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How I Supercharged My Vocabulary with a Picture Book

I confess: I had never heard the word “eristic” before I wrote yesterday’s post. But its meaning was easy for me to guess.

Even though it has probably been twenty years since I read them, the first four letters are ingrained in my memory.

Eris, the goddess of strife. Eris, who threw an apple inscribed “for the fairest” among three Greek goddesses just to watch the sparks fly. Eris, whose fiendish whim brought on the Trojan War.

Guessed yet? The word “eristic” describes argument for argument’s sake.

It’s all in here:

(pic links to Amazon)

The legends in this book and the graphic illustrations–Argos and his hundred eyes, Cronus eating babies–have stuck in my brain and made language come alive for me. Here’s what it could do for you:


  1. Pour cereal
  2. Pour milk
  3. Eat cereal, dread work, contemplate sick day


  1. Pour cereal
  2. OMG CEREAL, that must come from CERES, goddess of the harvest and Persephone’s mom! And mean Hades in the underworld with all the dead people kidnapped Persephone and then her mom Ceres was so sad without Persephone that she wouldn’t let any plants grow!
  3. And then Hades would have let Persephone go but Persephone ate some pomegranate seeds so Hades only let her go half the year. So when Persephone’s down in the underworld away from her mom Ceres gets so sad that she won’t let anything grow again and that’s why we have fall and winter!
  4. Quit work, use Persephone’s story as inspiration for next novel.

Rinse and repeat for words like narcissistic, mercurial, arachnid, bacchanal, saturnine, aphrodisiac…well, you get the point.

If you don’t have D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths already, YOU NEED IT.

I was reading this book long before I had any inkling of how to pronounce the last names of its authors (dee-awl-YAIR? dull air?). Coming across words like “eristic” so many years later, and feeling the stories flood back, has reminded me of how much one book can make a difference when it comes to good writing. That’s why I’m going to be posting more of the ones that I consider to have had a direct impact on my skills today.

This is the first post in an occasional series of book recommendations to improve your writing, your style, your vocabulary or a combination of all three. All posts will be tagged as “booklist,” in case you want to blitz through and start your library with more than one. I’ve also signed up as an Amazon Associate, so not only will you be doing yourself a favor if you click through the image and make a purchase, you’ll also be helping me to keep this blog going.

Now get offline and get reading!

2 replies on “How I Supercharged My Vocabulary with a Picture Book”

I would hop right on over to Amazon and buy this…except:

1) My reading list is still out of my control until I finish the bar exam five months from now. Next on the list: Modern Scientific Evidence – Forensics.

2) A certain seventh grade English teacher of ours destroyed any joy I could get out of Greek mythology.

However, I like this blog topic! Good books are gold.

Hurray! I’m glad you like the topic. All posts will be tagged as “booklist,” so once you pass the bar exam you can see them all at the same time and give yourself a graduation present!

And as for destroying the joy…yeah, I hear ya. It’s funny though, hearing “eristic” didn’t bring up those junior-high mythology units for me at all. I think it’s because the D’Aulaires got to me first. The illustrations are seriously a thing to behold–Google Books doesn’t show content for D’Aulaires but Amazon has a couple excerpts for when you want a distraction.

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