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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Word Freak
What a great book! A hobbiest in the world of Scrabble, I picked this book up thinking I might learn a thing or two. Boy was I impressed. I really had no idea how intense things got. Fastis got into the world of Scrabble while learning about it first hand. You have wonderful glimpses into the quirks of the dedicated players who will do anything for the glory of being...
Published on July 23 2003 by Groovy 1

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3.0 out of 5 stars Turned me off to Scrabble
The acquaintance who recommended this book told me it would renew my interest in and excitement about playing Scrabble. Wrong! The message I took away from this read is renewed belief that human beings can pervert just about anything.
Another reviewer mentioned her offense at the author's denegration of "blue hairs," as he likes to call female senior citizens. He...
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by Amazon Customer


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Word Freak, July 23 2003
By 
What a great book! A hobbiest in the world of Scrabble, I picked this book up thinking I might learn a thing or two. Boy was I impressed. I really had no idea how intense things got. Fastis got into the world of Scrabble while learning about it first hand. You have wonderful glimpses into the quirks of the dedicated players who will do anything for the glory of being the highest ranked Scrabble player. He brings snapshots of the competition and dedication of players who will receive no great monetary prizes or front headlines for their accomplishments, but who do it for the personal accomplishment. Scrabble is a fascinating combination of math, word knowledge, startagy and the luck of the draw. We are shown how individual players succeed and learn their personal stratagies for becoming an expert. As Faustis himself becomes intrenched in the world of Scrabble, we witness first hand the personal drive involved with winning and the frustrations of having missed a hook, anagram, bingo, etc., Anyone interested in Scrabble or linguistics will be interested in this book. I highly reccommend this books for anyone looking for a good read!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rack it up, July 11 2003
By 
J. Gifford (Las Vegas NV) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I love this book. Fatsis lives the world of the Scrabble elite while taking us on his own journey to Scrabble greatness. For two years Fatsis turned tiles, travelling around the country and across the world to the Nationals. People who play this game for a living are very weird and seem to have great trouble fitting in anywhere but in this game world, but even among other word freaks they still maintain a kind of distance.
I would have loved this book a lot more if I enjoyed the writing, which I mostly didn't. I simply don't like Fatsis's style. His tone is uneven, he seems to write for teenagers, and the book is not well organized or conceived. But he's a remarkable researcher and is not afraid to tell it like it is, so I admire him for that.
Reading this book sent me back to my own Scrabble board, which had been gathering dust for some time. Thank you, Mr. Fatsis, for that. Until the obsession again dies down, the words will swirl in my head, and I'll be daydreaming, looking for tags and triple-triples.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, funny, interesting- a fun read!, June 18 2003
By 
Dale Rhines (Alexandria, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book by Stefan Fatsis contains the drama, excitement and heartbreak that one expects from a well-written sports book. Of course, this is not a sports book but rather a book about SCRABBLE- the game and the world's best players. Fatsis becomes a part of the action and captures his obsession to become an expert player perfectly. He starts out by gently mocking the players but by the end he is including himself as one of the word-studying freaks in his pages. Fatsis is a terrific writer and makes SCRABBLE strategy entertaining to the reader. The obsessive players that he writes about could as easily be addicted to collecting baseball cards, playing backgammon or any other activity. The game is a wonderful backdrop to the quirky characters, including himself, that the author introduces to us. Whether you played the game or not, the book will capture your imagination. It is a game of words but the word the book most often brings to mind is entertaining. Who knows, you may want to engage in a little SCRABBLE of your own once you finish this book. If you enjoy well-written non-fiction sprinkled with humor and wit, this is a great book for you, even if you don't know the last word in the Official SCRABBLE Player's Dictionary- zyzzyva- a tropical weevil.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Super Freak � Super Freaky!, June 4 2003
By 
edzaf (Chandler, AZ USA) - See all my reviews
Stefan Fatsis' "Word Freak" is a fascinating, if at times intense, look into the world of competitive Scrabble. As a "living room" Scrabble player, I looked forward to the insight that the book might give to my game. What I quickly learned was that I will never be a Scrabble pro - and after reading about those who are, I determined that maybe that is not a bad thing. To call these players quirky is a huge understatement. Most have made Scrabble their life quest - traveling to tournaments all around the country (and the world!) and re-programming their brains to the point where words like "djinny" and "elorst" jump off their racks for big points.
At first, the inhabitants of the Scrabble sub-culture are endearing, however over the nearly 400 pages of this account, Fatsis' title tag of "freak" ultimately (and truthfully) rises to the surface. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the author's own personal journey - from an outsider and Scrabble neophyte (how's that for a word!) to an "expert" ranked player whose obsession with the game nearly rivals the top pro players. It is truly a case of the reporter becoming an integral part of the story as Fastis becomes a full-fledged citizen of this peculiar world. I would guess that this Wall Street Journal sports reporter is still playing competitively these days.
