"Elements of Eloquence" by Mark Forsyth

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: Usually, a coffee-table book is a light picture book -- something full of pleasant things to look at for a brief few moments of entertainment. Consider "Elements of Eloquence" a coffee-table book for the brain. This is a brilliant piece of work. Author Mark Forsyth captures dozens of means by which a writer (or speaker) can turn a more memorable phrase, and, breaking them into short five-to-ten-page bursts, manages to make a long English writing lesson into a delightful bit of easy reading. His examples are well-chosen and illustrative, the rules are obvious in the same way as the rules of nature or architecture (all around us, but hard to grasp until you know what you're looking for), and almost every chapter delivers a true laugh-out-loud moment. Go ahead and leave it on the coffee table -- most people will be discouraged by the title alone -- but those who read it will be extremely well-rewarded.

Verdict: A hilariously brilliant but magically unpretentious guide to better writing and speaking