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Find more Outstanding Reference Sources
This list was compiled by the Reference Sources Committee, ALA Reference and User Services Association. The annotations come from RBB.
Colonial America: An Encyclopedia of Social, Political, Cultural, and Economic History. 5v. Ed. by James Ciment. 2006. 1,324p. Sharpe, $499 (0-7656-8065-3).
Presenting a bird’s-eye view of life in the original colonies, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada, this work fills a gap in the spectrum of colonial reference sources by complementing high-school as well as undergraduate survey courses.
The Crusades: An Encyclopedia. 4v. Ed. by Alan V. Murray. 2006. 1,314p. ABC-CLIO, $385 (1-57607-862-0).
Recognizing both the complexity of the issues involved and the baggage the term Crusade carries today, the team of international scholars responsible for this new reference work successfully and dispassionately describes the individuals, places, events, and topics that cover the crusading movement.
Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, and Ethnic Slurs in the English-Speaking World. By Geoffrey Hughes. 2006. 573p. Sharpe, $110 (0-7656-1231-3).
A fascinating reference work on the history, sociology, and literary uses of foul language and profanity. In addition to terms themselves, the encyclopedia covers a wide range of subjects and individuals.
The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History. 5v. Ed. by Gregory Fremont-Barnes and Richard Ryerson. 2006. 1,760p. ABC-CLIO, $485 (1-85109-408-3).
Entries focus on prominent personalities, key battles, and significant cultural and political developments in the time period from the end of the French and Indian War to the establishment of George Washington as the first president. More than 50 black-and-white maps, mostly depicting battles and military campaigns, provide a sound geographic orientation.
Encyclopedia of the Developing World. 3v. Ed. by Thomas M. Leonard. 2005. 2,184p. Routledge, $565 (1-57958-388-1).
The developing world, also known as the Third World, comprises nations underdeveloped in the areas of economics, political and social characteristics, and cultural components. This set provides a unique context for the examination of those nations—that is, all nations except for the G-7 members and a handful of others.
Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working Class History. 3v. Ed. by Eric Arnesen. 2006. 2,064p. Routledge, $565 (0-415-96826-7).
Entries encompass labor history from the colonial era to the present, covering economic sectors and occupations, unionization, legislation, globablization, important individuals in the history of labor, labor in every war effort, and more.
Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. 3v. Ed. by Thomas Benjamin. 2007. 1,315p. Macmillan, $395 (0-02-865843-4).
The era of colonialism may be over, but colonialism still has its effects. This set, “designed to provide reliable and sophisticated historical knowledge for students, teachers, general readers, and scholars,” is a valuable contribution given the impact of the topic on later world history.
Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. 3v. Ed. by Rosemary Skinner Keller. 2006. 1,464p. Indiana Univ., $325 (0-253-34685-1).
Interreligious, interracial, multicultural, and aimed at a broad general audience, this encyclopedia features long essays rather than brief entries, enabling major themes to be developed more fully. The articles focus on institutions, movements, and ideas.
Historical Statistics of the United States: Earliest Times to the Present. 5v. Ed. by Susan B. Carter and others. 2006. 4,500p. Cambridge, $825 (0-521-81791-9).
It has been more than 30 years since the last edition of Historical Statistics of the United States. The size has increased from two volumes to five, with a number of new topics and more than 37,000 data series. Also available in an online version, which is an amazing tool.
Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity. By Stephen A. Marshall. 2006. 720p. Firefly, $95 (1-55297-900-8).
Written by an entomologist with more than 20 years’ experience as a teacher, this guide focuses on families of northeastern North American insects. Some 4,000 detailed color photographs of individual species in their natural environments afford the user the opportunity to view the insects as they appear in life.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. 5v. Ed. by David Scott Kastan. 2006. 2,800p. Oxford, $595 (0-19-516921-2).
Articles focus on writings that originated in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Aside from its entries on authors, the most valuable aspect of the encyclopedia may well be its substantive coverage of topics and themes related to British literature.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. 4v. Ed. by Jack Zipes. 2006. 1,824p. Oxford, $495 (0-19-514656-5).
With coverage of countries and regions, authors, titles, characters, genres, and other topics, this ambitious set’s breadth and depth are what set it apart as a must-have for any library with reference works on literature in English.
The Qu’ran: An Encyclopedia. Ed. by Oliver Leaman. 2005. 704p. Routledge, $225 (0-415-32639-7).
The objective of this encyclopedia is to fill a gap between general introductions and more technical works and provide the nonspecialist with a resource covering all aspects of the text and its reception.
Right, Wrong, and Risky: A Dictionary of Today’s American English Usage. By Mark Davidson. 2005. 544p. Norton, $29.95 (0-393-06119-1).
All of the standard usage questions are covered, including a or an; comprise or constitute; and data is or data are. What makes this dictionary so useful for a general audience (and readable for browsers) is the vast array of contemporary examples of usage, ranging from New Yorker cartoons to storefront signs.
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