My books are available here. Want to read an excerpt from A Garden of Words? Check out my love letter to etymology, “Why I Love Language.”
A Garden of Words
Did you know that orchid comes from the Greek for “testicle”? That the German word for pansy translates as “little stepmother”? That if you’re feeling “starry-eyed” you should send your loved one asters? Discover the surprising stories behind the names we give to flowers.
“Sheer etymological garden fun…Barnette begins with the flower’s name and immediately jumps off the neat garden path into the wild underbrush of mythology, history, folk tales and scientific investigation.” — The New York Times Book Review
Ladyfingers & Nun’s Tummies: A Lighthearted Look at How Foods Got Their Names
A great gift for the cook who already has every kitchen gadget known to humankind!
“Everything in it is delightful to learn. Barnette takes us through languages and across millennia in a charming style that, starting with words describing things we eat, turns out to offer endless food for thought.”
— The New Yorker
“Why didn’t anyone think of this before? . . . What fun Martha Barnette has made of it all, every name for every dish explained and traced and jollied.” — William F. Buckley, Jr.
“Truly delicious … a vast multicultural smorgasboard of our culinary delights … a tour de force.”
— The Los Angeles Times, in selecting Ladyfingers for its list of “100 Best Books of the Year“
Dog Days and Dandelions: A Lively Guide to the Animal Meanings Behind Everyday Words
If you’re a word lover or an animal lover, you’ll enjoy this look at all the surprising places where animals lurk inside the English language, covered in linguistic camouflage. (Who knew there was a “caterpillar” in chenille? Or a “pony” in bidet?) A books about where the wild things are in the English language.
“Beastly fun! … a sprightly compendium of the animal kingdom’s impact on the king’s English.”
— Publishers Weekly
“As educational as it is engrossing.”
The Bill Schroeder Story: An Artificial Heart Patient’s Historic Ordeal
In November 1984, Bill Schroeder was dying of heart disease. But on Thanksgiving weekend, doctors in Louisville removed his damaged heart and implanted a plastic-and-metal, Jarvik-7 heart in its place. For the next 620 days, he and his family made medical history in a pioneering experiment that cast new light the ethical issues and challenges facing anyone who enters the American health-care system.
This 1987 book in collaboration with the family grew out of my reporting for the Washington Post.