The books that taught me to write: #1

Watching the English by Kate Fox

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Cover of Watching the English by Kate Fox

One of the first nonfiction books to really jump out at me, to show that you can be utterly serious about your subject but communicate it with playfulness and verve, was Watching the English by Kate Fox.

At the time I was still researching for my doctorate. In our group of friends there was one chap who would go out for a smoke whenever it came time for him to buy a round. The man who I’d later marry attempted to rectify this in the most academic way possible: with a citation.

My future spouse forwarded one of Dr Fox’s papers – Passport to the Pub – to our mailing list. He highlighted the following quote:

“To the natives, round-buying is sacred. Not ‘buying your round’ is more than just a breach of pub etiquette: it is heresy… [buying rounds] prevents bloodshed.”

Neither Passport to the Pub nor Watching the English taught our friend to buy rounds, but it did teach me what nonfiction could be. Dr Fox writes to entertain as well as educate.

In a time where 48% of us can’t fathom what the other 52% are thinking, Watching the English is a warm and funny reminder of all we have in common.

To get your own copy, click here to buy the updated edition of Watching the English from

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