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Once again, we are faced with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to selecting our favorites from among the year’s reference sources. These titles were chosen by the editor of RBB, with suggestions from the Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board and contributing reviewers. All of the picks exemplify some of the qualities of an outstanding reference work. Some are major additions to scholarship in their field. Others fill a gap, offer a fresh perspective, or open up a topic to a new audience. All do well what reference sources do best—gathering and organizing information and presenting it in an attractive as well as a useful way.
American Immigration. 10v. Ed. by Dorothy Anderson and others. Grolier, $335 (0-7172-9283-5).
Combining transcripts from the Ellis Island Oral History Project with A–Z entries and historical photographs, this set for grades six to nine does a nice job of bringing to life the experiences of different immigrant groups and providing balanced coverage of various issues related to immigration.
American National Biography. 24v. Ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. Oxford, $2,500 (0-19-520635-5).
Oxford applies a fresh end-of-the-twentieth-century perspective to collective American biography with entries for 17,450 people from the precolonial era to 1996. A huge undertaking, this was one of the significant reference publishing events of the decade.
Chemical Elements: From Carbon to Krypton. 3v. By David E. Newton. UXL, $95 (0-7876-2844-1).
Each one of the 112 elements is given its due in A–Z entries that follow a standard format. For the middle-school audience, this is the most thorough and accessible treatment of a topic that can drain library collections at report-writing time.
Contemporary Women Artists. Ed. by Laurie Collier Hillstrom and Kevin Hillstrom. St. James, $155 (1-55862-372-8).
To increase awareness of a broad range of woman artists, this volume profiles 350 twentieth-century artists, from Mary Cassatt to Cindy Sherman. Many of these women are omitted from other reference works.
Dinosaurs of the World. 11v. Ed. by Chris Marshall. Marshall Cavendish, $329.95 (0-7614-7072-7).
This user-friendly set is the only multivolume reference source currently in print on the topic of dinosaurs and one of the few comprehensive works aimed at an elementary- and middle-school audience.
Encarta Africana: Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Black History and Culture. Ed. by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr. CD-ROM. Microsoft, $69.95 (0-7356-0057-0).
You’ve watched Wonders of the African World on your local PBS station and maybe seen Africana, the book, but the CD-ROM incarnation came first. The Microsoft Encarta–style multimedia that sent other encyclopedia publishers scrambling is combined with authoritative articles on Africa proper, North America, and the African presence in the Caribbean, Hispanic America, and the rest of the world.
Encyclopedia of Archaeology: The Great Archaeologists. 2v. Ed. by Tim Murray. ABC-CLIO, $150 (1-57607-199-5).
These biographical profiles add a new dimension to our understanding of the field of archaeology and how it has evolved from being a romantic pursuit of antiquity-loving amateurs to a serious scientific discipline.
Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. 6v. Ed. by Paul F. Grendler. Scribner, $595 (0-684-80514-6).
Published in association with the Renaissance Society of America and covering all aspects of the Renaissance from the origins of humanism in Italy (ca. 1350) through 1750, this set is an important addition to Scribner’s world history program. The encyclopedia’s strength lies in its scholarship and in the comprehensiveness and diversity of its scope.
Endangered Species. 3v. By Rob Nagel. UXL, $95 (0-7876-1875-6).
UXL styles a resource on another hot report topic with its signature flair. Volume one covers mammals; volume two covers arachnids, birds, crustaceans, insects, and mollusks; and volume three covers amphibians, reptiles, and plants.
The Facts On File Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society. 3v. By Rudy Volti. Facts On File, $225 (0-8160-3123-1).
There are numerous sci-tech encyclopedias, but the focus on how science and society interconnect makes this one unique. Articles cover a wide range of topics; the origin and chemistry of cheese, the historical development of software, and the rise and fall of drive-in movies being just a few.
Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide to Literature, Illustration, Film, TV, Radio, and the Internet. Ed. by Neil Barron. Scarecrow, $85 (0-8108- 3596-7).
This guide to more than 3,000 works of fiction by more than 950 authors, plus several hundred works of related nonfiction, is an extensive revision of Barron’s valuable Horror Literature and Fantasy Literature, both published in 1990 and now out of print. Essential for research and for the development of serious collections.
The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. 5v. Ed. by Donna Olendorf and others. Gale, $499 (0-7876-1868-3).
Current, accurate medical information in lay language tends to lack depth. Bridging the gap between one-volume, consumer-oriented guides and specialized medical texts, this set covers disorders and conditions, test and procedures, and treatments and therapies in articles that are both quite comprehensive and easy to understand.