Whether readers who do not have a passing knowledge and interest in Scrabble would enjoy this book is hard to say. For a Scrabble fan such as myself, even I was overwhelmed at times with the minutiae of tournament life and word play. Nevertheless, this is a quite entertaining and readable book. That said, I will happily return to the ignorant bliss of amateur Scrabble where ditching a "z" to spell "zoo" for a measly 12 points is a cool move.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Word Freaks, indeed, May 25 2003
By A Customer
I must qualify the star rating on this review. If you're not into board games, eccentrics, people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, or niche hobbying, you won't find this book to be all that entertaining; it reads fast, so for those who don't I'd give it three stars.
If you *do* like that sort of this, this book is dead-on. Fatsis does an excellent job drawing out the personalities that make the game. But he also delves brilliantly into just enough information about just enough topics to cover the game's beginnings, the corporate ownership battles (and how it changed the success of the tournaments), and the major personalities in the gaming field. At times it seems like the author draws a bit too much on the personalities of the players; I have a vague feeling that the ten contenders or so he profiles are joined by 90 others with no eccentric behavior at all, magnifying the odd behavior. But then I thought about it, and realized the people he's talking about are, indeed, the National and International champions over the past few years.
You won't be bored often in his travails, as he talked to the communist, the black-pride activist, the hypochondriac, the ex-Veitnam vet, the stuffed-animal enthusiest, the insecure stand-up comedian, and so on...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comments on Word Freak, Feb. 13 2003
By 
Ce commentaire est de: Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers (Hardcover)
An excellent and undeniably soul-arousing book. Fatsis skillfully combines the subtle concepts and elements of testerone-charged obsession, feverish competition and curious intellectual hierarchy and binds them in with the tantalizing richness of personal experience to create a fine novel carefully developed and structured from the game of Scrabble itself. The book itself breathes the personalities of gifted, strangely aloof Scrabble geniuses that exhibit great anagramming prowess and analytical skill, and with this to draw the reader in, Fatsis further delves into his rise up the hierarchy of Scrabble ratings and titles, from being a casual living-room player to playing and cogitating side by side with the masters.
The book is also rich with scrabble jargon and general knowledge, and inspires both soul and intellect at its truest core, even that of the non-Scrabble player. At levels beneath what most readers will care to dwell at, the book cautiously probes the realms of mathematics and game theory, sometimes even penetrating the domains of psychology and underlying consciousness, only further drawing the reader in overwwhelming embrace.
Fatsis has effectively managed to connect with even the non-scrabble player with a flowing narrative and satisfying content, casually and delightfully composed. Word Freak truly is an outstandingly crafted novel, detailed and pleasurable to the very last word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb....If You're A Word Freak, Or Want To Understand One, June 14 2003
By 
W. C HALL (Newport, OR USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Are you the type of person who looks at a newspaper or magazine headline and silently calculates what its score would be on a Scrabble board? Do obscure words and word games fascinate you? If you answered yes, you should love this book. I've been a kitchen table Scrabble player for more than 30 years now, so found this impossible to resist.
The author takes us inside the world of competitive Scrabble, where a colorful cast of characters compete for cash, and often, for something deeper...a sense of self-worth, a personal validation. For some of these people, Scrabble is an avocation; for others, who do little but prepare for and compete in these tournaments it's become a way of life. Fatsis manages to portray the eccentricities of his subjects in a sympathetic, non-condescending way. This makes the book quite entertaining...but its also informative as well. You can learn quite a bit about Scrabble strategy, as well as the history of this remarkable game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Biblical comfort to Scrabble addicts, Oct. 2 2003
By 
Mary Nears (anahuac, texas United States) - See all my reviews
This book lets you know you're not alone in your addiction to Scrabble. It soothes your soul by sharing stories of others' addiction to the game and how they went on to win worldwide championships and now play the game with whatever they can get to sit opposite them at the cement picnic tables in the parks. It reveals how the Hasbro Scrabble game is bent against the human player, hence, after an eight-hour battle with Maven you can walk away knowing the odds were stacked against you in the end. It's a book a Scrabble addict will be amazed even exists, which will bring to question how Fatsis came to tear himself away from the game long enough to write the book...(but he was doing "research" only). It will be hard for a true Scrabble addict to stop playing long enough to read this book. In the end, Fatsis is just a messenger from another world...A world that makes sense perhaps only to the "Scrabblites" within its orbit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really great read., Nov. 14 2003
By 
frumiousb "frumiousb" (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
I haven't played Scrabble in years (& then only as a hobbyist) but you don't have to play Scrabble to like this book. It's a terrific read for anyone who's ever been competitive and an interesting meditation on the roles that both discipline and talent play in becoming really great at something.
Fatsis starts off wanting to document people who are obsessive about Scrabble and ends up obsessive himself. An interesting and seemingly honest look at his own journey while at the same time a good portrait of the Scrabble-playing world.
Suitable for many people on your gift list, I should think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for Scrabble lover - Great book for anyone, Nov. 23 2003
By 
"zenenigma" (Fairfax, VA United States) - See all my reviews
I'm 25, and I can count the number of books I've read since High School on one hand. And this is one of them. Given to me by my sister-in-law (who knows I play scrabble online) I was hesitant. When I started reading I found I could not put the book down. Even when i was done with it I bookmarked certain sections (tricks the author or players use) to read them at a later time. The book can get a tad bit technical at some points, but the story behind it is definately clear.
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Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers
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