Read Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis Online


Stefan Fatsis, a Wall Street Journal reporter and National Public Radio regular, recounts his remarkable rise through the ranks of elite Scrabble players while exploring the game's strange, potent hold over them -- and him. Scrabble might truly be called America's game. More than two million sets are sold every year and at least thirty million American homes have one. ButStefan Fatsis, a Wall Street Journal reporter and National Public Radio regular, recounts his remarkable rise through the ranks of elite Scrabble players while exploring the game's strange, potent hold over them -- and him. Scrabble might truly be called America's game. More than two million sets are sold every year and at least thirty million American homes have one. But the game's most talented competitors inhabit a sphere far removed from the masses of "living room players." Theirs is a surprisingly diverse subculture whose stars include a vitamin-popping standup comic; a former bank teller whose intestinal troubles earn him the nickname "G.I. Joel"; a burly, unemployed African American from Baltimore's inner city; the three-time national champion who plays according to Zen principles; and Fatsis himself, who we see transformed from a curious reporter to a confirmed Scrabble nut. He begins by haunting the gritty corner of a Greenwich Village park where pickup Scrabble games can be found whenever weather permits. His curiosity soon morphs into compulsion, as he sets about memorizing thousands of obscure words and fills his evenings with solo Scrabble played on his living room floor. Before long he finds himself at tournaments socializing -- and competing -- with Scrabble's elite. But this book is about more than hardcore Scrabblers, for the game yields insights into realms as disparate as linguistics, psychology, and mathematics. WORD FREAK extends its reach even further, pondering the light Scrabble throws on such notions as brilliance, memory, competition, failure, and hope. It is a geography of obsession that celebrates the uncanny powers locked in all of us....

Title : Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780618015849
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players Reviews

  • Tung
    2018-09-16 00:48

    Fatsis, a columnist for various NY magazines, took a year off to investigate the world of competitive Scrabble. As someone who makes a living with words, and who grew up playing Scrabble, Fatsis does more than investigate this world; he immerses himself in it. The book functions half as nonfiction documentary, and half as memoir, as Fatsis details both the professional circuit and his rise through its ranks. Fatsis does a good job of balancing details of Scrabble’s history (both the history of the game and the history of competitive tournaments), in-depth character portraits of the game’s quirkiest top players, and the rapid progression of his own skills. For those interested in getting better at Scrabble, Fatsis also details the lessons he learned and describes the various techniques used by the world’s best players. Ultimately, I had a few issues with the book that prevented it from being anything more than mediocre. First, as hard as Fatsis tries to make the tournaments come to life and convey their excitement, it isn’t enough. Scrabble tournaments simply aren’t exciting unless you are talented enough to grasp (and interested in grasping) the difficulty of the plays upon which the games are won or loss. Describing how playing a five-letter word instead of a seven-letter word cost someone a game doesn’t jump off the page no matter how good the prose. Second, what Fatsis recognizes about competitive Scrabble also becomes the undoing of this book: Scrabble tournaments are won and lost due to a player’s ability to spit out completely obscure words. Not only does this immediately distance 99% of all readers from this insular world, but it also makes the tournament summaries even less accessible. Fatsis describing someone playing WATERZOOI to win doesn’t resonate with anyone. Lastly, despite the book’s attempts to compare Scrabble to all other competitive pursuits and thus make the subject matter more relatable to readers, the obsessive behaviors displayed by the quirky characters upon whom Fatsis focuses his attention only serves to further emphasize how completely unlike other competitive pursuits Scrabble really is. An interesting read in the same way The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is interesting – you want to read about crazy people. Otherwise, this book is in the take-it-or-leave-it category.

