Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

by Stefan Fatsis | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0142002267 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Seferim of Columbia, Maryland USA on 2/7/2003
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14 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Seferim from Columbia, Maryland USA on Friday, February 07, 2003
This book was great in concept, the execution was a little "off" though... I have always loved Scrabble, but I am what the book calls a "living room player" whereas the people that the book profiles, are the professionals. It has some cool tips on how to improve your game too. The author really got into the world of these players, and became a pretty good player himself. I enjoyed the profiles of these people--all were so eccentric! Overall it was a fun book to read, but very long in some sections... that is why I gave the lower rating.

Journal Entry 2 by Seferim from Columbia, Maryland USA on Monday, April 28, 2003
Sent to Bug007 in Minnesota

Journal Entry 3 by Bug007 from Duluth, Minnesota USA on Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Very good book. Didn't care for the mathematical side to the game, but found the scrabble players very interesting. Upon reading this I realized I will never be a master player. LOL LOL

Thank you for sharing this book with me. I will be mailing it to a Fellow Bookcrosser who requested it.

Journal Entry 4 by Jas330 from Lakewood, Washington USA on Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Got this book in the mail today, I intend to read it and then start a bookring/ray with it. Thanks.

Journal Entry 5 by Jas330 from Lakewood, Washington USA on Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The book was good but I dunno, not as good as I expected.
It didn't capture my attention and took me over a week to read (while 5 bookrings have managed to pile up!) I also, as Bug said, didn't enjoy the technical stuff of it. The other parts of the book were fairly good though.
Thanks for the trade Bug007, much appreciated. :-)

Journal Entry 6 by Jas330 from Lakewood, Washington USA on Monday, October 27, 2003
Sending off on bookring today -- here is the list!

reader1212 (WA) –
illinicheme (CA) =
PokPok (CA) =
daidy (Michigan) -
wyldanthem (Virgina) –
Kernow8 (Virgina) +
Symphonicca (Canada) +
GuinevereII (New Jersey) +
LarkOnapost (Oregon) –
Fanclub (Hawaii) –
caligula03 (CA) +
raynebair (AL) -
krin511 (MD)=
mmz18407 (Maryland) =
tamugrad02 (Virgina) +
kymberlie (TX) –
Quorcester (Mass) +
LonelyGuy (England) +
Veritas9 (Australia) +

Journal Entry 7 by reader1212 from Federal Way, Washington USA on Friday, November 07, 2003
Rec'd the book the other day and have started reading it-I am having a tough time with this one but have vowed that I will finish it.

Journal Entry 8 by reader1212 from Federal Way, Washington USA on Monday, November 17, 2003
Finally finished the book this last Friday and will be mailing it on to the next person sometime this week.

Journal Entry 9 by illinicheme from Novato, California USA on Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Arrived today. Looking forward to reading this one, and should start it today or tomorrow. Will journal again when finished.

Journal Entry 10 by illinicheme from Novato, California USA on Thursday, December 18, 2003
This is a great book. I found portions of it to be completely fascinating, particularly many of the explanations of the probability and mathematics behind determining the best plays. It did take me a little bit longer than normal reading time (for a book of this size) because with such intensely focused subject matter, I found that interspersing some fiction breaks helped maintain my interest in the SCRABBLE universe. If I had tried to read the book completely straight through, I may not have enjoyed it as much.

Overall I enjoyed the style of the book, which the Los Angeles Times accurately describes as a "narrative that dances between memoir and reportage." However, the nonlinear, nonchronological nature of the book lead to some repetition, and a few stretches that ran a little longer than they needed to. There are many characters in the book, and initially it was hard to keep track of some of the minor players. As I got towards the end, I got curious and did a few web searches. Because this is nonfiction, and everyone in the book is an actual person, you can find headshots of many of the players on several SCRABBLE websites. It was nice having the real faces to go with the players' names - I wish I had go looking online sooner than only 60-some pages left. And it was also interesting to see that Fatsis' descriptions were almost universally right on.

How convenient that tomorrow I am headed home to my parents' hourse for the holidays - I'm very motivated to bust out the SCRABBLE for entertainment. (We got it out once last winter, and my boyfriend played "labia" in a game with my father - I was glad to see that he felt comfortable with my family!)

