For a biography, it is a relatively short book. To think that it is the biography of 2 people, one less in-depth than the other, as well as the biography of that much beloved institution: The Oxford English Dictionary, it's quite amazing. Winchester traces the history of both the editor who worked most on the original OED, James Murray, and the man who was arguably the most efficient at providing used definitions for the dictionary, William Chester Minor, as well as that of the text. He doesn't allow the story to get away from him and is quite sympathetic toward Minor - declared clinically insane after having murdered a complete stranger in a Lambeth street. Minor, an American on a wellness holiday in the U.K. after having been 'retired' by the American military shortly after the end of the Civil War was locked away at Crawthorne, but allowed to build himself a library, which ultimately hastened Murray's progress with the OED. Despite this, it took several editors and over 70 years for the full set to be published.
There is a lot packed into this biography, but one is never left confused or left behind. Winchester also kindly added the definitions of key words from the OED that demonstrate what the non-abridged version is set out. The example of the English lexicon is partnered with illustrations to make the book more accessible, though I don't think either was required; but feel they are both a lovely nod to how words were used in the Victorian era. Dickens punctuated his tales with illustrations, an art that has perhaps been misplaced over time.
One might even be envious of the thousands of people across the globe who offered their knowledge and expertise to the project. However, have no fear, the current OED editor has added an advert at the end to encourage people to continue assisting them in ensuring the dictionary is complete and as accurate as possible, especially considering availability of the Internet.