  • Ulysses
    2018-08-30 20:25

    I should qualify my rating here by saying that I did not in fact like this book, as the literal interpretation of Goodreads' three-star rating would indicate-- I thought it was more of a two-star book ("it was OK")-- but I'm giving it a bonus star, because it contains a most valuable lesson that I don't know whether I could have learned so quickly and easily, had I not read this book.As for the book itself: it's pretty hard to like, because the voice of the author, which also doubles as the persona of the "main character" in the ongoing story underlying the research and reporting, paints the author as a jerk. One the one hand, Fatsis seems to have no compunction about boasting about his superior Scrabble skills in comparison to other Scrabble-playing hoi polloi; on the other hand, when he becomes immersed in the world of seriously competitive Scrabble and finds that his skills and knowledge are woefully beneath the level of the pros, he wastes no time in tarring the pros as a bunch of maladjusted wacko nerds. This sour-grapes treatment reeks of intellectual bullying to me, and it makes it pretty hard to care about the author's experiences or sympathize with him whenever he receives a humbling defeat. This distaste lingers throughout the book and ultimately detracts from its enjoyability-- it's hard to like a book whose author and main character is a consummate dill-hole.However, as I mentioned above, the experience of reading the book is somewhat redeemed by the valuable lesson it contains. Before reading this, I often wondered to myself: "Hey, I'm half decent at Scrabble. Should I maybe take it more seriously, and devote some of my spare time to trying to reach the next level of expertise? Should I enter tournaments and try to play competitively?" Now that I've read this book, I know the answers to these questions conclusively: Hell no! The author's vivid depiction of the world of competitive Scrabble makes it abundantly clear that one has no hope of becoming a serious Scrabble expert unless one is willing to devote the majority of one's free time (or probably, the majority of one's time, period) over many years to etching the complete Scrabble lexicon into one's memory, and also learning to think in anagrams to the same extent that we normally think in words. The relatively small group of players who form the highest ranks of the competitive world are on a plane that Scrabble hobbyists, no matter how good they are, cannot hope to attain without devoting themselves entirely to the game. Having learned this lesson via this book, I found myself feeling like a massive burden had been lifted from me-- I no longer need to think for even a second about whether I should attempt to more fully realize my "Scrabble potential." And I can thus go back to enjoying the game perhaps even more than I did before, now that I know that it can never be more than a hobby for me. And for this valuable knowledge, I owe Fatsis (and this book) my thanks.

  • Brooke Evans
    2018-08-27 23:20

    This was a super fun book. I like Scrabble anyway, but the writing was engaging and fun and showed so many angles of the competitive Scrabble. I mostly came away with the idea that I will never, ever get that great at Scrabble, but that there are a few things I could do to get enough better for what I want. :) The characters are interesting, and the author's immersion in the scene allows him to communicate the experience of the competitive Scrabble world in what seems to be a really authentic way.It would be a fun bucket list item to become a rated Scrabble player, but to not embarrass myself I'd want to get a little better first.

  • meg
    2018-09-19 00:46

    hmm. i was fully expecting to love this book, but i had to stop a few chapters in. there was some interesting views into the world of competitive scrabble and portraits of its motely competitors, but i was bugged by the emphasis of points over love of new and interesting words. so much of it is about memorization and winning tactics, which, i guess is what the competition part is all about... but it just made me want to go play scrabble for fun instead of reading about all the people who take it so seriously it stops being fun.

  • Jesse
    2018-09-01 23:32

    This book wins. What can you possibly learn about life from people who obessively play scrabble as their hobby and sometimes as their default profession? Quite a lot - about passion, about friendships between people - about being intensely devoted to something because you love it, not because it's popular or because others understand it. And the best part about it is you even start to catch a bit of enthusasm for playing scrabble! Read it. You'll like it.

  • Vonia
    2018-08-30 19:45

    It was a 4 Star for me at the beginning & again at the conclusion, but in between was really simply TMI!!!!!.... It was a play by play... literally... Maybe it's because I'm into Scrabble... but not that into Scrabble... but even merely one one-hundreth of the intensity expressed in this nonfiction work causes me to not only see the board game in a whole new light, but in a negative way... The one word review of this book is: Intense.

