What's the difference between a geek and a nerd? A geek, I've heard, is someone who is or becomes socially inept due to extreme focus on an area of expertise. A nerd, OTOH, is someone who gains social ineptitude without a corresponding benefit of expertise. A freak? I have no idea of how to define that. I might retitle the book "Word Nerds" - however, I admit the author's title of Word Freaks does catch the eye (and scores better in scrabble, too). Thanks to my friend N for the gift of the book! This isn't one I would have chosen for myself, but was a great read - in other words, the perfect gift book.
Stefan Fatsis has documented his deep-dive into the obscure world of competitive scrabble playing. Reading of anyone put to self-imposed extremes is always interesting; check out Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers for a more life-threatening example. But reading of people putting themselves to such extremes in order to find a WWII sub is one thing; to read of people doing such for no other purpose than to get a high score ... well, it had to be a good story to keep my attention.
The profiles of the other players - and, also, of Stefan himself as a player - are engaging and interesting. I spent part of the book hoping the worst cases would find some help for themselves and maybe give up the scrabble game; by the end of the book, I was rooting for them to win.