Review of Manish Gupta’s “English Bites!”

by samantakbhadra

Words are the building blocks of the realm of languages. They are little fairies born from varied forms of stardust that mate magically with a singular purpose of creating the magical intangible universe of ordered sounds that envelop us, lowly creatures, and provide for us a bridge which we tiptoe or gallop or dance or simply walk over. This bridge connects two souls, two islands, two lonely beings and helps them to smile and understand each other. Words are the air we breathe through our mouths. Sometimes, words are exhaled in unpredictable bursts that are momentary and compulsive desires to express and, therefore, extend our souls and thoughts with an omnidirectional aim of connecting, on the physical, emotional and metaphysical level, with another soul. The connection is the euphoric pinnacle of the euphonic saga that is called language.

Manish Gupta’s “English Bites!” is a book that embraces words and gives them the royal treatment that they so rightly deserve. The book is filled with interesting words that, metaphorically speaking, pop out from holes underneath the pages. They are strewn all over the book in generous doses and, therefore, help to improve the vocabulary of the reader. To facilitate learning, the meaning of the word is lucidly explained along with examples that help to assist the reader in understanding the usage of the words. Footnotes have been used liberally and they serve to enlighten the reader as he courses through words flowing through the veins of the pages. On quite a few occasions, the author has provided anecdotes and stories which have caused the creation and/or the current pronunciation of certain words. These stories coupled with his experiences in life help to add a lot of humour to the text. Each chapter is a slice from the author’s life. Humorous, candid and forthcoming, these tales about his past help in the learning experience as the reader treads along two parallel paths simultaneously, one being the stories and the anecdotes and the other being new juicy words that are marked off in bold. Light, lilting and funny, the book does not tread into mundane waters and, more importantly, it does not tend to preach. It prances along happily and occasionally throws across a wonderfully delicious word that the reader can savour at his own pace.

However, the pace of the narrative is undulating and, therefore, does not flow along harmoniously. Even though that could be attributed to the fact that the book is primarily an exercise in knowledge rather than fiction, the stories and the contexts in each chapter are quite widely separate from each other and, therefore, there are no connecting threads that can identify the book as a unified entity. Rather, each chapter is like a little island drifting along its own path which, therefore, tends to leave the reader swimming in uncharted territories. As a result, the multiple themes comingle with each other and appear to befuddle the aftertaste that lingers once the reader has completed reading the book. All in all, the book is filled with a wonderful array of words which are, in turn, supplemented with interesting trivia. It is a bold and unique attempt and if one is looking to enrich one’s vocabulary without immersing oneself in the drudgery of word lists and the bottomless pages of a dictionary, then this book should be a good return on investment.

My rating of the book is 7.5/10.