Best Reference 2011: Eclectic Works To Match a Tumultuous Year

By Brian E. Coutts and Cheryl LaGuardia

Last year saw reference works aplenty showcasing individual brilliance and painstaking labor. Jonathon Green’s Dartmouth Medal‚ winning Dictionary of Slang (Hodder, dist. by Oxford Univ.), for example, offers 53,000 entries totaling 10.3 million words; Michael Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs (Timber) provides 3500 photos for identification, prompting a reviewer to dub Dirr the oracle of ornamental horticulture. Noteworthy also were Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, the third edition of which has been called magisterial and engrossing, and Elizabeth Lewandoski’s 20,000 definitions in her 15-year labor of love, The Complete Costume Dictionary (Scarecrow). And let’s not forget Ahmed Fayaz’s ten years of travel for his Encyclopedia of Tropical Plants (Firefly).

Then there were the teams of scholars who created the remarkable Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India, which spans a 2000-year tradition, and leading international political scientists who crafted the International Encyclopedia of Political Science, a 21st-century reference source for SAGE. Similarly, ABC-CLIO gave us a new way of looking at our past in the World History Encyclopedia, and Americans’ knowledge of our midcontinent was greatly enhanced by the Atlas of the Great Plains (Univ. of Nebraska).

These works and the many more listed on the following pages came in print and online, as websites, even as mobile apps, and in some cases in all formats, making it easier to search for the elusive and the commonplace.

We haven’t forgotten about databases; ProQuest’s new Vogue Archive, for example, also nominated as a favorite by the librarians we polled in our fall reference supplement (, will keep researchers and fashion lovers browsing for hours. On a more serious note, CQ Press’s Political Reference Suite of Online Editions will prove invaluable heading into the contentious elections season. In addition to outstanding new databases, this year we’re recognizing some top-notch rereleases, as well as new platforms that improve search and discovery, such as eBooks on EBSCOhost, which, like the other resources offered here, will change how you do reference.


The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. 5 vols. Oxford Univ. 2984p. ed. by Joan Marter. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195335798. $1045.

Marter (Rutgers), recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Women’s Caucus for Art, and a sterling cast of editors and contributors offer more than 2300 entries on painting, architecture, sculpture, photography, and digital and installation art, complemented by 700 images and 128 color plates. Along with pieces on icons such as Thomas Eakins and Andy Warhol are discussions of, for example, Lynne Yammamoto’s installation art and skyscrapers. (LJ 4/1/11)

The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India. 3 vols. Oxford Univ. 1161p. ed. by Sangit Mahabharati. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195650983. $595.

Conceived by Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, who founded the Sangit Mahabharati, a Mumbai-based music academy in 1961, this is the largest project undertaken by Oxford’s India division. The work spans more than 2000 years and offers entries on classical, folk, film, and other forms of music and dance; treatises, technical terms, and instruments; and short biographies of vocalists, gurus, composers, and instrumentalists, from all regions of India and the rest of the subcontinent. Approximately 200 rare family photographs and line drawings of instruments enhance the text.

Sharp, Jasper. Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema. Scarecrow. 523p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780810857957. $99. Online: ebook avail

Though dominated by major studios with their own style and audience, by 2008 with 418 domestic films Japan was one of the world’s largest film-producing countries. That makes this new reference source by Sharp, one of the world’s leading experts on Japanese cinema, especially valuable. A chronology and introduction are followed by extensive entries on directors, actors, major studios, cinematic genres, significant historical periods, and outstanding films. (LJ 2/1/12)

Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels. Alexander Street Pr.,

The content in this online collection of original comic books and graphic novels (more than 75,000 pages’ worth), along with over 25,000 pages of secondary materials stands out by a mile; plentiful original source material and the contents of the Comics Journal combine to make it a tour de force. The database’s multiplicity of access methods is also a boon. It’s clear that the understanding of the genre behind the construction of this product is formidable. An absolute must-have for libraries serving scholars and serious students of comic books and graphic novels. (LJ 3/1/11)


Marquis Biographies Online. Marquis Who’s Who LLC; online-database

The broad yet deep information provided here on more than 1.4 million accomplished individuals is easy to access, encompassing what other online resources don’t. Most important, the biographies have been vetted, making MBO a highly credible source. Wikipedia is still the go-to for fast lookups, but this resource is far superior for reference, publication, public speaking, and the record. Its content makes it an essential, trustworthy reference for libraries, reasonably priced and unmatched by free websites. (LJ 9/15/11)

Business & Economics

Davies, R.E.G. Airlines of the Jet Age. Smithsonian Inst. Scholarly Pr. [pub. in coop. with Rowman & Littlefield]. 461p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780978846084. $99.95.

