Reference Book of the Week: Double Feature on World Almanacs
This week we feature two world almanacs. These two books pretty much do similar things, but they have some unique features as well. We keep two basic world almanacs at the Ready Reference shelf in the library (reminder: that's the shelf right behind the reference desk). First, we have The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008. This is an annual publication, published by World Almanac Books. This is the basic almanac of facts that most people think of when they think of a world almanac. Odds are good some of our readers used it back in their school days, or maybe you had one in your home at one point. Back in my days as a middle schooler, I enjoyed browsing through books like these just to see what I could learn. So, what is it? The World Almanac and Book of Facts is a collection of facts, figures, statistics and trivia on various broad topics. Some sample topics include: economy, business, and energy; sports (this is a great resource to find sports trivia quickly); consumer information, and crime. You will find a lot of lists. For example, on page 635, there is a small list of "Who Owns What: Familiar Consumer Products and Services." Did you know that Cap'n Crunch cereal is owned by PepsiCo.? That DC Comics (the folks who publish Batman and Superman) are owned by TimeWarner? In addition, if you need a quick review of the previous year, the almanac provides a section on "2007: Year in Review." The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008 is located in the Ready Reference Shelf. Its call number is AY 67 .H5 W7 2008. Older editions can be found in the third floor stacks. They are non-circulating items. The World Almanac folks have a website. The website serves to promote the books the company publishes, so they offer some preview material. However, they do have a couple of features that may be of interest to casual visitors. First, they put out a monthly newsletter containing facts and trivia for a month. The newsletter features things like birthdays in a month, holidays, a day in history features, and a list of other web links. You can go to the World Almanac site and request to have the newsletter sent to your favorite e-mail account (see details on the site). Second, the World Almanac publishers keep a blog. The blog mostly features entries of "This Day in History," but every so often they do have special features that are often related to current events. For instance, they have had a few articles related to the upcoming national election. Like most other blogs, you can subscribe to it via your favorite feed reader. The second almanac I am featuring today is the Time Almanac 2008. Although it uses the Time brand on the title, it is actually published and gets a lot of its material from Encyclopedia Britannica; it also draws from TIME writers for some material. It is also an annual publication. This book is similar to The World Almanac, so for some readers, it may be a matter of preference when it comes to choosing a book to use. However, there are more in-depth features in the Time Almanac geared to the casual reader. For example, the "Year in Review" section has various signed articles on topics such as "One Day in Iraq" and "The Virtual World of Online Gaming." These little essays give a little more substance in addition to the lists of facts and figures. Also, since this almanac is based on the Time brand, you find features like "Time's Top 100 Films" and "TIME's Person of the Year, 1927-2006" (now this is a handy list). In addition, some of the sections feature longer articles. For example, the "Sport" section has an essay on "Golf: Women on the Verge," by TIME writer Kristina Dell. So, you will find a lot of the usual trivia and information you would expect from an almanac, but this one has a few extra essays and articles as well. This almanac does not have its own website. The Time Almanac 2008 is located in the Ready Reference shelf. Its call number is AY 64 .I55 2008. Older editions can be found in the third floor stacks. They are non-circulating items. Some readers may be asking why use a book like this. Can't you just find any piece of trivia on Google or Wikipedia? Sure, you can probably find a lot of the trivia on the internet. What the almanacs provide is convenience. You can quickly pull one of these books off the shelf and check to find what you need. Plus, if the internet goes down, these are always handy. Also, for those of you who like trivia, these are very browsable books. Overall, if you need to double check some small piece of trivia, whether for a class or because you made a bet with a friend, I recommend these two books.