Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis
Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players

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Stefan Fatsis, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and National Public Radio regular, recounts his remarkable rise through the ranks of elite Scrabble players while exploring the game's strange, potent hold over them—and him.
Scrabble might truly be called America's game. More than two million sets are sold every year and at least thirty million American homes have one. But the game's most talented competitors inhabit a sphere far removed from the masses of "living room players." Theirs is a surprisingly diverse subculture whose stars include a vitamin-popping standup comic; a former bank teller whose intestinal troubles earn him the nickname "G.I. Joel"; a burly, unemployed African American from Baltimore's inner city; the three-time national champion who plays according to Zen principles; and Fatsis himself, who we see transformed from a curious reporter to a confirmed Scrabble nut.
He begins by haunting the gritty corner of a Greenwich Village park where pickup Scrabble games can be found whenever weather permits. His curiosity soon morphs into compulsion, as he sets about memorizing thousands of obscure words and fills his evenings with solo Scrabble played on his living room floor. Before long he finds himself at tournaments socializing—and competing—with Scrabble's elite.
But this book is about more than hardcore Scrabblers, for the game yields insights into realms as disparate as linguistics, psychology, and mathematics. Word Freak extends its reach even further, pondering the light Scrabble throws on such notions as brilliance, memory, competition, failure, and hope. It is a geography of obsession that celebrates the uncanny powers locked in all of us.   This edition includes a new 2013 afterword by the author.

About Stefan Fatsis

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Stefan Fatsis is a former placekicker for the Denver Broncos. A longtime reporter for The Wall Street Journal, he talks about sports every week on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”He lives in Washington, D.C.
Published July 7, 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 386 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Some loved words for themselves, others merely as means to an ends—and Fatsis advises anyone thinking of playing competitive Scrabble to face the reality “that the game requires learning words that may not have any outside utility.” Ultimately, competitive Scrabble is “about mastering the rules o...

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The New York Times

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Halfway through his book about Scrabble and the people who live to play it, Stefan Fatsis has an ''Aha!'' experience.

Aug 26 2001 | Read Full Review of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Trium...

Teen Reads

There are few financial or social rewards for Scrabble expertise --- in fact, there are large disincentives on both fronts --- but like all of his Scrabble friends, Fatsis was drawn to the game for reasons he didn't fully understand.

Jul 30 2002 | Read Full Review of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Trium...


Fatsis, a Wall Street Journal reporter, started out observing the strange and insular world of tournament Scrabble.

Aug 06 2001 | Read Full Review of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Trium...

The Millions

Suddenly, every time I walked into a bookstore or read a review, I started noticing similarly breathless subtitles.

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