In this comprehensive reference, the retired curator of air transport at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum describes the jet age as a series of stages beginning in 1952. He also discusses the huge changes wrought by these innovations: the first Comet aircraft could not cross oceans, for example, but today’s A380s fly halfway round the world nonstop. While few tourists could afford those early flights, today air travel is commonplace. Also covered are economic aspects of the industry, such as the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which led to price wars and continued fights for survival. Davies’s coverage of lesser-known airlines from India to the Andes is exceptional. Appendixes of selected aircraft specifications and notable events and a bibliography follow. (LJ 10/1/11)

Encyclopedia of Sports Management and Marketing. 4 vols. SAGE. 1858p. ed. by Linda E. Swayne & Mark Dodds. illus. index. ISBN 9781412973823. $695. Online: SAGE Reference Online.

While creating passionate feelings about our favorite teams, sport also allows companies to connect with consumers. Swayne (UNC-Charlotte) and Dodds (SUNY-Cortland) draw on these interests, providing business-themed definitions and sports-specific examples from academic and sports-industry contributors. A chronology precedes the 834 entries on topics such as added value, an article that examines the impact of stadium renovation; a Reader’s Guide organizes them according to topics such as Advertising, Facilities, and Teams. Beautifully crafted with large print, inserts for additional reading, and color illustrations, this set will attract both undergraduates and advanced researchers. (LJ 11/1/11)

Clothing & Dress

Hill, Daniel Delis. American Menswear: From the Civil War to the Twenty-First Century. Texas Tech Univ. 374p. illus. index. ISBN 9780896727229. $59.95.

A series of developments including the introduction of the inch measuring tape in around 1820 and the collection of more than one million measurements from U.S. Civil War conscripts ushered in the age of men’s ready-to-wear clothing that was sold in urban department stores after the 1850s and through mail order after 1872, explains Hill. One of the country’s leading experts on men’s fashion, he describes styles from the Victorian to what he calls the Pluralistic Tribalism of recent years in intricate detail, examining throughout the ideas and ideals of masculinity as expressed in dress. With copious illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography, this is the best reference source ever compiled on this topic.

Lewandowski, Elizabeth J. The Complete Costume Dictionary. Scarecrow. 579p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780810840041. $125. Online: ebook avail

To understand better the terms used in an 18th-century family diary, Lewandowski, a professor of theater in costume design (Midwestern State Univ., TX), began collecting words on note cards 15 years ago. The end result is this massive collection of more than 20,000 fashion and costume definitions. Appendixes arrange terms by garment types (280 kinds of lace, 118 terms for sleeves), by era from ancient Egyptian sheath dresses to 1960s hot pants, and by country. Covering items from an aile de pigeon, a wig worn by French men in the 1750s, to a Zylinder, a German top hat, this is a welcome resource for costume departments and social historians alike. (LJ 2/1/12)

The Vogue Archive. ProQuest.

This beautifully realized work of art includes all issues of the U.S. edition of Vogue from 1892 to the current month. It will serve the needs of countless patrons‚ schoolchildren looking for historical ads, graduate students needing cultural fashion and lifestyle material, scholars researching American mores of the late 19th century to today, and many more. Oh, the reference and research queries it’s going to answer! (LJ 3/1/12)


The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford Univ. 920p. ed. by Garrett Oliver. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780195367133. $65.

That this tome, dubbed the Encyclopedia Beertanica by the Washington Beer Blog, was out-of-stock at Amazon two weeks before Christmas is a testament to its enormous popularity. (Quotes such as the largest amount of knowledge about beer ever assembled in one book from The Huffington Post didn’t hurt.) Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, engaged 165 of the world’s leading beer experts from 20 countries to craft 1000 entries on, for example, beer history, the brewing process, food pairings, and the World Beer Cup. There are more than 100 entries on hops alone. A monument to a great beverage! (LJ 3/1/12)

General Reference

CRCnetBASE 2.0. CRC Press.

