Image Credit: Penguin Books
Have you been intimidated by English? Do you find yourself searching for words often while in conversation for fear of making a mistake? Then Manish Gupta promises to soothe all your fears about the language. I was intrigued about the book and immediately set about reading it. But before I go ahead, the summary as usual from the book jacket –
Is the English language your biggest nightmare? Until he decided to cheat and beat the system. Today he is a smooth talking banker and has written a unique English learning guide that is easy to read, super effective and hilarious. 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.
Manish begins by giving a background on how he came to learn English with unbridled passion. While in school, students and teachers alike often slipped into the vernacular, which made it difficult to practice speaking the language. As a result there were multiple occasions where he would struggle to string sentences together without fumbling. When he joined Punjab Engineering College, he “came across several long suffering specimens of (his) species.” Alongside, he nurtured ambitions of getting accepted into universities in the US for which he would have to take various exams in which knowledge of English plays a big role.
In this way, by placing words and their stories in the context of his personal experiences, Manish packs quite a bit of information in these 300+ pages. I must say I learnt a few odd words but I was more fascinated by the history of words, concepts and even brands. How many of us know that Pepsi comes a Greek enzyme called ‘pepsin’ and that Coca-Cola is derived from its original principal ingredients which are cocaine and caffeine?
“Cocaine comes from the Peruvian coca leaf and caffeine from the West African kola nuts, hence the name Coca-Cola.”
Or that the word ‘eavesdropper’ comes from water dropping off the eaves of a roof?
“…the story goes that, centuries ago, houses in England didn’t have any facility to dispose of rainwater falling from the roof. For fear of water dripping into the very foundations, the roofs were made with wide overhangs, called ‘eaves.’ So, the first ‘eavesdroppers’ literally stood in the shelter of those overhangs to overhear private conversations.”
Yet, as much as I relished these tidbits of information, I felt the pace of the book beginning to slow down incredibly. It began to shrink into a compendium of random facts, words and ideas that were very loosely held together by events in Manish’s life.
It was then that I realized that my approach to the book was wrong. I was expecting the satisfaction of reading a novel but this book is aimed at people who are looking to hone their knowledge of English. Looked at from that angle, it’s more than satisfactory because Manish nudges the curiosity of the reader rather than bore him/her with plain vanilla explanations. Manish includes words that can be classified in the range of easy to intermediate and even gives the meanings of these words right on the same page. So, if you fall within this audience then by all means give it a read. If not, read it not as a novel on a continuous basis but as a book of facts that can be read bit by bit.
Last but not the least, thanks much to Manish for sending us this book for review!
Verdict: A lighthearted and less dry version of “Word Power Made Easy.”
Rating: I won’t give a rating because there is no story/writing/plot to evaluate.