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Saturday, September 28, 2013

English Bites! by Manish Gupta


When I first received a mail from the author asking to review his book, I was pretty impressed from the way the mail was composed. The whole mail comprised of six lines and those lines contained the basic plot of the book, the publications (which played a big role on accepting to review his book right away) and his liking for our blog (which I presume is genuine and feel grateful).

It has been sometime since I last read a researched non-fiction. Of course, my last read, Wise Enough to be Foolish by Gauri Jayaram, was a non-fiction, but it was a story, while this book is a researched non-fiction on English language, trying and improving the readers' vocabulary.

Overall, the book was pretty helpful for the BR catalog and to me, an aspiring author, to plunge and discover undiscovered areas of literary genres.

I can't continue with the rest of the review without thanking Manish Gupta, the author, for writing and sending the books over to us. Hope you are satisfied with our review, Manish ji.

After a good amount of thinking I decided to add two descriptions of the book - one from the jacket of the book and the one stated by the author in the mail - so that you, the readers, have a better idea of the aim of the book...

From jacket:
English Bites! My Fullproof English Learning Formula is the story of a man who goes from being tongue-tied in school to becoming a smooth talking banker. Through a series of hilarious personal adventures and misadventures, Manish Gupta provides easy solutions to problems faced by language learners. 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. It may even help you love the English language a little more! 

• Add over 1000 new words to your vocabulary and figure out easy and effective ways to expand your word bank.
• Combine etymology, mnemonics, jokes and anecdotes to better your understanding of the English language.
• Differentiate between similar sounding words and learn to use them right.
• Improve your general knowledge with trivia that spans brand names, automobiles, fine dining, love, money, banks, science and B-school jargon.

From the mail:
It is a simple yet hilarious story of a small town guy who studies in the vernacular medium and extremely poor in his communication skills, pronunciation, and vocabulary, and how he discovers and invents interesting tools techniques to best the convent educated lot in his class. He finally realises his dream of an MBA, gets a great job in a multinational bank, marries the women from his dream profession (medicine) for his spouse, and how he gets stumped by English in the new nursery rhymes his kids begin reciting at home. 

About the author (from the jacket):
Manish Gupta is a banking professional. When not crunching numbers he is busy engaging with and examining the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of the English language. He also likes trivia, travelling, adventure sports, delving into human psychology, and giving professorial discourses to colleagues, family and friends, and practically anyone who can give him a patient hearing. An engineering graduate from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh and an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur, he lives in Mumbai with his wife Deepali, a medical professional, and daughters Tamanna and Prakriti.

He can be reached at mystruggleswithenglish@gmail.com

Our review:
Cover Design:
The tagline - My Fullproof Enlish Learning Formula - with the word, fullproof, rounded with red marker visibly prompts that the story is comical. (If you didn't get it. The tagline indicates that this book helps you learn English in a more faster way. But the word 'Foolproof' is mispelled as 'Fullproof'. Hope you get the witticism behind the tagline. If you don't get it even now, God help you.)

Also the comic person going head over heel with books strewn all around him trying to read and stuff more facts into his brain. It prompts the same impression as the tagline - a comedy.

Weighing the aptness of the cover design with the story, this book ranks very good. For aptness of the cover design with the story I give a 4 out of 5 for this book.

On the other hand, it is a matter of second thought if attractiveness of the cover is considered. The cover of the book is pretty dull and subtle. There is nothing flashy about the book; just like the text contained between the covers. Though the title might attract some attention, the dull cover design is not much of an exhibitor. Overall, I give the cover design a 3.5 out of 5 for the attractiveness of the cover design.

Penguin Publishers. Like I have mentioned before, the publishers are one reason for accepting to review this book right away. Though the books from these publishers receive less acclaim, due to their obvious high prices (Indians readers are pretty restraining when it comes to buying books, nowadays). But it shouldn't  be overlooked that Penguin is an international brand of publishers with many acclaimed works published under their roof. Hope to read more of their books.

Story and other aspects:
Actually, this is the first book I ever got gift-packed. When I learnt that the author was shipping the book through Amazon.in, I was a tad bit disappointed about it. No author signed copy this time, I thought.

After receiving the book, I opened it and found some blue coloured object inside. I was pretty excited. When I entirely opened the box, I was surprised as the object was smoothly wrapped inside a blue-coloured gift wrapper, with it was a gift card carrying the message-

More pics of the book here...

I must say the book had created a pretty good impression on me. The author was innovative, after all.

The book starts as a memoir/autobiography (for all I know) stating various incidents and how the protagonist faced many challenges of English language during every phase of his life. Then began his struggle for improving his language. The stories goes on to deal with the problems the protagonist faced, various comic incidents and his attempts and struggles to improve his vocabulary, or rather on the whole to improve his English language speaking skills.

While reading this book it felt like my seventh grade English text book in one way. In my seventh grade, my English text book had different chapters and when confronted with difficult words, they are highlighted and the meaning of those words are mentioned at the end of every chapter. This book also felt the same. There were a flood of new words used in this book and their meaning were detailed as the footnote of the page.

The book is 350 pages thick approximately. Among them about 50 pages of the book have no footnotes at all; the rest all of them have footnotes! Of the remaining 300 pages, about 250 pages are half-filled with footnotes! 

Various facets of English language are discussed in detail filling up the reader with deep knowledge of the language.

Apart from the facets of knowledge, author explains various comical anecdotes which are pretty entertaining and informative. I was awed at the very unknown depths of the language. As an aspiring author, I always dreaded that my limited vocabulary might stand between me and getting my book published. This book was literally a God-sent for me. But in the due course of reading this book and writing my own book, I felt - When the exact feeling could be delivered in less complicating words, why strain the reader making him go through a dictionary so often. Definitely this book is not for me. Of course, it included various words which I am totally unaware of, but I am sure even readers wouldn't be aware of the meaning of those words, either. After all, I am a reader, myself.  But, as author mentioned on the jacket of the book, this book helps one to improve their vocabulary for various competitive English tests like GRE, GMAT, CAT, XAT, IELTS, etc. Use of such words even boost one's confidence, enabling him to speak up in front of large audiences.

On the contrary to the above mentioned features, though being entertaining, witty, comical and knowledge-enriching, the book is too monotonous for a lay reader like me. The hard vocabulary used in the prose of this book felt pretty artificial, unnecessary. I mean there are many easy words that could be used in their place. But that is not the point of the book. Without the use of those hard words, the book wouldn't serve its purpose, would it?

The best thing I loved the book is not its vocabulary knowledge, but the anecdotes mentioned. They were more interesting and the only reason that kept me going.

But ultimately, the book accomplishes what it promises. It adds a wide range of words to ones vocabulary, improves knowledge on various aspects and to some extent, is entertaining with all those comical anecdotes and jokes.

Not everyone who go through this book for reference or for the sake of having some laugh will enjoy this book. This is particularly for those readers who are pretty serious about improving their vocabulary and English knowledge.



Title: English Bites!

Author: Manish Gupta

Tagline: My Fullproof English Learning Formula

ISBN (edition I've read): 9780143419006


Read between: 24-09-2013 to 27-09-2013

Publishers: Penguin India

Reviewed for: Manish Gupta

Pages: 334

MRP: ₹ 250

For the best deal of this book click here: 

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