This major new release of the CRCnetBASE platform, offering online access to more than 6000 e-reference books and handbooks in more than 40 disciplines ranging from agriculture to water sciences, is well crafted with rich content, phenomenal speed, and intelligent navigational features. This could have been a challenging file to search, but the superbly clear tips woven throughout make it easy. It is highly recommended for all libraries serving serious scientific researchers. (LJ 3/15/11)

Dictionary of African Biography. 6 vols. Oxford Univ. 3289p. ed. by Emmanuel K. Akyeampong & Henry Louis Gates Jr. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195382075. $995.

With 2,126 signed entries by international experts drawn from all walks of life, 30 percent of whom are women and 24 percent of whom were still alive in late 2011, this project aims to have a transformative impact on teaching and research in African studies. The editors divided Africa into seven regions to assure balanced regional coverage. With profiles of 19 Nobel laureates, 224 illustrations, and selected bibliographies, this authoritative source sheds new light on the continent that is the most continuous site of the evolution of the human species. The upcoming online edition will add an additional 10,000 entries. (LJ 2/15/12)

eBooks on EBSCOhost EBSCO Publishing.

EBSCO’s collection of more than 265,000 ebooks across a spectrum of disciplines and subjects, integrated into the powerful and familiar EBSCOhost interface, shows the light at the end of the tunnel for functional, scholarly, ebook-based research. By integrating access within the library catalog and making the EBSCOhost interface the basis for search and discovery, EBSCO has done a major service to readers and researchers. (LJ 2/1/12)

University Press Scholarship Online. Oxford Univ.

The concept here is a wonderful one: an umbrella product that offers more than 7000 ebook titles in 21 subject areas published by six university houses‚ the American University in Cairo Press, University Press of Florida, Fordham University Press, Hong Kong University Press, University Press of Kentucky, and, of course, Oxford University Press. Since the initial review appeared, the content has been enhanced by the addition of the University of California at Berkeley Press. This work in progress is strongly recommended for use in academic and public libraries serving humanities researchers. (LJ 3/1/11)

The World Almanac® Online. Facts On File/Infobase Publishing.

Expanding on the contents of the publisher’s print World Almanac¬Æ, this file has an admirable number of different modes of accessing information that will appeal to a wide variety of users. It has a workmanlike yet elegant design and delivers its content even better than does its print counterpart. This attractive and easy-to-use resource is a gold mine for reports and ready reference and will find countless other uses. Enthusiastically recommended for libraries everywhere. (LJ 9/1/11)


Brosnan, Kathleen A. Encyclopedia of American Environmental History. 4 vols. Facts On File. 1460p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780816067930. $350. Online: Infobase eBooks

In her opening essay, Nature and the State, Brosnan (Univ. of Houston) explains that concern for this country’s environment is not new. Seven other thematic essays and 750 articles cover key issues, events, laws, and people in U.S. environmental history that are written by 350 environmental historians and scholars. They discuss Willa Cather’s novels, George Catlin’s paintings, the impact of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the Yellowstone Park Act of 1872, and more. With 200 illustrations, 100 documents, 20 charts, a chronology, and bibliography, this attractive, informative work will draw students of all ages.

The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607‚ 1890. 3 vols. ABC-CLIO. 1318p. ed. by Spencer C. Tucker. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781851096978. $310. Online: ebook avail

Tucker, senior fellow of military history at ABC-CLIO, reminds readers that fighting between Native Americans and Europeans represents the most protracted conflict in American history and involved all of the Colonial powers. Some 800 entries discuss significant tribes, key individuals, battles, wars, weapons, diplomacy, and social and cultural topics. Volume 3 includes 176 primary documents. The cartography is outstanding, as are the many illustrations. (LJ 12/11)

The Encyclopedia of War. 5 vols. Wiley-Blackwell. 2779p. ed. by Gordon Martel. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781405190374. $795.

