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The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus

The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus

Written by Joshua Kendall

Narrated by Stephen Hoye


The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus

Written by Joshua Kendall

Narrated by Stephen Hoye

ratings:
3.5/5 (8 ratings)
Length:
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 14, 2008
ISBN:
9781400176533
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Peter Mark Roget-polymath, eccentric, and synonym aficionado-was a complicated man. He was an eminent scholar who absorbed himself in his work, yet he also possessed an allure that endeared him to his mentors and colleagues-not to mention a host of female admirers. But, most notably, Roget made lists.



From the age of eight, Roget kept these lists with the intention of ordering the chaotic world around him. After his father's death, his mother became overbearing and despondent. Soon, his sister also descended into mental illness. Despite these tragedies, Roget lived a colorful life full of unexpected twists and discoveries-including narrowly avoiding jail in Napoleon's France, assisting famed physician Thomas Beddoes by personally testing the effects of laughing gas, and inventing the slide rule.



Evocative and entertaining, The Man Who Made Lists lets readers join Roget on his worldly adventures and emotional journeys. This rich narrative explores the power of words and the everlasting legacy of a rediscovered genius.
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 14, 2008
ISBN:
9781400176533
Format:
Audiobook


About the author

Joshua Kendall is a language enthusiast and an award-winning freelance journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today. He lives in Boston.


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What people think about The Man Who Made Lists

3.5
8 ratings / 8 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    I was completely enthralled by the story of Peter Mark Roget! Fascinated every minute of this fantastic biography.
  • (4/5)
    from the bookish book box; The life of Roget, of Thesaurus fame, but that was the least of the publications and writings that this man undertook. What he thought was his best work, Bridgewater Treatise, I never heard of
  • (3/5)
    During the 19th century, Peter Roget grew up without his father and with a mother who smothered him. Both his mother and later, his sister, had some mental issues later in life. Roget loved classifying things and making lists. He was extremely smart and grew up to become a physician; his preference was to lecture and experiment. Throughout his life, he kept word lists, but it was only when he retired that he focused his time on writing and publishing his now world-famous thesaurus. It was ok. I don't think I found it quite as interesting as the recent book I read on the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Much of it was interesting, but there were also parts where my mind would wander. Overall, ok.
  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Only rarely do you come across a book that makes you wonder what is going on in the publishing world. This is one of those books. It is a biography of Roget, the creator of the famous Thesaurus. The material is interesting - there is a good biography there to be written. Unfortunately, Mr Kendall hasn't written it. The first problem is his fractured sentence construction. In what is possibly some effort to provide variety, sentences rarely flow in any normal way. Nested clauses abound. The time sequence is never simple or clear. The subject rarely appears anywhere near the start of a sentence. Just one example of many: "Having been annexed by France in 1798, Geneva, then an independent republic and not part of Switzerland, was a city under siege." Now, I guess that he is trying to say that Geneva was an independent republic prior to annexation by France, but surely there are many ways of saying this more clearly. Where was the editor?Then there is the issue of style. Much of the book is written in the form of a conventional biography. But occasionally the content becomes novelistic, with an omniscient narrator knowing the thoughts of the characters and providing detailed dialogue. I have no problem with historic fiction, or even with fictionalised history, but the problem here is that these interludes pop up unannounced and then fizzle out as the author gradually reverts to conventional biography. Again - where was the editor?Lastly is the issue of content. Kendall provides a good account of Roget's life, and also some insight into his personality. In particular he stresses Roget's use of facts and lists as a device to block out unpleasant aspects of his life. Now this sounds to me like Asperger's Syndrome, but this issue is never discussed. The cover notes tell me that Kendall has won awards for his writing (!) from the National Mental Health Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association. As a writer with an interest in the mind, surely the possibility of Aspergers was apparent to Kendall? Even if he had excluded the idea, surely the material warranted a discussion??Read April 2011.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)
    This is a book about the life of the man who wrote Roget's Thesaurus. True, not much about the thesaurus but more about the process of writing, thinking, obsessing and trying to stay sane. The thesaurus isn't as much an achivement as a manifestation of his life experiences.
  • (3/5)
    This is a biography of Peter Roget. It was... okay. The first part of the book, which went into great detail about his life, was kind of dull. And then the end was rushed -- "He wrote the Thesaurus and then he died." (Okay, not quite that rushed, but still.) It wasn't a bad book, but it could have been a much better one.
  • (4/5)
    There are two things I hope to learn when reading a biography, first, I expect to find out about the life of the person who the book is about, and second, I hope to learn about the society in which the person is living (social morals, living conditions of the people, politics, etc.) The Man who Made Lists delivered very well on both of these points. The subject of this book, Peter Mark Roget, was very much shaped by not only his family dynamics, but also the social expectations of the time. And he believed in and followed these expectations to a "T". As such he was very much a stereotypical "stiff upper lip" 19th century English Gentleman. Roget is today a word synonymous with Thesaurus, he wrote the first one and it is the why and how which is so fascinating. Roget was a member of a lineage through which depression and obsessive/compulsive disorders moved through the generations. Those of his family who beat these mental problems, were workaholics. Roget discovered that making lists were his therapy. Beginning at the age of about seven, he began making lists of the natural world (plants and animals) as well as writing the same things in Latin. This developed ability allowed him to reach the top of his profession, medical research. His years of research, list making, and cataloging a variety of information were all part of the making of the Thesaurus. To be fair, he actually worked on the book throughout his life.Although much of this book is very readable, there are slow sections in which the ins and outs of his academic life and associations are detailed. I very much enjoyed reading the descriptions of social life of this period in time, as well as some interesting things concerning the Wars between England and Napoleonic France.
  • (3/5)
    A good utilitarian biography about a figure in history whose contributions are little thought about today. Roget, who created the Thesaurus at a time when there was nothing close to it and the need was great, also invented the modern slide rule led major scientific societies, and contributed to the natural sciences. A good handling of an unusual man, and well worth the time to learn about the man. My only real complaint is that Kendall seems to apply a 21st century sense of judgement on Roget's relationships (and difficulties therein). This sense may be somewhat due to the lack of cited evidence when such opinions are interjected. Still, a recommended read for a word maven, list keeper, organizer, or just to fill in a hole in one's knowledge of the movers and shakers of the early days of what became modern science. Os.