Neal Whitman has weighed in on Nathan Bierma's new collection of material culled from the "On Language" column of the Chicago Tribune. Yes, the column is no longer a regular feature in the paper, but Neal points out that like the great DVD box set, The Eclectic Encyclopedia of English lets the series live on.
Neal takes exception with the logic of calling the book an "encyclopedia" and the alphabetical arrangement, but such is the challenge of the anthologizing such material. There is no perfect configuration; every solution has built-in compromises. In the end, Neal does come through with an understanding of what the book really does: "It’s fast, easy, entertaining reading, and would be a good gift for people who like reading about language . . . not so much a reference book as a language lover’s bathroom reader."
But Neal, "encyclopedia" sounds so much loftier than "bathroom reader"; we couldn't resist.