Using a huge international gathering of editors and contributors, Martel, a specialist in the history of modern warfare, has crafted a rich resource with entries on major wars, battles, and the people who played a significant role in shaping the nature of warfare. Thus we learn that Abdel Krim, a Moroccan insurgent, inflicted the worst European colonial defeat in Africa and that at the Battle of Adowa in 1896, the Italians lost 50 percent of their troops. And then there are long essays on topics such as war and sexuality, which deals with sexual violence and even military brothels; war photography, which begins with the Mexican-American War of 1846‚ 48; and even war poetry, a genre that peaked in World War I.

Gale Newsvault. Gale/Cengage Learning.

This platform for cross-searching Gale’s digital historical and newspaper collections is powerful but not overly complex; researchers will quickly delight in the sophisticated searching and display features. It’s an excellent gateway to a host of Gale historical sources covering 400 years, totaling more than 2090 titles and ten million digitized facsimile pages. It’s highly recommended for use in academic, public, and special libraries serving everyone from schoolchildren to postdoctoral scholars. (LJ 4/15/11)

Hayes, Derek. Historical Atlas of Washington and Oregon. Univ. of California. 240p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520266155. $39.95.

In an interview for the Seattle Times, Hayes relates how as a young lad in England he collected stamps from around the world. This piqued his interest and led to a degree in geography, a move to Vancouver, BC, where he found work as a city planner, and visits to Britain’s Naval Archives, where he developed a fascination for historical maps. In this, his 15th book, he writes history with maps‚ 550 of them to be precise, which include depictions of everything from surveys to tourism brochures and from the imaginary to Cold War evacuation routes. To quote The Oregonian, the real treat is the brochures, photos and ephemera that accompany the entries. (LJ 9/15/11)

Jewish Life in America c1654‚ 1954. Adam Matthew Digital.

In this digital archive of original manuscript materials from the holdings of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) in New York, the content is phenomenal, and interactive features are not just add-ons‚ they’re integral parts. The map feature is superb, the chronology is eye-opening, and the Visual Resources Gallery is vividly evocative. Brilliant organization makes the material accessible to a range of researchers‚ beginners can go directly to the Date and Theme sections to find resources for term papers, while scholars can examine collections in detail, as well as run sophisticated searches across the vast primary source material. Strongly recommended for all libraries serving Jewish studies researchers. (LJ 5/1/11)

Jewish Studies Source. EBSCO Publishing.

This full-text database of more than 400 titles, including 123 journals and magazines, with 65 titles not available from other EBSCO databases, is a powerhouse of content. The collection also includes 1600-plus biographies of leading historical and contemporary figures, as well as the whole Jewish Telegraphic Agency database from 1922 to the present. Having access to the full text of so much is one obvious boon. Another is that the coverage of current events and contemporary issues in Jewish studies is very solid here, and the back files of significant titles are useful. For Jewish studies online completists, JSS is a must-have. (LJ 2/1/11)

The Settlement of America: Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier. 2 vols. Sharpe Reference. 601p. ed. by James A. Crutchfield. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780765619846. $249.

Tennessee author Crutchfield, whose writing career has focused on the early frontier and the American West, won the 2011 Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western History and Literature. He and fellow members of the Western Writers of America have crafted eight essays on topics from the fur trade to gold rushes. Their 400 shorter entries highlight the history of the American West from the Arikara War to the Whoop-Up Trail, which led from Ft. Benton, MT, to Lethbridge, Alta. A convenient Topic Finder arranges entries by category. Great supplementary reading for high school history classes. (LJ 11/1/11)

Sharpe Online Reference. M.E. Sharpe.

This database has evolved considerably and now includes the content of 25 Sharpe print works ranging from Colonial America to Encyclopedia of World Trade and covers global, in addition to U.S., history and culture. Sharpe has also been busy making search, navigation, and interface improvements. New prices compare very favorably to those from 2009‚ kudos to M.E. Sharpe for holding them down while increasing valuable content. SOLR’s transdisciplinary content is its outstanding feature; the resource presents a broad overview as well as details on its subject matter, and it does so in an accessible yet sophisticated way. The Teacher’s Resources section is a welcome enhancement. Created for history teachers, it includes guidelines for evaluating websites, curricular information, and links to 100 vetted websites. A jewel for school, public, and undergraduate libraries. (LJ 10/1/11)

