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The Dictionary of Lost Words: A Novel Paperback – Big Book, May 3, 2022

4.4 out of 5 stars 18,442 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


“A beautiful exploration of history and the power of language. For anybody who loves words and celebrates them, this subversive story weaves together love, loss and literature in a perfectly lyrical way.”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club May ’22 Pick)

“This remarkable novel tries to rectify a glaring oversight in the historical accounts of the first
Oxford English Dictionary—the contributions of women . . . without whom the English language wouldn’t have evolved as fully and colorfully as it has.”Boston magazine

“Enchanting, sorrowful, and wonderfully written, the book is a one-of-a-kind celebration of language and its importance in our lives. A must-have.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“In Williams’s exuberant, meticulously researched debut, the daughter of a lexicographer devotes her life to an alternative dictionary. . . . Williams’s feminist take on language will move readers.”
Publishers Weekly

“Williams turns history as we know it on its head in this delightful debut, spotlighting those women and their contributions, using the awe-inspiring power of words themselves to illuminate them.”

“[A] masterfully written, beautiful first novel that tells a fascinating story of language, love and loss.”
—Historical Novel Society

“The writing is glorious; I dog-eared many pages as I read, marking passages that helped me see words in a new way.”
Manhattan Book Review (starred review)

“The novel you’ve been waiting for without even realizing it . . . Williams will convince you of a word’s importance in a most lovely and charismatic story.”

“A lexicographer’s dream of a novel, this is a lovely book to get lost in, an imaginative love letter to dictionaries.”

“Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the [
Oxford English Dictionary] and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.”Kirkus Reviews

“In the annals of lexicography, no more imaginative, delightful, charming, and clever book has yet been written.”
—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

“What a novel of words, their adventure, and their capacity to define and, above all, challenge the world. There will not be this year a more original novel published. I just know it.”
—Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List

“What a compelling, fresh look at historical women! This marvelous exploration into the ways in which spoken and written language impact us is a delight and an education.”
—Marie Benedict, author of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

“This charming, inventive, and utterly irresistible novel is the story we all need right now. Words have never mattered more, as Pip Williams illuminates in her unforgettable debut.”
—Susan Wiggs, author of The Lost and Found Bookshop

About the Author

Pip Williams was born in London, grew up in Sydney, and now lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her family and an assortment of animals. She has spent most of her working life as a social researcher, studying what keeps us well and what helps us thrive, and she is the author of One Italian Summer, a memoir of her family’s travels in search of the good life, which was published in Australia to wide acclaim. Based on her original research in the Oxford English Dictionary archives, The Dictionary of Lost Words is her first novel.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Publishing Group (May 3, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1984820745
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1984820747
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.12 x 0.86 x 7.97 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 18,442 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
18,442 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 6, 2022
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 29, 2022
32 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 20, 2022
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional
By Mercedes Brauchle on November 19, 2022
Unparalleled: having no parallel or equal; exceptional.

This book covers a gap in history that is truly astounding. The concept (which is based on very real events and mostly real people) is so intriguing, and Pip has fastened it all together with such literary grace. I WILL SAY, that for the first half of the book I was considering giving it a 3 star rating. I liked the storyline but it was a bit slow paced for me. KEEP READING. It really picks up and by time you get to the end you will “get the morbs” (a definitions stolen from the book, which means you will be struck with melancholy) due to the beauty and truth of Esme’s story. So many times the endings of stories disappoint, but not this time. If you love a healthy dose of feminism, are intrigued by words, or just want a good story that will suck you in, then you should most certainly order this book.
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 14, 2022
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Top reviews from other countries

A Wilkin
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, empowering and reflective.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 25, 2021
46 people found this helpful
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W. A. R
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful evocative read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on April 27, 2021
40 people found this helpful
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E. Ward Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars The creation of the Oxford dictionary as a love story
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 3, 2021
23 people found this helpful
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MM Reviewer
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique and original. A good pleasant read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 30, 2021
12 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Language and power and the Oxford English Dictionary
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 1, 2021
14 people found this helpful
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