My books are serious non-fiction that could also be classified as “pop linguistics” and popular science. Both are attempts to put a narrative backbone into serious, but fragmented, research into everyday language phenomena. They take a look at aspects of our linguistic lives that are laced with more myth than fact — while retaining what is mysterious, fun, and personally meaningful about those myths.
Um…: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean (Pantheon, 2007) is a natural history of slips of the tongue, speech disfluencies (“uh” and “um,” among others), and other things we wish we didn’t say (but do), as well as a cultural account of what happens to speakers when they do those things. It was widely reviewed and critically well-received in 2007, though I recommend the 2008 paperback, which has an excellent afterword with scientific and political updates.
Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners (Free Press, 2012) is the account of my search for the person who could speak the most languages in the world and my attempt to understand what that means, both for science and for the rest of us. It too was widely and very positively reviewed, and I continue to speak widely on the topic in the US and international media and in talks.