The Grove Dictionary of Art Online. Internet database. Grove, call 800-221-2123 or visit [http://www.groveart.com] for information. As if the ability to do full-text searching weren’t enough of a boon for researchers, this online version of the Dictionary of Art addresses one of the major shortcomings of the print set, its dearth of color images. The expanding image collection, created through links to external Web sites, is a fine example of seizing the new possibilities afforded by the Internet. (Top of the List—Reference Source.)
Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America. By John A. Wagner. Oryx, $65 (1-57356-200-9).
A specialized encyclopedia that should find a place in many general collections because of the pains that have been taken to present this fascinating era in a readable and appealing way.
International Dictionary of Black Composers. 2v. Ed. by Samuel A. Floyd. Fitzroy Dearborn, $275 (1-884964-27-3).
This survey of composers of African heritage encompasses diverse styles and genres. It is especially valuable for the light it sheds on black contributions to classical music as well as vernacular and popular forms.
International Encyclopedia of the Stock Market. 2v. Ed. by Michael Sheimo and others. Fitzroy Dearborn, $275 (1-884964-35-4).
What caused Barings bank to collapse in 1890 and 1995? How are stocks traded in Brazil? Combining directory-style information on each exchange with entries for institutions, individuals, and terms, this one-of-a-kind tool puts the stock market in both global and historical perspective. Literature Resource Center. Internet database. Gale, call 800-877-GALE or visit [http://www.gale.com] for information. Another excellent example of the power of the Internet. Your library may soon need an annex to house all those volumes of Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Dictionary of Literary Biography; but their content is seamlessly meshed here and combined with additional resources and Web links.
Multicultural Resources on the Internet: The United States and Canada. By Vicki L. Gregory and others. Libraries Unlimited, paper, $28 (1-56308-676-X).
Guides to navigating the Internet are becoming more subject-specific as the Internet continues to grow. Although it will go out-of-date quickly, this volume demonstrates one of the advantages of a good reference source—it makes life easier by pulling together information that would otherwise be difficult and time consuming to find.
Notable Black American Men. Ed. by Jessie Carney Smith. Gale, $90 (0-7876-0763-0).
Men get their due in the companion to Smith’s Notable Black American Women (1992) and Notable Black American Women Book II (1996), which became reference standards as soon as they were published.
The Oxford Companion to Food. By Alan Davidson. Oxford, $65 (0-10- 211579-0).
Whether you’re interested in the history of chocolate, the cuisine of Indonesia, or the ingredients for Scottish haggis, you’ll find what you’re seeking among the more than 2,600 entries in this detailed and fascinating survey, which should become a staple of the reference collection.
Oxford Composer Companion to J. S. Bach. Ed. by Malcolm Boyd. Oxford, $45 (0-19-866208-4).
The first English-language A–Z encyclopedia on Bach is an auspicious beginning for Oxford’s new series of composer companions. More than 900 entries treat aspects of Bach’s life, family, pupils, and employers; musical and technical terms; and individual works.
The Photography Encyclopedia. By Fred W. McDarrah and Gloria S. McDarrah. Schirmer, $80 (0-02-865025-5).
Illustrated with hundreds of well-reproduced black-and-white photographs, this volume is a beautiful presentation of a topic that is not exactly replete with reference literature. Most of the coverage is biographical, but entries also discuss equipment, materials, processes, techniques, and other related terms.
Reference Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction. By Richard J. Bleiler. Libraries Unlimited, $55 (1-56308-380-9).
Bleiler makes an important contribution by identifying and imposing order on the many diverse resources that relate to the mystery genre. His exhaustive and well-annotated guide should be a great help to researchers and librarians.
Silent Films, 1877–1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies. By Robert K. Klepper. McFarland, $85 (0-7864-0595-3).
The first guide written since “the video revolution” made so many more silent films accessible is a highly readable overview. Klepper’s enthusiasm may inspire readers to seek out some of these more than 600 movies.
The Sixties in America. 3v. Ed. by Carl Singelton. Salem, $315 (0-89356-982-8).
You know you’re getting old when an era that seems like yesterday is subjected to synthesis and analysis for the benefit of high-school and undergraduate researchers. This is the most comprehensive treatment yet, with more than 500 articles on topics that cover the decade’s popular culture as well as its social and political tumult.
World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia. 2v. Ed. by David T. Zabecki. Garland, $195 (0-8240-7029-1).
More detailed than other World War II encyclopedias, this meticulously researched work is a valuable addition to the reference literature on the event that may well define the twentieth century for future generations.
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