The Thirties in America. 3 vols. Salem. 1194p. ed. by Thomas Tandy Lewis. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978158765725-2. $395.Online: ebooks on EBSCOhost

This is the seventh in Salem Press’s award winning Decades of America series, which encompasses every decade from the 1930s to the 1990s; all come with free access to the same material online. While the Great Depression was the underlying theme in the Thirties, there was lots more going on as these 670 entries attest, from the invention of the electric razor by Canadian Jacob Schick, to an explosive growth in magazines like Esquire and Life, and the release of the movie Gone with the Wind. Essential for popular culture classes. (LJ 6/1/11)

World History Encyclopedia. 21 vols. ABC-CLIO. 7743p. ed. by Alfred J. Andrea. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781851099290. $1845. Online: ebook avail

History is defined here as the study of change over time and presented in volumes covering nine eras from the Beginnings of Human Society to Promises and Paradoxes, 1945-Present. In one of the opening essays, contributor Howard Spodek reminds us that by 2001 32 percent of the global urban population was living in slums, while Erik Gilbert speaks of the death of distance in personal communication. In the main body of the book, leading experts explore their subjects using broad thematic categories from population and environment to science and technology, with each theme divided into major topics and each topic developed through short essays and sidebars. A collection to be savored, one essay at a time.

Language & Linguistics

The Cambridge History of African American Literature. Cambridge Univ. 847p. ed. by Maryemma Graham & Jerry W. Ward Jr. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780521872171. $165.

Covering 400 years of writing, this balanced reference is a comprehensive overview of the literary traditions, oral and print, of African-descended peoples in the United States, with expert contributors from this country and beyond. It does an excellent job of collecting current scholarship while suggesting new approaches to that effort. The work provides a reasonably complete chronological accounting from early oral traditions of the 17th century to classic works from late 19th-century writers such as poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, through Langston Hughes in the Harlem Renaissance, to the most recent decades where August Wilson became the most produced playwright in the 1990s.

Green, Jonathon. Green’s Dictionary of Slang. Hodder, dist. by Oxford Univ. Press. 6085p. bibliog. ISBN 9780550104403. $625.

The reality of language, says Green, is that it is vibrant, creative, witty, and open to infinite reinvention. While the city is a source of slang, so, too, are events like wars and even pulp magazines. Here he pre sents 53,000 root terms with each sense illustrated by a list of citations, explaining that, for example, to lay down some cow means to walk so much that one’s shoes are worn out and was used in Burley’s Handbook of Harlem Jive (1944). No single reference work in recent memory has elicited more witty headlines. Our favorite: Screaming Yellow Zonkers! Green’s Dictionary Is the Bible of Slang. (LJ 5/1/11)

Law & Politics

Atlas of the 2008 Elections. Rowman & Littlefield. 320p. ed. by Stanley D. Brunn & others. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780742567955. $85. Online: ebook avail

Political geographers use three contexts to study elections and political behavior: demographic (men vs. women, young vs. old), where people live (urban vs. rural), and proximity (people tend to make voting decisions similar to those nearby). The 200 maps here describe an election that was historic in that it was the first election of a Presidential candidate of African American descent and was marked by an unprecedented interest and high turnout of voters and widespread use of social media. Each of these ten chapters contains maps and narrative primarily depicting voting patterns at the national level from the primaries to the final returns. There’s even a suggestion that changing Election Day to two days in September would raise turnout. (LJ 9/15/11)

Clapp, James E. & others. Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions. Yale Univ. 348p. illus. index. ISBN 9780300172461. $45.

These ancient and more recent terms have sometimes originated in law and expanded into nonlegal use, while others are regular words that have acquired a special meaning in legal contexts. Two law professors, a law librarian, and a legal lexicographer have here combined talents to help us make sense of terms such as abuse excuse, billable hour, and whole truth. For each of 77 terms they trace its history and recent usage. While readers might know that the term eye for an eye comes from the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th century B.C.E., for example, they probably don’t know that paper chase began as a 19th-century English game of hare and hounds. (LJ 10/15/11)

CQ Press Political Reference Suite of Online Editions. CQ Pr.