  • Caroline
    2018-09-14 23:48

    Well, I guess there is a book about everything, even the world of competitive Scrabble.If I remember correctly, Tom and I found this at a library used book sale, read the back, exchanged a couple of "Eh, why not?"s and added it to our haul. A few months after that, Stefan Fatsis came out with another book and scheduled a book talk at Politics & Prose. We decided to attend. It was an interesting enough talk, but one thing I noticed was that during the Q&A, those doing the questioning continued to steer the conversation back toward Scrabble instead of toward the new book that Fatsis was there to promote. Tom read Word Freak soon after and really enjoyed it; it took me a while to get around to it, but know I can say I've read it too.It was better than I was expecting. I admit, I was a bit skeptical that Fatsis was going to be able to spend 372 pages talking about Scrabble and hold my interest the entire time. He succeeded. Though the book is wide-ranging in its scope (within the Scrabble universe), it still manages to feel focused, which is a feat. The book covers everything from the origins and history of the game, to the strategy involved at the top levels of play, to the colorful cast of characters that inhabit the competitive circuit (I should get an alliteration award for that sentence...). Woven within these many different topics, we get a front-row seat to watch Fatsis struggle to reach an "expert" rating in competitive Scrabble.What start out as a George Plimpton-esque bit of "participatory journalism" becomes much more as Fatsis becomes capital-H Hooked on the game. I'm always skeptical of authors who are an active part of the narrative they are writing doing things that are oh-so-conveniently perfect for the story they are trying to tell. That being said, Fatsis strikes me as genuine, both because of how he writes about his frustration and obsession with improving his Scrabble game, as well as the fact that he is still quite highly rated and an active participant in the competitive Scrabble scene over a decade after finishing and publicizing the book (I may have spent some time poking around websites detailing Scrabble player ratings and tournament results).Fatsis did an excellent job of showing why Scrabble is an atypical board game - one that should be grouped with relatively ancient chess or backgammon instead of its more pedestrian contemporaries like Monopoly or Life. The skill involved in Scrabble is incredible: a mixture of word knowledge via memorization (which as detailed in the book, is insane - tens of thousands of words by the top experts), experience with how to manage the board, as well as having a solid understand of the odds and probability involved in drawing tiles. And, even more impressively, he did so in a way that was actually interesting and made we want to play some Scrabble. No mean feat.Competitive Scrabble attracts a wide array of individuals, and learning about them and their eccentricities was one of my favorite things about the book. Though many of these experts have their quirks, Fatsis for the most part portrays them in such an endearing manner that I want to hang out with them around a Scrabble board. Again, I may have spent some time looking up some of these folks on the Scrabble website, trying to put faces with names and checking in on whether they are still playing ten years later and if so, how they are faring. Additionally, in poking around these websites, it appears there have been some rather major changes since Fatsis wrote his book, including the abolishment of the National Scrabble Association, which ran the competitive circuit. I would love an update from Fatsis on the various personalities and state of the game today.I remember from Fatsis' book talk at Politics & Prose that he runs a local Scrabble club at a library in Northwest DC. Reading this book made me want to rescue my Scrabble set from my parents' house when we go visit and (after a bit of practice of course) head to the club to play a few games.

  • Amy
    2018-09-01 18:45

    Original review written February 9, 2004 I found this book a fascinating example of how diverse and quirky people can be. I love Scrabble, and am a fairly decent "living room" player. Stepping into the world of competitive playing was an eye opener. I am a literate, well educated, articulate person. I was totally stumped by so many of the words that players came up with in the stress of competition. It was a bit frustrating for me, as each time I came across a new word I had to reach for the dictionary to look it up. (Which meant that my reading was somewhat halted- having to make such frequent stops- one page I had to stop 24 times- after that, I refused to keep count- which is good, because I can no longer remember what all the new vocabulary meant!)I loved reading the history of the game. We have one of the early sets from the 50's and it is a prized possession. No matter how I may lust after the fancy ones that spin and turn, I won't give up my childhood set.There were things I found distracting when reading the book- because I had to read it in short bursts and hops, I had to constantly refresh myself what some of the shorthand and symbols meant.I am slightly familiar with the world of competitive chess and the regulars of bingo- of competitive sports as well. This was a glimpse into another type of competitive gaming- and made me itch to get my hands on the scrabble tiles again.But ultimately, this was so far removed from my scrabble experiences, that I had a hard time relating.This is an additional comment I made when I read Maggie's review February 10, 2009 I am a total scrabble-holic (finally had to go cold turkey for online scrabble (which was fun because you had all the time you needed to mull over the tiles), because it was eating my life. ) I read this before the invention of online scrabble, where people cheat like the dickens (I'm convinced they have to -- there must be lists of 7 letter words and programs for figuring out combinations etc. That's another reason I quit on-line scrabble. It was too tempting and too easy to potentially cheat, and I don't need that black mark on my soul. I have quite enough already, thank-you-very-much.)

