This could easily be my favorite book of the year. It is definitely at the top of my gift list for those who love words, usage, and etymology. Plus its hilarious. There is an except here.
I know I talked about Iowa City being recognized as a city of writers but I think it is clearly one of the best cities for readers. I have managed to find numerous steals at the local public library's retail store. Someone recently dumped what looks like their entire non-fiction collection and I happily snapped up several wonderful biographies (Morgan, Rockefeller, Teddy Roosevelt) as well as some great collections of essays, Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence and Clive James' Cultural Amnesia.
Despite the quote about cultural and reaching for ones revolver (James covers this a bit) Cultural Amnesia is an amazing concentration of erudition. I can't believe I have never read much of James before this. I can not recommend this book highly enough. Like Blount's book it is perfectly suited to skip around and dip into. It will also lead one to at least another several dozen books suggested by its author. lector emptor.
Sea of Poppies is also a feast of words and one of the few novels I have come across that comes with its own Chrestomathy. (Which is online at Amitav Ghosh's webpage.) It turns out this is the first book of an intended trilogy which means one will have to wait patiently for the story to continue. Drat!