I picked up Chasing the Sun because I was curious about the history of dictionary makers (lexicographers). Mostly because in his fabulous book, The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson devoted a short section to the topic, and a quote from him even adorns the back cover of Chasing the Sun. He calls it “comprehensive.” Boy, is he right.
I can’t fault Green’s research: the man must have hundreds of hours worth of research, and I think he lists the name and brief history of every person who was ever even remotely connected to the process of dictionary making. Hell, anyone who’s ever looked at a dictionary seems to be included: that’s how badly Green namedrops. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help the book at all. Actually, it hinders it, by inundating the reader with so many names, dates, and titles that the brain shuts down and the whole point is lost.
Which is a shame, because it seems as though Green has a lot of good information to impart; however, the comprehensive strategy that he employs may be suitable for a reference book or a doctoral thesis, but it hardly makes for good reading. I feel as though I retained more from Bryson’s one chapter than I did from Green’s 468 pages, despite the massive difference in factual content. Therein lies the greatest failing of this book: it is not bias or inaccuracy or a deficit of information, but rather that it is too informative.
If you need this sort of thing for research, Chasing the Sun is great to have around, but I would not recommend it as regular reading material: it’s far too dense and far too dry to be enjoyable.