  • Dave-O
    2018-09-04 21:25

    Stephen Fatsis writes a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat book on the quirky, obsessive, very male-dominated world of competitive Scrabble playing. Although the cast of characters is fascinating enough, I was more interested in Fatsis' own transformation from "living room" player to a high-ranking qualifier in major tournaments. He describes his initial frustration at losing to the blue hair set to even more frustration at not grasping expert game strategies. He learns that in order to become a champion Scrabble player, you have to make it your life: study constantly, develop anagramming skills, memorize 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 letter words and their modifiers, and learn and re-learn the combinations of letters to make all-important bingos (the 50 point bonus earned by using all 7 letters on your rack). Some of the ways that top players study range from obvious (flash cards) to the insane (memorizing complex pneumonic phrases).The game is also not without its controversies, not the least of which is the Official Word List which is in need of major revisions, cites often obscure words some of which are not in any dictionary, and is censored of "objectionable" words. Not to mention that overseas competitions use British words as well, allowing thousands of additional playable words. Included in all this is a fair chunk of Scrabble history including the odd fact that it is owned by two games companies. (Hasbro only has the North American rights, Mattel the rest of the world). "Word Freak" contains the elements of riveting sports writing told by the aspiring insider.

  • Deborah
    2018-08-26 18:18

    You probably need to be a Scrabble enthusiast or some other kind of word nerd (spelling, crossword puzzles) to really enjoy this book. I am, so I did. The intricate technicalities of playing Scrabble at a stratospheric level were the most interesting things in the book.I was taken aback, however, by Fatsis's sexism. Many times he scoffs at having to play middle-aged women or "blue hairs." As someone who fits into the first group, I could not find myself rooting for Fatsis as the story increasingly turns upon his own quest to become a highly competitive player. I did find the stories of Marlon, Matt, G.I. Joel and other brilliant misfits reasonably compelling, though.

  • Sharyl
    2018-08-29 01:33

    This is a fascinating documentary-style look into the subculture of elite Scrabble players, some of whom I will remember (and worry about) for a long time. Fatsis also includes an interesting history of the game itself. Invented during the depression by an out of work architect named Alfred Butts, its popularity spread at first by word of mouth, until the orders got to be too much for Mr. Butts, who then turned it over to James Brunot, the man who chose the name Scrabble. (Alfred Butts had called it Criss Cross Words, obviously not as original or snazzy.) James Brunot struggled to make any money until the early 1950's, when a Macy's executive spied the game at a resort and was irritated to learn that he couldn't find it anywhere. When Macy's started carrying the game, it became a sensation, and James Brunot, who employed about three dozen people to churn out these sets in an old schoolhouse, gave up and turned the operation over to Selchow & Righter, a family-owned company that eventually sold it to Coleco. When Coleco went bankrupt, Hasbro bought the game and all their other assets. Scrabble went from being the jewel in the crown of Selchow & Righter to being a mere blip in the profits of humungous Hasbro.The author also has much to relate on the history of the Scrabble players themselves--where the game caught on, the tournaments, the parks, and their eccentric, evolving rules. And the way they study! These players are mostly obsessive-compulsive geniuses who have come up with incredible insights into how to study anagrams, what collections of letters will yield the greatest number of bingos (or bingoes, better yet), and these lists are organized in ways that go beyond the imagination of most people. Speaking of obsessive, I should mention that when Alfred Butts invented this game, he made a painstaking, laborious study of letter distribution. In the late 1920's, way before computers, we all know what this means: he counted each and every letter in a variety of books and periodicals. And evidently, he didn't go blind. Stefan Fatsis regards Butts as a hero.While working on this book, Stefan Fatsis becomes a bit obsessed himself. That's another part of this story, how he almost goes native and captures some of these close encounters with the Scrabble world. I highly recommend this, definitely a good read.