The book will be on its way to PokPok tomorrow. Thanks to everyone for sharing it.

Journal Entry 11 by PokPok from Vista, California USA on Tuesday, December 23, 2003
I got this in the mail today. It'll need to wait until after the holidays before I can dive into it, tho. Happy Holidays everyone.

Jan. 4th. I just finished this book. It's intersting for me to read the mixed reviews of it. I found it overall very engaging. If it were all about Scrabble, it probably would have been too dry. However, it was as much about the people, if not more so, than the game. I liked how the book interspersed the strategy/tournament sessions, with the sections about the people. It also rings so true.... how many of us would be satisfied with one rating or level that we acheive, only to find that level woefully inadequate, as we advance?

Thanks for sharing this book with me. I will make a post office run in about a week or so; sorry to be a bookstop in that respect, but we are in the middle of a move.


Journal Entry 12 by daidy from Kansas City, Missouri USA on Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Received this one in the mail today. I am in the middle of "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation" and when I finish that one, I will start this one.

Journal Entry 13 by daidy from Kansas City, Missouri USA on Saturday, February 07, 2004
While I'm not a Scrabble player, I did like this book. I can relate to the obsessiveness. One thing that I would have liked more information on (but that would probably have been pretty boring to most people) was calculating the ratings. I don't think I've ever actually played Scrabble, but I think I would love calculating people's ratings after tournaments and such. It's kind of like how I don't like to bowl, but I like keeping the score.

Journal Entry 14 by wyldanthem from Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, February 19, 2004
My boyfriend has firsthand knowledge of my Scrabble obsession -- we've played his parents a zillion times and have one victory to our names. Despite how badly he wants to win, he burst out laughing when he saw this in the mail today. But that's OK. I have a new word to describe me and everyone else fixated on Scrabble: We're all adorkable.

So let 'em laugh all they want. I'm going to read, learn (and journal!), and put together a winning game plan with a little help from Stefan Fatsis. :o)

Journal Entry 15 by wyldanthem from Lancaster, Pennsylvania USA on Thursday, March 11, 2004
I never knew there was a National SCRABBLE Association (NSA). I never knew there was such a thing as competitive SCRABBLE. And I never knew what an absolutely horrible SCRABBLE player I am … until now.

After reading about all the studying, memorizing, and strategizing done by those whose lives were captured in Stefan Fatsis' Word Freak, I realized I am nothing but a lowly living room player. (Are we on the same level as the blue-hairs, or are we inferior to even them?) But while I’ll never be a Joe Edley or Mike Baron, I could be a Stefan Fatsis.

So I’m starting to improve my SCRABBLE vocabulary. I’ve printed two- and three-letter word lists and hook lists for both. I’ve finished learning the two-lettered words and slowly am working my way through the three-lettered A words and the two-lettered words' hooks. From Fatsis’ description, I imagined this being much harder, but so far I seem to be breezing through (one of these days I might inquire about the local NSA club, but I have a lot of words to learn before that day).

But most importantly, I'm having fun! I’ve learned 50+ words in the past two days, and I couldn’t be happier. My boyfriend assures me that knowing an AI is a three-toed sloth and that TUP is a verb meaning to "copulate with a ewe" will not make his life easier, but as a copy editor, I never know when seemingly useless knowledge like this could come in handy. If nothing else, I'm prepared to whoop my boyfriend's parents' butts!

Thanks, Jas330 – it was a great book!

Journal Entry 16 by Kernow8 from Southampton, Hampshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Arrived today! I have a few rings and rays to get through before this, but I should be able to mail out to the next person within 3-4 weeks... Thanks!

Journal Entry 17 by Kernow8 from Southampton, Hampshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I really enjoyed this - I read it alongside a couple of works of fiction, just a chapter or so a day and that was very manageable. I liked the way Fatsis alternated between giving us some background about the history of the game or one of the key players, and the story of his own journey to experthood. That was a great way to break up some of the drier stuff, while also preventing it from reading too much like a Fatsis ego trip. Reading about all those weird people also gives you a good sense of your own sanity - especially when the weird people are relatively harmless ones!