PRS combines a number of the publisher’s government and political reference titles into a single searchable electronic file. There’s so much that’s great here‚ the design, content (several of the component collections are among the most outstanding e-products I’ve ever reviewed, and in aggregate they’re truly marvelous), speed, displays, and ease of use. This game-changer fulfills much of the promise of e-reference publication. Resoundingly recommended for all library collections serving political science and governmental studies researchers. (LJ 10/15/11)

First Street. CQ Pr.

This policy networking platform is built on data from CQ Press’s proprietary directories. The content, search interface, and array and arrangement of data are all amazing. I’m a hard sell on visual cloud mapping, but this one is both powerful and clear. More than just data, this file is the culmination of much expert work on the part of CQ Press. It’s a reference tool that should be made widely available as it can be argued it’s a matter of national security for the citizenry to have ready access. Strongly recommended for public, academic, and special libraries. (LJ 6/1/2011)

Garner, Bryan A. Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage. 3d ed. Oxford Univ. 991p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780195384208. $65.

Garner is the preeminent legal lexicographer in America today. His 1987 Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage was a groundbreaking work that went beyond definitions by showing writers how to use words. An appointment as editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary followed. This third edition adds 800 new terms along with many revisions. All illustrations now contain citations, and there is an index of words cited. Readers will learn that fence, once a slang term for a receiver of stolen goods, is now standard in criminal law, and the difference between malevolent and maleficent concerns desires and actions. Lest you be guilty of malapropisms, best check this source out before your next case. (LJ 10/1/11)

International Encyclopedia of Political Science. 8 vols. SAGE. 2767p. ed. by Bertrand Badie & others. index. ISBN 9781412959636. $1095. Online: SAGE Reference Online

The transformation of politics and multiplication of empirical research efforts and theoretical reflection since World War II prompted the need to define the field for the next generation. Therefore, more than a half-century after its founding, the International Political Science Association has partnered with scholars worldwide to develop the first true international encyclopedia providing a complete picture of all aspects of political life. Editors from France, Germany, and Italy introduce the field, and alphabetically arranged entries ranging from 1800 to 12,000 words describe topics from accountability, the arms race, and Central Banks to values, the welfare state, and the World Trade Organization. (LJ 12/11)


Dirr, Michael A. Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs. Timber. 951p. illus. index. ISBN 9780881929010. $79.95.

Landscape Management Magazine has recognized Dirr as the number one academic contributor to the landscape industry. Here he builds on earlier books to gather 3500 photographs of species and cultivars in 380 genera with an emphasis on the best recent introductions, and these are many; Dirr describes how patents for new plants had grown to 21,000 in 2010. The countless lists: by flowering sequence, fall color, shade tolerance, and so many more add value. (LJ 12/11)

Encyclopedia of Mathematics & Society. 3 vols. Salem. 1191p. ed. by Sarah J. Greenwald & Jill E. Thomley. illus. index. ISBN 9781587658440. $395. Online: ebooks on EBSCOhost

Greenwald and Thomley (mathematics, Appalachian State Univ.) and international mathematicians and teachers designed this innovative introduction for the nonmathematically inclined. Describing familiar actions such as file downloading and sharing, which use algebra, measurement, and operations; to kicking a field goal, which involves probability, statistics, and physics, the material offers an entirely new way of looking at things. This important resource for school and public libraries comes with free access to Salem’s related database. (LJ 2/15/12)

Fayaz, Ahmed. Encyclopedia of Tropical Plants. Firefly. 720p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781554074891. $75.

Fayaz is a collector and grower of tropical plants whose work has taken him from the Maldives mangroves to the orchids of Sri Lanka. Ten years of exploration have resulted in the most comprehensive volume on tropical plants to date, describing more than 3000 species from all of the major groups from mosses, ferns, and nonflowering gymnosperms to spectacular flowering angiosperms that make up 80 percent of all extant plant species on Earth. More than 3000 color photographs aid identification. Simply spectacular. (LJ 11/15/11)

Gates, Alexander E. & Robert P. Blauvelt. Encyclopedia of Pollution. 2 vols. Facts On File. 977p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780816070022. $170. Online: Infobase ebooks

What began as a talk on careers in environmental industries at Rutgers has morphed into this fascinating set that addresses air, water, and soil pollution; organic and inorganic pollutants; pesticides; and case studies of famous events like the 1976 Argo disaster that discharged eight million gallons of oil off Cape Cod. There’s an overview of important regulations such as the Clean Air Act along with insightful essays on the impact of war on pollution. Thirteen appendixes list, for example, Superfund Sites and Worst Oil Spills. (LJ 10/15/11)

Hunter, Luke. Carnivores of the World. Princeton Univ. 240p. illus. index. ISBN 9780691152271. $75.

