By Arthur Plotnik, Viva Editions, 280 pages

Arthur Plotnik’s book, Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives, aside from being possessed of the best title I have read in a long while, is also a pneumatic (page 180) thesaurus and reference; it’s a redoubtable (meaning “fearsome,” page 181) collection for when “terrific” or “wonderful” just won’t do. A thesaurus presents synonyms and antonyms alphabetically, but Better Than Great presents them in context.

The 15 chapters sort the words by what they might describe. Are you looking for something a little more descriptive of Scarlett Johansson than “beautiful”? Try “Callipygian” (a first-century BC statue of Venus looking down over her shoulder in order to regard her own shapely backside). Are you stumped when “large” or “gargantuan” just doesn’t seem to fit? How about “Godzillian”? A thesaurus can be a dull thing to read, but Arthur Plotnik lends it style. Each chapter starts with a brief description of why you might be looking for a particular word, and then describes how the collection might be used even more effectively. It’s difficult to describe how a thesaurus is entertaining, but the author has managed it. From the sheer number of quality adjectives, I imagine I would find one in this terrific – scratch that – frabjous (page 14) compendium.

Reviewed by Brad Wright

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