Book Review: Dreyer’s English

Written by Frances Peck; copy edited by Annette Gingrich

Review of “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style” by Benjamin Dreyer (Random House, 2019).

"Dreyer's English" by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style hit the shelves a year ago. Or perhaps I should say it briefly touched the shelves, seeing as copies sold as fast as they could be printed. Repeating the improbable success of the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne TrussBenjamin Dreyer’s guide sold umpteen copies and topped bestseller lists.

I’ve long followed Dreyer on Twitter, where he is natty, chatty, and sometimes catty. The same irresistible combination makes his book, from cover to cover, a trove of delights.

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Troubling trendlet: grouping books by colour

In what can only be a sign of the decline of Western Civilization, there’s “a trendlet … kicking up dust on decor sites: grouping books on the shelf according to hue.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Certain design magazines and blogs want to convince readers to group books by hue—not by author surname, not by subject matter, and certainly not by Dewey decimal number.

To make matters worse, Random House is purported to be in on the trend.

According to Sophie Kohn in her article “Dewey decimal redux: should we organize books by colour?” (Globe and Mail, September 19, 2012), Random House will be launching a “Books are Beautiful” series in October 2012:

[thirty] iconic titles each assigned a specific shade by colour specialist Pantone … so that the collection forms a rainbow on your shelf. (The edges of the pages are spray-painted to match, ensuring that the book is a physical work of art from every conceivable angle—except if you open it.)

We hold out hope that this is a hoax since we haven’t yet found confirmation on Random House’s website or Twitter account.

Feeling brave enough to read the entire article?