  • Shannon
    2018-08-25 00:40

    I’ve had his book sitting on my shelf for a while, and I finally decided to read it. I remember it being a best seller with great reviews so I was expecting a fun breezy read about competitive scrabble. What it is a slog that takes all the fun out of scrabble and it’s unexpectedly sexist. I’m about halfway through and I might not finish, which is seriously rare for me.The author engaged in scrabble tournaments and one thing I’ve learned is that if you want to take all the fun out of scrabble then enter a tournament. When you think of the game of scrabble you think of words don’t you? Maybe that’s because it’s a word game, but According to the author scrabble isn’t a word game, it’s a math game and your vocabulary doesn’t even matter. You don’t need to know that a Kwijibo is a North American Balding ape, you just need to know that there is such a word as Kwijibo and you need to memorize list after list of these words while giving no thought to their meanings at all. Ugh, what’s the point if I wanted to play a math game I would play, well I wouldn’t play a math game at all, and neither would you. That’s why there are no math games as successful as Scrabble. Competitive scrabble players not even caring about the words or having a good vocabulary isn’t even the biggest flaw in this book. It is incredibly sexist. The author spend chapter after chapter describing the top ranked male winners of scrabble. He goes into great detail about how quirky they are, this one’s an unsuccessful comedian, this one is a slob, this one takes 1200 vitamins a day, while the top ranking women’s names are rarely even mentioned. Usually when women are mentioned it’s negative, like I played so badly I lost to Jane, a novice. (Or Dawn, or Shirley, or whoever.) The author takes on a smug superior tone whenever he plays a woman. There is a whole category he dismisses as the blue hairs, and he goes on and on about how he has to graduate to the next level so he won’t be trapped forever playing the blue hairs. He is not only sexist but ageist too. To me it’s a complete mystery how this book got to be so well known and a best seller. If you see it at your local goodwill don’t bother.

  • Trevor
    2018-09-13 02:35

    First of all I saw a film called "Word Wars" which quickly became one of my favourite documentaries of all time and then a friend of mine at work lent me this book - and if you haven't read this or seen the film they are probably priorities. This is the sort of book that allows you to say to yourself, "Gosh, truth really is stranger than fiction." Or perhaps, "It really does take all sorts to make the world". Either way, one is stuck with cliches.I've never been very good at word games - something I'm a bit disappointed about, really - but if being good at word games turns one into someone like any of these characters. Well, look, it is probably for the best.If you have ever wondered just what it would be like to have a vocation... No, that is possibly too nasty. But reading this book is fascinating if only because it is remarkable what you can train your mind to do. These people play anagrams - where they will call out a series of letters (in alphabetical order) such as aceinnoorstv and seconds later someone will say, "conversation". (I'm not going to tell you how long it took me to even get that into alphabetical order and make sure I had all the letters there - terribly embarrassing). Needless to say, these people do that in their heads.If you like paying a brief visit to a world that - well - most people would only ever really want to visit, and even then maybe from a distance - this book will do it for you. The guy who wrote this book did more than just visit - and in a sense he paid the price. As the guy who lent me this book told me, just reading it will make you a better Scrabble player. If that sounds like a noble outcome in your life then this is the book for you.But even if you are not interested in being better at Scrabble for the characters alone this book really is required reading.

  • Karen
    2018-09-13 02:18

    Who woulda thunk a book about Scrabble could be this engaging? The author quit his job (or took a sabbatical, I guess) to play Scrabble for two years and got his rating up above 1700 (Expert level). This book is about what it took to do that, the various quirky people he encountered at the parks and tournaments where he played, how Scrabble was invented and marketed and sold ... the whole shebang. Toward the very end of the book, he suggests why Scrabble gets such a hold on people; unlike some other games which are highly cerebral but unchanging in their start and pieces (chess, for example) and other games which are mostly determined by luck (Yahtzee or Monopoly), this game rests on both skill and luck. 10,000 hours of studying pays off: the two-letter words, the three-letter words, the four-letter words, etc., the anagrams of common letter groups, learning how to use "tails," how to minimize the chances of the opponent hanging letters off your words, how to count the tiles and track them so you can guess the odds of letters still in the bag. But because it's both, it taps into something deeply psychological; this is more like life; some luck, some skill, ever-changing conditions, constant feedback from others that must be interpreted and used in some way. Doesn't always feel fair (as in, Hey! Why did my opponent get both blanks!?). The book lagged a bit in the middle for me during the parts about how the game became a business, but picked up again when he returned to his own story. The writing is intelligent and engaging and often very funny. Would definitely recommend, not just for Scrabble players.

