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Picks and Pans Review: For Word Lovers

updated 12/04/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/04/2006 01:00AM

Nonfiction

Home Ground Barry Lopez, editor "Hondo," "milk gap," "buffalo jump"—here are 850 distinctive terms used to describe the American landscape. Forty-five writers contribute lively definitions and mini-essays that illuminate our land—and that will make thesaurus addicts just plain happy.

How Language Works by David Crystal A compelling, easy-to-read treatise that will fascinate anyone even vaguely interested in how humans communicate. Down-to-earth, entertaining examples remove the sting from abstractions like phonology and lexicology.

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey Subtitled The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences, this gem from copy editor Florey is a bracing ode to grammar; it's laced with a survivor's nostalgia for classrooms ruled by knuckle-cracking nuns who knew their participles.

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