Reference: Short Takes | January 2013

Allen, Debra J. Historical Dictionary of U.S. Diplomacy From the Revolution to Secession. Scarecrow. 2012. 388p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9780810861862. $95. REF

Several hundred cross-referenced entries comprise the bulk of this chronicle of a unique and tumultuous time in American foreign relations: 1776–1861. Movers and shakers of the era, where they hailed from, what they accomplished, and who or what they were affiliated with, are in the spotlight of this in-depth look at a particularly formative 85 years in our country’s history. The introduction includes a “Historical and Geographical” summation of diplomacy from the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the Civil War. A chronology, several “who’s who” appendixes, and an extensive bibliography add value. VERDICT A comprehensive overview and stepping stone to further research, this is a good fit for libraries serving students and researchers.

Askin, Elisabeth & Nathan Moore. The Health Care Handbook: A Clear and Concise Guide to the United States Health Care System. Washington Univ. in St. Louis. 2012. 239p. ISBN 9780615650937. $15.99. REF

As medical students at Washington University, Askin and Moore struggled to understand the labyrinthine system of healthcare that currently bewilders most Americans. In the end, they wrote the book they wished they had had, which is lucky for your patrons. Well-researched and direct, chapters on “Health Care Systems and Delivery,” “Providers,” “Insurance and Economics,” “Research, Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices,” and “Policy and Reform” answer the FAQs plaguing the layperson. Glossaries, suggested reading, and references strengthen each chapter’s value as a means to understanding the structure of medical care in the United States today. VERDICT This easy-to-read handbook covers all the basics of modern health care and is a must-have for public and academic collections.

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!: Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena. 3rd ed. Visible Ink Pr. 2012. 459p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781578593446. pap. $22.95. REF

Tackling the baffling in sections on “Mysteries,” “Curiosities,” and “Fables,” Clark documents more than 200 phenomena in lively detail. Black-and-white photos and drawings accompany many entries, and all conclude with further-reading suggestions. Highlights include chapters covering “Hairy Bipeds,” a colorful addition to the sasquatch canon, and the unveiling of the term “USO.”  Plus, who knew press reports of Morag of Loch Morar predated those of the much more famous Loch Ness Monster? Speaking of water beasts, “Merbeings” provides 30 pages of historical insight into everyone’s favorite mythical ocean dwellers. For best results, suspend disbelief and enjoy the read. VERDICT An excellent purchase for those curious about the curious.

The Complete Learning Disabilities Directory 2013. Grey House. 2012. 539p. ed. by Laura Mars. index. ISBN 9781592378739. pap. $150. REF

According to this book’s introduction, one in five Americans has a learning disability. This valuable single-volume guide contains lists of all pertinent associations, products, resources, print media, services, conferences, websites, and more. It contains a basic but helpful glossary of terms that explains the differences among, for instance, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and dyscalculia. Everything from screening and testing to classroom tools and college guides make this an excellent starting place for both the newly diagnosed and those looking to gain additional coping skills. VERDICT A well-indexed, easily navigated resource for teachers, students, and parents.

Dental Care and Oral Health Sourcebook. Omnigraphics Inc. 2012. 640p. ed. by Joyce Brennfleck Shannon. ISBN 9780780812734. $95. REF

Although we know much more about maintaining tooth and gum health than we did 100 years ago, access to regular dental care is still lacking for many, as illustrated by this recent request overheard at a reference desk, “How can I find out what type of glue dentists use? I want to put my tooth back in.” From the esoteric, such as what people once used to clean their teeth (ground charcoal) to the practical, this edition covers everything south of the nose and north of the chin, even including a brief chapter called “Caring for Oral Piercings.” VERDICT Put your money where your mouth is. Every public library needs a copy for its health reference section.

Profiles of Massachusetts: History, Statistics, Demographics for all 618 Populated Places in Massachusetts Including Comparative Statistics and Rankings. Grey House. 2012. 430p. ed. by David Garoogian. ISBN 9781592379286. pap. $149. REF

Culled from the publisher’s Profiles of America, this third edition is a veritable treasure chest of data on New England’s most populous state. A wide-ranging store of minutiae on the state’s 618 inhabited villages, towns, and cities is presented in five sections, all containing rankings and comparative statistics: “About Massachusetts,” “Profiles,” “Education,” “Ancestry,” “Ethnicity” and “Climate.” An example of the level of coverage: not only is the student-to-teacher ratio for each school district provided, but also its student-to-counselor and student-to-librarian ratios. VERDICT An interesting browse and a ready-reference super-resource for current and potential Massachusetts residents alike, and a must-have for all of the state’s public and school libraries.

Tonchi, Victor L. & Others. Historical Dictionary of Namibia. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. 548p. bibliog. ISBN 9780810853980. $125. REF

Tonchi (political and administrative studies, Univ. of Namibia), William A. Lindeke (formerly political studies, Univ. of Namibia), and John J. Grotpeter (formerly political science, St. Louis Coll. of Pharmacy) offer this timely update to Grotpeter’s 1992 edition. It covers the country’s early history, from its settlement in 2500 BC through its 1990 declaration of independence and forward. Now one of the most economically successful countries of the sub-Saharan region, Namibia’s fascinating history includes overcoming colonialism and apartheid, and is explained in both the chronology and introduction. Several hundred cross-referenced entries on notable events, personalities, and points of culture and religion account for the body of this well-rounded work, and six appendixes enhance its quality as a ready-reference resource. VERDICT This is an outstanding title for those interested in Namibia. —Christina Connolly, Reference Librarian, Worcester P.L., MA