Lloyd, John & others. 1,339 Quite Interesting Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop. Norton. Sept. 2014. 368p. index. ISBN 9780393245608. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393245615. REF
While many fact books can be dull, Lloyd and coauthors John Mitchinson and James Harkin, creators of the BBC’s successful Quite Interesting show, offer here a quirky, humorous gem. While the book is impractical, readers will enjoy browsing its pages and will find within many short facts (one to two sentences each) that will impress friends. Among them are the information that an Olympic gold medal is 92.5 percent silver, that Abraham Lincoln was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame, and that the “tiny arms” of Tyrannosaurus rex could lift the equivalent of two adult humans. The book is by no means a serious scholarly work—its facts, which cover a huge variety of subjects, are presented without verification or remarks. VERDICT Titles like this are somewhat addictive, providing entertainment and plenty of laughs. Teachers may wish to use this volume to entice their students to learn and to stimulate lively discussions. This affordable purchase is recommended for high school and public libraries.
LANGUAGE & LINGUISTICS
Harcup, Tony. Dictionary of Journalism. Oxford Univ. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780199646241. pap. $17.95. REF
Like all professions, journalism has its jargon, and it can be impenetrable. Slug (the working title for an article), stringer (a freelance reporter), and copy taster (a journalist who evaluates wire material for coverage) are all here, as are entries on terms more familiar to the general public such as gonzo journalism, -gate, and libel. Harcup (journalism studies, Univ. of Sheffield; Alternative Journalism, Alternative Voices; Newspaper Journalism) offers 1,400-plus short, cross-referenced entries (three or four to a page) that also include information on the world’s major print and online journalistic outlets existing in the past and today, ideas such as information and public sphere, practices such as war journalism and undercover reporting, notable journalism professionals, and more. A chronology of the profession that starts with the town criers at work as early as the 16th century and ends with the 2014 cessation of government funding for the BBC World Service and the feelings of journalists regarding their field, as well as a personage index, add value. Those seeking information on American journalistic terms will notice the lack of, for example, dek and lede, but overall this work is a solid primer for those new to the field. VERDICT A very affordable resource for journalism schools and reference collections in large public libraries.
Pronunciator, LLC. Pronunciator. pronunciator.com REF
Language-learning system Pronunciator offers a handy combination of the best of the other such databases available today. Similar to Mango Languages’s Mango Premiere, for example, it presents lessons using foreign feature films (learning using songs and poetry is also available), and like Transparent Language Online, it provides instruction in languages other than English. In fact, Pronunciator (which teaches far more than pronunciation) offers 80 languages, which can be learned through 50 languages by everyone from children through college students. For example, users can acquire English through Spanish, Chinese through Russian, etc. The system covers major tongues such as German, French, and English—“95% of the world’s population speaks at least one of the languages we offer,” explains the company—but also minority languages including Basque and Malti. Introductory “postcard” courses, which need no microphone, provide a quick tour of the basics. Also available is much more in-depth self-directed learning that requires a microphone and supplies feedback on pronunciation—especially effective in the courses on tonal languages such as Chinese. Material is divided into levels (core vocabulary, essential verbs, powerful phrases), units (themed sections covering from “airport” to “words for women,” which address safety), phrases, drills, and quizzes. The database teaches approximately 30,000 words and 9,000 phrases per course and gives options such as “intelligent flashcards,” a course designer for teachers, workplace-specific help such as interview prep, grammar assistance, downloadable workbooks, culture and business information, progress statistics (once users create their own accounts), dictionaries, and more. All levels of the system, for unlimited concurrent users, are available to libraries; see information at pronunciator.com/libraries. verdict While Pronunciator doesn’t have quite the polished look of the databases available from larger aggregators, its non-Anglo-centric focus and “all available to libraries” model makes it stand out; the system’s instruction is top-shelf, too.
Thorne, Tony. Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. 4th ed. Bloomsbury. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9781408181799. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781408181805. REF
With a quick flip of these pages, freshi readers can avoid looking like clunks, and figure out if they should be pleased or insulted if told they’re wearing a severe shirt. Thorne (innovations consultant, King’s Coll., London) includes about 20 percent new material in this fourth edition. The approximately 7,000 entries were collected by monitoring broadcasts, printed material, and the Internet, as well as through personal research and Thorne’s wide network of slang enthusiasts. Entries are heavily tilted toward British usage, though American and Australian slang appears, too. Insults, off-color expressions, and terms regarding sex, body parts, and bodily functions represent a significant percentage of the material. Scholars may find Thorne’s 11-page preliminary discussion of the purpose and function of slang intriguing, and browsers can flip through the pages, stopping when a boldface word or boxed comment catches their eye. The definitions are clear and lively and the word usage itself is often quite humorous. VERDICT This book will attract readers who want to seem hep rather than hilljack with their nabes and BFFs. Most suitable for college libraries, or public libraries in large urban areas.
British and Irish Poets: A Biographical Dictionary, 449–2006. McFarland. 2014. 497p. ed. by William Stewart. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786495672. pap. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780786451098. REF
Stewart covers a rich 1,500-year span of poets writing in the English language. The dictionary is organized alphabetically, with short entries on in each poet, along with source notes. A short biography on each writer accompanies a listing of many of their notable works. Coverage ranges from famous poets such as Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to many lesser-known bards such as Vincent “Vinny” Bourne, who, in addition to being a poet and educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, was a housekeeper and deputy sergeant-of-arms to the House of Commons in the 18th century. In addition to the brief yet descriptive entries, readers can also find a listing of the poets by nation (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), a time line of the life of the poets (Old English, Middle English, Renaissance, and so forth), a rather extensive bibliography, and a comprehensive index. VERDICT This dictionary does a solid job of providing introductory information on the region’s poets, but readers will need to look beyond this volume (perhaps using some of the sources listed) to go in depth. Recommended for general reference collections but not detailed enough for academia.
World Literature. Salem. (Introduction to Literary Context). 2014. 300p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781619254831. $165; ebk. ISBN 9781619254848. REF
This series aims to “introduce students to the world’s greatest works of literature,” and this volume presents 41 works, both novels and short stories. Essays lean heavily toward the Western cultures; the product page on Salem’s website states that the selection represents the “most studied” works of literature (presumably most studied in the United States). Essays are signed and average between five and eight pages in length (not including discussion questions, works cited, and images). Each entry contains a summary and social, biographical, and somewhat unexpectedly, “scientific and technological” context on the work in question. Curiously, the essays do not begin by stating the writers’ origins. Worth noting is Salem’s policy of providing the digital version free with the purchase of the print book. Titles belonging to the same subject collections (Salem Literature, Salem Science, Salem Health, et al) are collectively searchable, but, unfortunately, it is not possible to search across collections. VERDICT Useful but nonessential, especially if an institution already owns Magill’s, Scribner’s, Twayne’s and/or single-volume analytical works focused on needed works. Appropriate for those working with AP English and freshman college writing/English courses.