Anagrams. Acrostics. Isograms. Alphagrams. My mind has been bludgeoned with these and many other lexicographic terms as I just finished Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, by Stefan Fatsis (Number 24 on my list of books to read this year). On the heels of George Plimpton, but before A.J. Jacob brought the genre of experiential writing to the bestseller list, Fatsis left his job as a Wall Street Journal reporter, and spent two years immersing himself in Scrabble, learning the game, its strategy, its history, its culture, and its players.
This is an obsessively and deeply researched book by a journalist who became devoted to his subject and his own personal quest to achieve Scrabble Division 1 ranking. Although it’s a nonfiction book, it’s driven by four main characters, all of whom are obsessed with Scrabble, and who play professionally. Fatsis delves deep into their backgrounds, their psyches, their personal quirks (of which you can imagine they are numerous), and the Scrabble subculture of which they are all a part. He does a great job of character development, plot development, and makes you think as if you were right there sitting in the smoke filled bars, Greenwich Village, and national tournaments with the players.
Fatsis examines the nuances of the games and how it covers many academic fields from Mathematics and English, to Statistics and Science, and beyond. If you have an interest in any of these field, this book has something for you. But even beyond this, and even if you are not a Scrabble lover, this is an entertaining read with humor, wit, and more, all in one book.
If you got some time on your hands and aren’t sure what to read, pick this one up. I know you’ll enjoy it.