A clear, rather formal presentation of the science of etymology, which is in many ways like archaeology or landscape history (only of words). The book's strength is its reasonably pain-free presentation of the latest research on the subject's theoretical foundations. But any dryness is alleviated through plenty of fascinating (and often delightfully surprising) examples and case studies.
I suppose it may be a little heavyweight when compared to a number of recent books, which are basically just collections of curious word histories (e.g. The Story of English in 100 Words). But it shows more of the practical workings of the subject, and does better at helping make the most of the etymological entries in the larger dictionaries. It also fills a need for an accessible introductory guide to methods and practice for someone who wants to actively work in the field. This is especially important, because of all the linguistic sciences this one is the most open to amateur contributions and independent study.
Philip Durkin is a master of his subject, as can be seen by some of his other titles. This book, however, suffers greatly from a dry style and huge wads of even drier quotation. The author has reproduced acres of text from his favourite Oxford English Dictionary, along with direct and lengthy quotes from a number of academics. He also quotes himself extensively ... as we saw in chapter X ... and Y and Z ... to the point of tying himself in knots, and distracting the reader. The information is there, but you'll need waders to get through it.
Specifically for Kindle readers, be careful flipping the pages : there are so many cross-linkages to other chapters that you *will* hit them by accident. Good luck keeping on track.