Monday, January 1, 2007


Let's take a moment to talk about books of reference. Here are a few really terrific ones that deserve a place in every home. None of these are the sort of thing you read cover-to-cover, but they're wonderful to flip through for fifteen minutes, snd handy to have around when you need a fact. If you don't already own these books, take some time to browse them. You won't regret it: a lot of us haven't perused them since grade school.
World Almanac
$25.56 at ISBN: 1933405228
I truly mean no disrespect by what I'm about to say, but I believe the world would be a better
place if people put down the Bible and picked up the World Almanac. It's just full of facts, categorized. The first half is about the United States: the Constitution, biographies of all our presidents, and facts about modern America. What percentage of people are unemployed? Have been to college? Earn over a million dollars a year? Includes population and history of all 50 states, many major cities. All you'd want to know about our country. The second part is about the rest of the world. This include my favorite part of the Almanac: the Nations of the World. Each country has a list of facts (the population, language, money the use, religion, etc) and a few paragraphs of history. The point is, this book is loaded with knowledge about your world! You needn't buy this one in particular. I usually use the New York Times World Almanac (not available on for some reason). If you live outside the US, find one that's appropriate to your own country. Just get the facts! Here they are!
Hammond Atlas of the World, by Staff of the Hammond World Atlas Corp.
$12.98 at ISBN: 076075361X
This is actually a really good price on a useful and interesting book. How familiar are you with the Middle East? Or Europe? The worldly and sophisticated should always at least be able to point to France or the Nile River. All those little Balkan countries are interesting too. Yugoslavia
, Romania, Albania. Most people have certainly never really considered where these are on the map or who their neighbors are. It's a diverting way to spend 15 minutes, looking at maps for the names of places you've heard of but aren't sure you can find. Maps aren't just useful for academic reasons, they're also quite beautiful to look at.
1001 Letters for All Occasions
, by Corey Sandler, Janice A. Keefe, Janice Keefe
$15.25 at ISBN: 1580628907
Not just for letters, but also good for e-mails, work relate
d memos, and a host of other situations. These are sometimes good word-for-word, but more often make good templates which you customize to your own situation. The perfect choice if you sometimes find it hard to find the right words. Included are, among many others, letters to contest credit card service charges, invitations to a cocktail party, thank you notes to ministers for performing weddings, apologies for a child's poor behavior, and even a formal letter to the Pope. If you don't buy it, at least browse it in the store.
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
$23.95 at ISBN: 0877798087
This one is sort of a no-brainer, yet I include it because many people don't have it. They make a paperback version for only $5.85 if the price is too steep. The hardcover I have is a once-in-a-lifetime investment. Keep it nearby so it's handy enough to use all, the time. Just not somewhere you'll spill grape juice on it. Words are always coming up when you're not quite sure what they mean. What exactly is tarragon? What's a wet bar? What do words like ironic and literally really mean? The answers to these questions, and thousands of others, will make this valuable for years.


Alan said...

Ouch! I suppose it's one of the pitfalls of being the oldest, biggest, and best-selling product in a given industry: people start to use your name as the generic term for all such products, and they get you all mixed up with your competitors.
A case in point: that book up there is the Time Almanac, not The World Almanac; and the reason you couldn't find The New York Times World Almanac on B&N is because there's no such thing. There is a New York Times Almanac but there is only one World Almanac and Book of Facts; the former is a fine publication (I should know, I used to be the executive editor) but the latter has been around for nearly 140 years, has sold over 80 million copies, and ranks as the best-selling American reference book of all time (which I should also know, since I am the current executive editor).
Why not visit our new blog, where you can get new daily facts from the editors of The World Almanac -- and also familiarize yourself with our cover, so you can tell the difference next time you're in the bookstore? Hope you enjoy it -- and that's a very nice list of recommendations, otherwise!

C. Alan Joyce
Executive Editor
The World Almanac and Book of Facts

Hansisgreat said...

Wow! Praise from Caesar! Before I start apologizing for my mix-up, let me just say I'm such a long-time fan of the New York Times for your excellent reporting and unimpeachable integrity. Keep up the good work! Now as to this Almanac business, I have to go to work now, but I promise I'll sort this all out and have the correct information up soon.
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It's not every day we have a visitor of your distinction!