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Book Review: English Bites! by Manish Gupta

Title: English Bites!
Author: Manish Gupta
Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (December 21st 2012)
Genre: Non-Fiction
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)

English Bites! My Fullproof English Learning Formula is the story of a man who goes from being tongue-tied in school to becoming a smooth talking banker. Through a series of hilarious personal adventures and misadventures, Manish Gupta provides easy solutions to problems faced by language learners. So, whether you’re a vernacular speaker, a GRE/ GMAT/CAT/XAT aspirant or just a language nut, English Bites! will expand your vocabulary and improve your verbal ability. It may even help you love the English language a little more!

My Review:

Thanks Manish Gupta for offering me your book to read and review 🙂

Cover: Simple, bright and eye-catchy!

Paper and font: Ebony on Old Ivory 🙂

Readability, language: Easy on the eyes but maybe not the mind.

Why did I choose this book: English with it’s innumerable number of words has always fascinated me but learning and remembering those words has always been difficult.

There are scores of books written on learning the English language and I’ve read my fair share over the years but English Bites! is the first book I’ve read that talks about someone’s journey in learning English while still teaching me a lot about it. Manish Gupta takes us down the path he followed starting out in an English medium school as he tried to wrap his mind around the English language gaining a proficiency that finally resulted in a book. The book covers not only words but also tips and tricks that help learn and remember words and usage.

English Bites is an appropriate title as it has multiple meanings through the book – from the painful episodes of getting language wrong to Gupta’s bite-sized bits of information. The cover is simple and bright with the orange jumping out at you and grabbing your attention. The blurb does justice to the book in terms of what to expect.

The plot (if there is one) is a simple one with Gupta as the main protagonist as he fights his way through understanding and learning a language that is constantly growing with the acceptance of numerous new words from various sources where the meaning may not always be what it seems.

The book is laid out well with meanings of words either explained in the text or as foot notes. Gupta has also included illustrations and expansions that help understand concepts better.

When I started reading the book, it felt like a drag and I couldn’t seem to read more than two pages at a time. It took me a while to realise that, that was because I couldn’t control my curiosity; I kept jumping to the foot notes to read about the words, sometimes even the ones I knew. The jumping about of course meant that I was constantly losing track of where I was in the story and had to go back and re-read parts. Once I got my curiosity under control and I accepted that reading two-odd pages at a stretch was ok, I started making progress.

English Bites! is one of the few books I have taken so long to read – 47 days! After my initial struggle I quickly realised that this book was perfect for my ‘on the pot’ reading. It was a great way to start my day as I could then spend my day mulling over the new words I learned and trying to use them through the day. I kind of believe in the saying that you have to use a word thrice correctly to make it your own.

The first half of the book is about Gupta’s initial journey into learning English with lots of helpful tips like using mnemonics, limericks, rhymes, alliterations, and trivia to learn and remember words and their usage. Some of these were really interesting or wacky and I’m sure to remember them over time, like did you know the largest eggs are not those of an ostrich but a shark or that an easy way to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites is that stalactites grow from the roof so they have to hold on tight and stalagmites, grow from the floor and might just make it to the roof.

He also goes into types of words like isograms, palindromes, etc. and fun with words, letters and meanings like pointing out that the word ‘set’ has ’58 noun uses, 126 verb uses and 10 uses as an adjective’.

In the second half Gupta starts to focus on areas like medicine, food, coffee, etc. as he explores the words used in these arenas. I learned a lot of new words here like – abdominoplasty, chummery, hyperpagia, circumlocution, consanguine, patronymic, etc. along with learning the history or etymology of some words like expresso.

In the last chapter Gupta loops back to complete his story and renew his learning curve with new words from the mouth of a babe. At 344 pages English Bites! seems long but the end came as a surprise to me; I was looking forward to learning more.

Over all the book is well written and quite detailed. English Bites! will definitely help anyone who wants to get better in English no matter whether it’s just casual interest or a study for exams, however it will take a few reads before you make a dent in your English vocabulary. This book is going to permanently reside on my ‘pot reading shelf’. 😀

About the Author:
In my short life I think I’ve meant too many people of numbers (finance guys) who are in love with letters. It baffles my mind, numbers and letters don’t go together in my head. Manish Gupta adds to my list by being a banker. Hailing from Rajasthan, he has studied in Chandigarh and Jamshedpur, and currently lives in Mumbai with his wife and daughters. You can connect with Manish on the English Bites! facebook page.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

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