Word Freak

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A book review of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players by Stefan Fatsis

A book review of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive SCRABBLE Players by Stefan Fatsis

Stars: ***

Penguin Books (2002)
416 pages

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Summary: Scrabble may be truly called America’s game. But for every group of “living-room players” there is someone who is “at one with the board.” In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few, exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life-playing competitively in tournaments across the country. It is also the story of how the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful, challenging, and beloved game it is today. Along the way, Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert. More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players, Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance, memory, language, competition, and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us all.

Word Freak

If you ever wanted to know about competitive Scrabble, you will learn a lot about it in this book. The author immerses himself in the competitive Scrabble world. He shares his experiences, what he learned and who he met along the way. He teaches us about how competitive Scrabble differs from those who play casually at home. We meet very interesting people who teach the author how to become better at Scrabble. Along with TONS of practice we follow him from a beginner to a higher level player (I won’t spoil it by specifying how good he gets.)

The book includes LOTS of specific words that he or others plays. The author marks words a certain way to specify if they are phony (not real words according to scrabble) or are acceptable words in North America or Great Britain. At times, board layouts are even shared to complement the stories.

This is a long book (at least to me) at over 400 pages and a heavy read. It is not quick reading. I chose to read it little bits at a time as a bathroom book. Although I appreciated the Scrabble tips, I enjoyed “meeting” other Scrabble players more. The players we meet are an odd bunch. That’s what makes them fun though.

The only downside of the book was that at times it really dragged on with all the words played. I preferred the memoir style reading parts more than the discussions of specific words. Well I liked the discussion of words in that I love reading about language but sometimes it was just too much.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.