  • Laura Zimmerman
    2018-08-26 19:20

    As a pretty pedestrian Scrabble player, I'm interested in the people who play the game competitively (on a competitive circuit). Word Freak promised to give me a glimpse into the Scrabble world so I gave it a try.Mr. Fatsis, whose word puzzles and games I enjoy in NPR, has written a compelling book about Scrabble players, the competitions, how players prepare, and his own education about the game. He gets to know some of the players fairly well and is able to describe their idiosyncracies as individuals. He also learns some of the strategies and tricks to playing Scrabble well, including but certainly not limited to rote repitition and word study.Although I found the first one-third of the book interesting, it lost steam (or my interest did) before I got to the half-way point. I set it aside for several months thinking I would get back to it but I kept finding other books I wanted to read instead. Given that, I opted not to finish the book and to pass it along to my fiance, who wants to give it a try.Mr. Fatsis writes well and with a personable voice. He seems to be someone who can relate easily with others, which contributes to his ability to learn about the game and its players. I don't mean to detract from Mr. Fatsis' writing by giving the book three stars; it was only the subject that didn't hold my interest.

  • Julie
    2018-08-22 02:31

    I'm really enjoying this book and I'm only half-way through! It's by a journalist who wanted to report on the world of competitive Scrabble, but got sucked into it himself. So it's half reporting, half memoir. He tells the stories about the characters (and I do mean characters) that he meets in this world, but he intersperses it with linguistic wordplay; trivia about Scrabble and words and wordplay; some of the amazing plays and games; the history of Scrabble, and games in general in America; issues of lexicography; the politics of everything from choosing word lists to holding tournaments to the fact that, unlike Chess, the game is owned by a corporation; but mostly lots and lots of great word play and wonderful trivia about language and Scrabble. Plus he injects some great quotes by famous people about "words" and "language". And the writing is great. And some of the players he meets are hilarious.

  • Jane Hoppe
    2018-08-27 19:26

    I thought I was a word freak. After reading the book Word Freak,however, I realize I'm apparently just a lover of words. I'm fascinated by words for their meanings, their specificity, their nuances, their stories, their sounds. Scrabble, for me, is just plain fun. The word freaks described by Fatsis memorize words for competitive gain in Scrabble tournaments. His word freaks are strategists, often obsessed, often genius.Fatsis introduces readers to the interesting world of competitive Scrabble. He tells personal stories of key players and includes amusing anecdotes and amazing anagrams. He reveals winning strategies. And he involves the reader in his own desire to move up the ranks of competitive Scrabble players.But unless you ARE a word freak in the obsessed sense or someone really really really wanting to win at living room Scrabble, this book holds limited interest.

  • Evan
    2018-08-25 20:41

    An interesting idea for a story, and definitely some interesting tips for scrabble playing (although the tips are always tempered by the fact the play the "complete" game, you need to memorize the entire scrabble dictionary.) More to the point, though, the book was not particularly well-written or engaging. I would have been interested in reading the blow-by-blow winning tournament moves, but Fatsis relies waaaay too heavily on just listing words. Words that no one besides 10-20 professional scrabble players have ever heard of. I could forgive this the first few times, but time and time again, Fatsis relies on this story-telling technique. I don't want to go off on a rant about this, but I think it symbolizes the problem of his story construction. So, to summarize, a relatively interesting story, but inadequately told.

  • terpkristin
    2018-09-12 21:33

    After reading this, I want to be a better Scrabble player. Not an "expert" (by ranking) Scrabble player, necessarily, as I really do want to have a life. But I want to get better. And I think that as I read this, I did become a better one (judging by the Words With Friends games I played), if only incrementally. I guess now I just need to find some word lists to study and figure out what works best for me. ;)Oh yeah, Word Wars, one of the documentaries spawned by this book, was definitely entertaining. I pictured one of the players in my mind as Buster from Arrested Development. Turns out the guy really does look like Buster!

  • Nicole
    2018-08-28 01:47

    This is a great book for scrabble nerds who understand the orgasmic elation of getting 7 letter bingos on a triple word score, watching with sadistic fervor your score double the points of your opponent. Scrabble is a sub-world of cultural and social norms where the most otherwise awkward, less than average weirdos become more than accepted, they become glorified champions. And now thanks to this book and the subsequent documentaries that followed, scrabble is now covered by ESPN. It has risen as a respected, legitimate sport that to me, is much more hardcore and intense than say, football.

