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Nabokov's Favourite Word Is Mauve

The literary quirks and oddities of our most-loved authors

About The Book

What are our favourite authors' words? Which bestselling writer uses the most clichés? How can we judge a book by its cover? Data meets literature in this playful and informative look at our favourite authors and their masterpieces. 

'What fun this is! Ben Blatt's charming book applies numerical know-how to questions of literary style, teasing out insights about cliffhangers, adverbs' JORDAN ELLENBERG, author of How Not to Be Wrong

'Lively ... worthwhile ... Read this book thoughtfully. It's fun. And, I think, the shape of interesting things to come' The Times 

'Fascinating ... the book had me humming with pleasure' The Sunday Times 

Nabokov's Favourite Word is Mauve is a playful look at what the numbers have to say about our favourite authors and their classic books.

Journalist and statistician Ben Blatt asks the questions that have intrigued curious book lovers for generations: Does each writer have their own stylistic footprint? Do men and women write differently? What are the crutch words our best-loved authors fall back on?

Spanning from Shakespeare and Jane Austen to fan fiction, JK Rowling and Stephen King, Blatt reveals the quirks and oddities of the world's greatest writers. 

This is a lighthearted, humorous book that uses numbers to inform our understanding of words to enlighten, to clarify, and, above all, to entertain.

About The Author

Photograph © Sierra Katow

Ben Blatt is a former staff writer for Slate and The Harvard Lampoon who has taken his fun approach to data journalism to topics such as Seinfeld, mapmaking, The Beatles, and Jeopardy! He is the author of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve and, with Eric Brewster, the coauthor of I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back, which follows the duo’s quest to go on the mathematically optimal baseball road trip, traveling 20,000 miles to a game in all thirty ballparks in thirty days without planes. Blatt’s work has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Deadspin.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (April 1, 2017)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471152825

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Raves and Reviews

'What fun this is! Ben Blatt’s charming book applies numerical know-how to questions of literary style, teasing out insights about cliffhangers, adverbs' 

– Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong

'Ben Blatt’s delightful book gives us an original big data perspective on great writers’ work. Its humour, insights and statistical displays are fascinating to behold, even as it helps us develop our own writing' 

– Carl N. Morris, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, Harvard University

‘It was statisticians, rather than historians, who cracked the centuries’ old mystery of the Federalist Papers—and they did it with mere paper and pencil. Operating in the same investigative spirit—and with the benefit of vastly more powerful tools—Ben Blatt probes the literary canon for unexpected revelations and insights. The result is a literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing. In Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve we learn what separates authors’ great works from their lesser ones, how our literary tastes have changed over the years, and, charmingly, whether some of the writers most prone to dispensing literary advice actually practice what they preach.’

– Brian Christian, co-author of Algorithms to Live By

'Illuminating entertainment ... Literary criticism by the numbers'

– Kirkus Reviews

'Amiable and intelligent ... literature enthusiasts will enjoy the hypotheses [Blatt] poses and his imaginative methods'

– Publishers Weekly

'[A] fun and interesting book ... his breezy and engaging volume fulfills its promise to provide the reader with an appreciation or deeper understanding of an author or favorite writer ... and alerts the writer to the trends, patterns and uses of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation in one's own writing'

– New Romanticist


– Wall Street Journal

'Nate Silver-esque number crunching meets the canon in this quirky, arresting deconstruction of literature's greatest hits'

– O, The Oprah Magazine

'Fascinating ... the book had me humming with pleasure'

– The Sunday Times

'Delivers a statistical study of literature in the vein of Freakonomics ... [Blatt] approaches the subject with the right mix of humour, hand-holding and literary love ... yield[s] insights which would be impossible to recognize on their own'

– Paste Magazine

'Lively ... worthwhile ... Read this book thoughtfully. It's fun. And, I think, the shape of some very interesting things to come'

– The Times

'Book-lovers will delight in Nabokov's Favourite Word Is Mauve ... accessible, entertaining, and enlightening'

– Bustle

'This is really the most delicious kind of rabbit hole ... If you're a writer, you won't be able to resist it. If you know a writer, give this as a gift and find yourself adored. ... It can be dipped into like a squirrel's nut hoard, enjoyed a quick nibble at a time, or dived into headfirst, one fascinating tidbit leading to the next to the next to the next'

– Publishers Weekly, Shelf Talker column

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