American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds

American Bee The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds What the bestselling Word Freak did for Scrabble this riveting narrative now does for the National Spelling Bee Here is a captivating slice of Americana part sporting event part absorbing human dram

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  • Title: American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds
  • Author: James Maguire
  • ISBN: 9781594862144
  • Page: 426
  • Format: Hardcover
  • What the bestselling Word Freak did for Scrabble, this riveting narrative now does for the National Spelling Bee Here is a captivating slice of Americana part sporting event, part absorbing human drama, and part celebration of the magic of words Every spring in the nation s capital, after a starting pool of 10 million kids narrows to 250 finalists, America s top youngWhat the bestselling Word Freak did for Scrabble, this riveting narrative now does for the National Spelling Bee Here is a captivating slice of Americana part sporting event, part absorbing human drama, and part celebration of the magic of words Every spring in the nation s capital, after a starting pool of 10 million kids narrows to 250 finalists, America s top young spellers face off in a nail biting contest So electric is the drama that millions of viewers tune in to watch ESPN s live telecastBut this national obsession is much than a sporting story and this first ever narrative nonfiction book about the National Spelling Bee immerses the reader in unique subculture, portraying the endearing fraternity of brilliant, eccentric young word nerds who vie for a gold trophy, a hefty check, and a glorious moment of national fame.Author James Maguire, who like the contestants is an inveterate word nut, captures the agony and glory of this singularly American event He profiles the top five spellers across the country, exploring their hopes and dreams and strategies for winning as they prepare for their moment in the spotlight American Bee takes readers behind the scenes at the National Bee, providing a narrative thrill ride as the tension mounts round by round.

    One thought on “American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds”

    1. Eh. Just a slog, imo. Too scattered? Not surprisingly, we didn't actually get to know the kids very well. The section on the history of the dictionary really wasn't important or relevant (but I have to confess, even though I've read about it several other times, I did learn a couple of new things this time). Several events, phrases, descriptions, and anecdotes were repeated. The history of the Bee itself was fairly interesting but I wish he'd found more to say about it. I was alerted to a book, [...]

    2. Usually, non fiction bores me to tears, but, since spelling bees have always sort of fascinated me, I decided to try it. I'm glad I did, too. It's definitely one of the top ten books I've ever read. The book profiles five spellers and brings you through their journey at the 2005 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The incredible amount of time and effort that the top spellers put into their spelling is truly remarkable. Each one has their own personality and study habits, and they are all truly incre [...]

    3. It took me far longer to finish this book than I thought it would. And I really didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Granted, my geek-o-meter went off the charts when I realized I knew a lot of the kids being profiled in the book. For those who don't know, this book is about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held in Washington, DC every year and now broadcast on ESPN. In the past two years, the finals have moved up even farther in stature and now take place on prime time netwo [...]

    4. Let's seea book about kids who study more than they play, who know more orthography than most PhDs in English, who compete in a publicized, televised event that celebrates a VERY obtuse field of study?What's not to like about that?Documentaries about the spelling bee--all documentaries, including this one--have me riveted. I love reading about the kinds of kids who obsess over competitive spelling, I love comparing their dedicated and variegated study methods, I love being fed tidbits about thei [...]

    5. I enjoyed this book. It wasn't as character-driven as something like Word Freak; rather, this author looks at the historical development of English spelling, and bees, and then profiles several competitors.There are some things that get a bit repetitive in his description of the bee itself. He has a tendency to describe the speller's at-mic performance using an analogy based on the word being spelled (something along the lines of "She spelled boulevardier as though she summered in Paris"). It ge [...]

    6. This is a really interesting book. Especially if you happen to be a retired spelling freak and word nerd like me. But seriously, some people have no life in this book. (I used to be one of them. Aghk.)

    7. If you find spelling bees interesting, this is a cool book for the behind-the-scenes. But since I was one of Maguire's subjects, I may be just a teeny bit biased :)

    8. As a person that only actively tunes in to ESPN to watch the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, this book had my name written all over it. Good thing I saw it while perusing the book sale room at the local public library-it was meant to be! The writing was quite reporter-style (it WAS authored by a reporter) and some quips and lines got a little old, but the topic is so fascinating to me that I went into the book expecting to rate it a 5. I liked that there were sections in the book about the [...]

    9. In May 1994, after I returned from my second National Spelling Bee, I wrote a lengthy recap of my experience there in order to escape from a creative writing class alive. Looking back, the biggest mistake I made was assuming that anyone other than me wanted to read a narrative that consisted almost entirely of brief personal recollections of people I'd met just once or twice in my life, about whom I knew very little, without any macro-context that might create a more vivid universe for the non-p [...]

    10. The author covers the Scripps Spelling Bee --- the Nationals --- from 2003 to 2005. It’s a long book, 360 pages, and at times quite disjointed (it resembles a collection of loosely related magazine articles at times, from profiles of past champions to the history of American spelling bees in general to a history of the English language and why our spelling is so eccentric).Nevertheless, it’s an exciting read, and all the history serves as great preparatory material for the book’s final sec [...]

    11. I LOVED this multi-faceted book. Just ask my husband, who has had to endure me reading passages to him, and endlessly theorizing about specific aspects of it. The book covers the human-interest side of the bee - what are the lives of these spelling phenoms like? How do they prepare for this event? The history of the bee itself is quite riveting - from early Puritan gatherings to the ESPN-extravaganza that it is today. While it might sound dull to read about the actual event, with a breakdown of [...]

