost-Pleasing Platitudes. Ray Bradbury, who named "cinnamon" as one of his favorite words (the other being the excellent "ramshackle"), does use that word more frequently than almost any other author in the 50-author pool Blatt uses in this book -- but it turns out that Bradbury has a clear love for naming flavorings and ranks top in use of spearmint, nutmeg, licorice, and lemon. And there are so many more great facts, tables, and graphs here. Enjoy!

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