This is the first comprehensive field guide to all 245 terrestrial carnivores. Hunter comments that its production was a huge undertaking designed to present the current state of knowledge about each of these species, including some exceedingly rare ones. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, distribution and habitat, behavior, and social patterns, and comment on conservation. Priscilla Barrett, acclaimed illustrator of mammals, did 86 color plates. Downloadable maps are available at (LJ 3/1/12)

Social Sciences

Encyclopedia of Social Networks. 2 vols. SAGE. 1056p. ed. by George A. Barnett. illus. index. ISBN 9781412979115. $350. Online: SAGE Reference Online

Take a talented editor like Barnett (communication, UC-Davis) and add an international cast of scholar contributors and you have a recipe for a successful reference work. Although humans have been forming networks since prehistoric times and social networks are ubiquitous, social-network analysis really dates from Jacob Moren’s pioneer work in the 1930s. That analysis is used in Barnett’s 400-plus entries that cover from alumni networks and gangs to 12-step programs and virtual worlds. (LJ 12/11)

Multicultural America. 4 vols. Greenwood. 2334p. ed. by Ronald H. Bayor. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780313357862. $380. Online: ebook avail

Bayor provides a portrait of the lives of immigrants from 50 countries who have contributed to the diversity of the United States, such as the more than one million Guatemalans who have arrived in large numbers since the 1980s to escape internal conflict and find a better life and who tend to be young and occupy low-wage jobs with little security. With comprehensive essays from social scientists based on recent census data, this work will enhance student understanding of a complex subject. (LJ 10/15/11)

Travel & Geography

Cuba. 2 vols. Gale. 1148p. ed. by Alan West-Duran. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780684316819. $425. Online: ebook avail

According to West-Duran (modern languages, Northeastern Univ.), who’s written extensively on Cuban culture, Cuba is designed as a panoramic portrait with essays on themes like economics, food, literature, music, and sports, along with counterpoints‚ shorter articles on topics such as Che Guevarra and the New Man on how the revolutionary became a model for Cuban citizens. It does not shy away from more controversial topics, providing balanced discussions of the Cuban diasporas, the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban embargo.

Gibbons, Bob. Wildflower Wonders. Princeton Univ. 192p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780691152295. $27.95.

Renowned naturalist, photographer, and tour leader Gibbons recently received a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society for a collection of his photographs on the theme the world’s most flowery places. For this, the most beautiful reference book of 2011, he roamed 20 countries and five continents looking for sites of spectacular beauty, diversity, and accessibility‚ from the machair of the Outer Hebrides with its spectacular displays of flowers and birds to the intensely flowery prairies and grasslands of Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park and Mt. Rainier, WA‚ his choice for the most flowery place on earth. (LJ 11/15/11)

Lavin, Stephen J. & others. Atlas of the Great Plains. Univ. of Nebraska. 336p. illus. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780803215368. $39.95.

With more than 300 maps and diagrams, this beautifully crafted atlas complements the earlier, award-winning Encyclopedia of the Great Plains (Univ. of Nebraska). As defined here, the region stretches across 15 states and three provinces from Alberta to Texas, an area of 973,500 square miles. The atlas includes both reference and thematic maps. The latter depict the areas’ environment, history, employment, politics, religion, recreation, and other social indicators. Where else could you have successive maps on symphony orchestras, rodeos, and powwows? (LJ 11/1/11)

Brian E. Coutts is Professor and Head, Department of Library Public Services, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green. Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA



  1. I am loathe to pick nits, and you kindly mention my work correctly further down the text, but my for accuracy’s sale I should note that my Dartmouth Medal winning Green’s Dictionary of Slang is published by Hodder (UK) and distributed by OUP in the US. And while I have nothing against the name Jacob, I remain, Jonathon Green