    12. I read American Bee hoping to find a little more of what I loved about the documentary Spellbound, which also profiles National Spelling Bee contestants. While I enjoyed the book, it didn't rise to the level of the film.A good documentary filmmaker minimizes their intrusion; instead, they observe and coax the story out of the subjects, and then edit the film in such a way that the story tells itself. I realize that even non-fiction books generally have narrators of sorts, but the author of Ameri [...]

    13. If it's spring, it must be time for the spelling bee! I'm strangely intrigued by these crazy-smart kids - they are so driven and focused. How is that possible in an 11-year-old? I especially remember Rebecca Sealfont, the spazzy home-schooled kid who won about ten years ago - yes, I even remember her name. Anyway, this book looks at five kids and their path to the 2005 National Spelling Bee. They are all pretty normal kids, if only a bit nerdy. It's a fun read - the author really draws you into [...]

    14. To be honest, this was the most boreing book I have ever read in my life. And the only reason I even bothered to read it was because my brother said it was the best book he has ever read. But then again, he knows exactly how thses kids feel. This book was about the kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and how they felt before and after the Bee. For example there was one kid named Marshall Winchester, and he likes to scream the word as he spells it. He says "it helps me focus on the word an [...]

    15. This is one of the few non-fictions I have up here, so cherish the review.James Maguire (a very talented writer I must say) takes an in-depth look at the world of spelling bees and their evolution throughout the years. Maybe if you read this book, you'll have a better understanding of what I go through. From a speller's point of you, I'd say that it is very accurate and embellished to just the right amount.If non-fiction bores you to tears, you might want to give this a try :) If it doesn't, the [...]

    16. Mesmerizing story - those kids are fascinating and amazing and inspirational. In many ways they are "just normal kids" and in other ways they are the intellectual cream of the crop. The ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the kids who make it to the Bee epitmoizes the American dream, and the book pays full attention to, and honors, that aspect. Also appreciated the zoom through the history of the English language and the Spelling Bee. The writing, however, could have used just a bit more editi [...]

    17. Oh, the spelling bee. How I remember competing every year in my elementary school's spelling bee (and always getting beaten by my friend, LM). I was a geek even at such a young age. Thus, American Bee speaks to my heart. American Bee covers the history of spelling bees, traces the genealogy of English and certain words' spellings, ponders why we enjoy watching spelling bees (ESPN can't be wrong: there must be an audience emerging for even geeky competitors), follows the 2004 and 2005 Scripps Nat [...]

    18. Focusing on the National Spelling Bee, this story takes us through the lives of many top spellers in the country, all under the age of 14. With a precocious nature and diverse ethnic, economic and geographic backgrounds, these pre-teens and teens sacrifice everything for a chance to head to Washington D.C. to spell their hearts out. While the story of word-nerds is fascinating, the redundant history of the kids and their families does tend to get a bit tedious.

    19. Book 2 for week "five" (I did not finish this book). I liked the parts of this book that were about the children who compete in spelling bees, but I got totally bogged down in the section about the history of the English language and why our spelling sucks so much. After it put me to sleep twice I decided I didn't care enough to finishd thus ended reading books with numbers in the title.

    20. I read American Bee during the last week of 2011 and it was probably my favorite book of the year. I loved the kids' love of language and learning; it was also amazing to hear how they prepare for the bee. The amount those kids accomplish has really motivated me. The book also covers an overview of the American English language and how our words evolved into their nonsensical spellings. It is an overall fascinating book.

    21. This book has a lot of great information and I feel as though I understand the ins and outs of the bee a lot better. My main issue with the book was that it had too much information and became very drawn out so I had to struggle to get through the second half of it. The book should have been split into two different books: one focusing on the history of the bee and one focusing on the competitors.

    22. Oh gosh, I finished this about two weeks ago. It was really fascinating and intense! Maguire built up interesting profiles of spellers going into the 2005 Bee (incidentally, the only time I ever did a school spelling bee) and kept it engaging. I'd have a better review but I'm a little caught up in a book about Victorian murder now.

    23. As a former gifted nerd who competed in national math nerd competitions, i enjoy reading about other gifted nerds of other skill sets.The movie "Spellbound" covers the same material, though in a briefer, less detailed form. Both the movie and the book are very good, but not great.

    24. Wow! Talk about stellar children and impressive families! This shows the fascinating, up-close, insider world of the American spelling bee and the paths to the top spots. If you think you know how to spell well---think again.

    25. I really liked this book. It is good. But there are a couple chapters in the middle about the history of the English language which are mostly boring. The chapters on the actualy Bee and the spellers are much more fun.

    26. Interesting book about the 2004 & 2005 spelling bee. I really liked the individual portraits of the different contestants. The history of the English language was redundant for me, but the history of dictionaries and the Bee were right up my (nerdy) alley.

    27. SUCH a disappointment! I love books about words, and books about competitions, but this one was incredibly boring.

    28. Well this book was WAY too dramatic. Interesting in some parts, but also just weird. It WAY overdramatized a lot of the bee it was kind of like watching a soap opera.

    29. Nothing in here that can't be learned in more enjoyable fashion by watching Spellbound. Very repetitious; not particularly well-written.

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