  • Blair Conrad
    2018-09-12 00:43

    A somewhat interesting view into the world of competitive Scrabble. If you liked Wordplay, you'll probably like this. I enjoyed learning about the mechanics of tournament play and the kinds of things people do to improve their game. Unfortunately, the book dragged at times. The mini-biographies of some of the players really went on too long and in most cases didn't really add much to my understanding of them or the game. I did find that when the book became more memoirlike - focusing on Fatsis's personal journey - it picked up and I wanted to keep reading. Overall, an interesting if not compelling read.

  • Nancy
    2018-09-10 01:29

    It took me MONTHS to read this, even though I loved it so much. I've just been busy. But I LOVED it. And then I got to the end.I was really disappointed in the end. Here was this amazing testament to the author's journey into the Scrabble world, complete with a heart-wrenching tale of Scrabble's humble start. Here were awesomely painted pictures of the various characters who make up the world of competitive Scrabble. Here were honest rants and raves and self-deprication based on a four digit number.And then it was over. Abruptly. And I put it down and walked away. Angrily. This is the first book in a long time to get me super excited and then really not come through.

  • Margaret
    2018-09-03 18:28

    I feel a bit guilty listing this as "read," because I really only read the first third or so. I just couldn't get into it...I don't know if I'm just too distracted by life at the moment since I had a very similar criticism about another book that I was just reading, but I almost had to keep forcing myself to give this a try. Maybe I expected the real-life characters to be more likeable, kind-of like the documentary version of competitive Scrabble, Word Play. Anyhoo, I would love to know if I'm the only one who had this impression, or if I'm in the minority.

  • Margie
    2018-08-25 00:23

    Although it provides fascinating insight into the world of competitive Scrabble, this book also reminded me that what I dislike about Scrabble is the lack of context for words. I like using words and knowing what they mean; Scrabble involves only memorizing particular patterns of letters. As pointed out in the book, one doesn't even need to speak English to play in English, so long as one has memorized the spellings.That being said, Fatsis does a fine job of drawing us into a world of obsession. The Know-It-All covers similar territory with a bit more humor.

  • Erin
    2018-09-14 01:35

    I can't imagine a more readable book about the history of Scrabble and the world of competitive Scrabble players. That said, a book about Scrabble is only so interesting unless you are a Scrabble enthusiast (which I'm not). I loved all the geeky linguistic stuff, but found myself bored by the memoir elements. I just didn't care about the author's journey to expert status, although it was a good way to demonstrate the work it takes to be an expert. I'd recommend it to Scrabble lovers, but unless you have that passion for the game, it is hard to get through.

  • Adam Gray
    2018-08-22 02:32

    I have always loved Scrabble and had been meaning to read this book for a long time. It didn't disappoint. The behind-the-scenes look into the professional Scrabble circuit felt genuine and was filled with the freaks and eccentrics that I was hoping to find. Fatsis' writing could get a bit repetitive at times as he made every effort to let us know that he was both a journalist and a Scrabble junkie, but overall the combination of his personal saga and his analysis of the Scrabble world was very satisfying.

  • Kaethe
    2018-09-16 00:29

    I always enjoy reading about someone who is obsessed with something that doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. So, while I enjoy the occasional game of Scrabble, and will never forget the time the spouse but down "quahogs" on a triple word score, memorizing lists of words is not for me. Fortunately, Fatsis was up to the challenge of becoming a competitive Scrabble player. It is a long, strange trip.

  • Keith Moser
    2018-08-28 22:19

    Excellent book which makes Professional Scrabble as exciting as any other sporting event.... Made me want to try to find a local Scrabble club to start playing competitively when I first read this in college a decade ago (did I really just write that?!) I never would have memorized all the legal 2-letter words had it not been for this book!

  • Amy
    2018-08-26 00:20

    I really enjoyed this book initially and found a lot of learn about scrabble and the competitive players. Then about 50% in, I thought "This book should end now". I got the point. Some scrabble players are a little crazy. Being good at something can be consuming. Let there be heartbreak and triumph. Would totally recommend reading 50% of this book!

  • Tom
    2018-09-15 19:22

    Fairly interesting in that it got me to look at the game in a new way. I felt that it could have been about 100 pages shorter, though. It dragged on through the middle, and there was a lot of unclear or overly-verbose writing throughout. The occasional play-by-play really did a lot to quicken the pace, and was fun to read.