REVIEW: Richard Littledale’s ‘Who Needs Words?’

It’s only words
and words are all I have
to take your heart away – Words, Boyzone  

So sang our generation’s greatest wordsmith – Ronan Keating – about one of Mankind’s most important communication tools.

In Who Needs Words, Richard Littledale builds upon Ronan’s considerable scholastic foundation, to further grapple with the nature of language, meaning and communication – in a manner that is both amiable and empowering (although, sadly, not as tuneful).

Who Needs Words is very much in the same vein as Littledale’s blog Preacher’s A-Z which deals daily with the issues of communication in an age where technology is both facilitating and hampering human connection and conversation. That this is written from the viewpoint of a preacher is almost incidental; Littledale has a great knack of presenting in his thoughts in an accessible fashion that – whilst unapologetically Christian – is not overtly dogmatic.

Who Needs Words is a very easy read – something which is laudable considering the difficult concepts is addresses. Littledale has an incredible gift of being able to take the complex world of linguistics, and explain it in a manner that is unpatronising and conversational (think Noam Chomsky crossed with Bill Bryson). Suffice to say, that as a recent English Lit. graduate, I came away from the first few pages of Who Needs Words with much a greater understanding of semiotics than a whole four years of higher education!

Admirably, Littledale is not just interested in giving his reader an education, but also giving them inspiration to apply. Who Needs Words is intensely practical – and more, importantly – intensely encouraging. With section titles such as “Embrace your vulnerability” and “Enjoy your humanity”,  the book faces the fears and concerns of public speakers and conversationalists head-on, but in a manner that is far from an anodyne self-help book.

Who Needs Words would be a worthy addition to the shelf of anyone who is in the business of communication (i.e. everybody) and for people wish to be a little more self-reflexive and intentional about the things that they say. This book could also serve as a primer for people who are interested in the way messages can be disseminated in the new media age. If it is the Gospel message – then so much the better 🙂


N.B. This review is based on an advance manuscript of Who Needs Words which contained some omitted chapters. As such, it may not reflect the totality of the book’s contents or concerns.


About jonathanrose

Raconteur. Intellectual. Showerman.
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5 Responses to REVIEW: Richard Littledale’s ‘Who Needs Words?’

  1. Pingback: Chomsky, Bryson, Keating & I « Richard Littledale's Preacher's A – Z

  2. Looking forward to reading it. One thought – wasn’t Words a Boyzone cover of a Bee Gees song?

  3. Peter Hardy says:

    I am interested in the book. Please could you tell me roughly what proportion deals specifically with witnessing rather than communication in general? Of somewhat related interest:

  4. preachersa2z says:

    The book covers witnessing only insofar as it covers integrity in communication for the sake of the one whom we serve. There is a specific chapter on mission, which deals with issues around how our message sits in a particular context. Hope that helps…

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