I would have given it 10, but I felt that it would have benefited from an index. The main players were easy to remember - GI Joel, Matt, Marlon etc. - but there were a lot of bit players who were mentioned near the beginning and then returned to later on, and I would have liked to have been able to look up the earlier meetings with them. The other bit I didn't like was the chapter about the World - the description of the British psyche and playing style was just a little bit too stereotyped for me and that whole section make me cringe.

I hadn't played Scrabble for ages, but due to my enthusiasm for this book my husband bought me a set for Mother's Day - we played that evening, and I'm glad to say I managed one bingo.

Going in the mail today - to GuinevereII as Symphonicca has acquired a copy from elsewhere... Thanks!

Journal Entry 18 by GuinevereII from Bronx, New York USA on Monday, May 17, 2004
Yay! This arrived in the mail today: Thanks Kernow8. :) What's ironic is that about a month after I signed up for this ring, I caught Stephen Fatsis on ESPN2! He was the host during a Scrabble Competition. Intense. I recognized his name as the author of this bookring I was in.

I have a couple books to go before I get to this. (School, book club, library...in that order. Argh.) However, I am looking forward to this and it shouldn't take me long to wade through the others.

Journal Entry 19 by GuinevereII from Bronx, New York USA on Saturday, July 10, 2004
I've tried and tried again, but I just couldn't get into this. I got as far as page 84, and I know that I probably won't finish this book. I feel bad for keeping it so long, and that I've decided to pass it along to the next person uncompleted. :\

I am definitely a mere "living room player." At first this was interesting, but I got stuck on the history of the sport and game, and the jargon, techniques, and technicalities didn't make it any easier for me to read. Maybe one day I'll read it again and finish it. I might have a different opinion.

Journal Entry 20 by GuinevereII from Bronx, New York USA on Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Mailed to LarkOnapost in Oregon. Hope she enjoys!

Journal Entry 21 by LarkOnapost from Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Ecuador on Thursday, July 22, 2004
Word Freak has arrived safely in Oregon. It looks pretty dense! I am surprised a book about Scrabble could be 362 pages long! I will read it as soon as I am finished with Grassland by Richard Manning. Thanks for including me!

Journal Entry 22 by LarkOnapost from Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Ecuador on Saturday, August 07, 2004
I was surprised at how easily I got into this book, but the more obsessed Stefan became, the less interested I was. I think it was just too long. But overall very enjoyable.

I liked Marlon the best, and I was surprised at the end of the book when I saw Stefan's picture. It was exactly like I imagined him. I plan to buy a copy of this book for my father. Who knows, it could have a profound effect on his future retirement.

For all the travelling this book has done, I was rather shocked at its lack of labels and embellishment. I plan to do a little decorating before sending it on, at least, adding a postcard.

Happy bookcrossing to all! Love, Lark.

Journal Entry 23 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Woohoo! The book has arrived. I will read it as soon as I can. :)

Journal Entry 24 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Thursday, November 04, 2004
I've done my best to read Word Freak, having heard great things about this memoir of the Scrabble championships but so far I just can't get past my dislike of the narrator. He interupts the flow of the book to either brag about his education (he has a degree in journalism) and yet he revels in his ignorance of words when the other better Scrabble players most often not only know if a set of tiles makes a word but what that word means. The author seems satisfied with only memorizing the word minus the definition because if the word were important he'd already know it. He does after all have a journalism degree. I passionately hate that line of reasoning.

Journal Entry 25 by caligula03 at on Thursday, November 04, 2004
Released on Saturday, November 13, 2004 at about 1:00:00 PM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at raynebair in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases.


Mailing to raynebair on Nov 13. I want to give myself a little more time to try finishing it.

Journal Entry 26 by raynebair from Montgomery, Alabama USA on Thursday, November 18, 2004
Just received in the mail. Will get to it as soon as I finish my current read. Thanks!

Released on Monday, December 20, 2004 at about 12:00:00 PM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at USPS - Mailing to fellow BookCrosser in Montgomery, Alabama USA.


krin511 asked to be skipped so I'm mailing this book to mmz18407 this afternoon.

Journal Entry 28 by mmz18407 from Towson, Maryland USA on Friday, December 24, 2004
What a nice early Christmas treat. I will read this as soon as i finish The Know-it-All, by A.J. Jacobs.

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