Reference: Short Takes | April 1, 2013

Brooks, A.P. Skin: A Matter of Race in America. Seraphina. Jun. 2012. 214p. bibliog. ISBN 9780985745400. pap. $14.99. REF

Intended to answer the question of where, how, and why human beings decided to assign importance to each other’s skin color, this work begins its discussion with the Akkads of the Mediterranean, and progresses onward, linking social phenomena such as the trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other goods; the Norman invasion; the Black Plague; and the rise of the Nazi party. With an extensive bibliography included and illustrative quotes from historians, researchers, and historical figures sprinkled throughout the text, this title reads like a thesis paper, though the publisher positions it as reference. Still, the book is likely to give readers plenty to ponder, whether or not they agree with Brooks’s passionate assertions. VERDICT A wide-reaching collection of ideas from a creative thinker; suitable for public libraries.

CQ Press. How Congress Works. SAGE. 2013. 250p. index. ISBN 9781608719112. pap. $50. Online: SAGE Reference Online REF

Here is a manageable starting point for library users who are undertaking the challenge of answering the riddle posed by the title. With this 5th edition, CQ Press has provided a reference work divided into four sections: Party Leadership, the Legislative Process, the Committee System, and the Congressional Staff. Selected bibliographies provide more in-depth reading on the subject. Librarians take note: the concluding section “Reference Materials” will answer those picky questions like who are the Senate floor leaders, or how many votes were taken in any given year by either the House or the Senate. VERDICT The title says it all. A straightforward, all-you-need-to-know resource appropriate for all public and academic libraries.

Flory, J. Kelly Jr. American Cars, 1973–1980: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland. 2013. 959p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786443529. $75; ebk. ISBN 9780786456369. REF

It is amazing what harnessed passion can produce. Car lovers will be thrilled with this one-stop shop for specs on each automobile manufactured in the United States after our first oil crisis. Kelly’s third reference work, this volume represents a continuation of his detailed inventory which actually began its coverage in the ’40s with his first offering, American Cars, 1946–1959. Adding reference value is the historical background provided in the introduction as well as the opening pages of each year’s entries, where Kelly describes the economic milieu into which each car was born. An exhaustive store of information not easily located on the web. VERDICT A smart buy for public libraries, particularly when partnered with Kelly’s first two volumes.

HMO/PPO Directory 2013: Detailed Profiles of U.S. Managed Healthcare Organizations & Key Decision Makers. Grey House. 2012. 601p. ISBN 9781592378760. pap. $406.25. Online: Grey House GOLD database REF

The 25th edition of a topic that has grown exponentially more complex each year, this well-organized resource tries its best to keep it simple. The bulk of content is arranged in three parts: State Statistics and Rankings; HMO/PPO Profiles; and two useful appendixes entitled “Glossary of Terms” and “Industry Web Sites.” A chronological explanation of President Obama’s 2010 health care reform effort, the Affordable Care Act, introduces the text. The detailed user guide and five indexes enhance navigation. For best use, keep this volume within reach on the service desk. VERDICT Written for both the consumer and the researcher, this work is a vital resource for public, academic and medical libraries.

Lentz, Harris M. III. Television Westerns Episode Guide: All United States Series, 1949–1996. McFarland. 2012. 576p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786473861. pap. $39.95. REF

Fans of old TV Westerns will be thrilled to see this in the reference section. Lentz (Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling) covers every series created in the United States. More than 180 series are listed alphabetically; network, broadcast span, original timeslot, cast, premise, and episode plot summaries are included in each entry. The indexes separately address storylines and personnel. No graphics are shown, but the ease of navigation ensures that locating a long-lost favorite episode is a piece of cake. VERDICT A fun, reader-friendly addition to any large public library’s television reference collection.

Luna, Marcos. The Environment Since 1945. Facts On File. (Issues and Controversies in American History). 2012. 493p. ed. by Ballard C. Campbell. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780816078844. $55. Online: Issues and Controversies in American History Online REF

Within the last century, the United States population has tripled, with a commensurate cost to our natural surroundings. Here, Facts on File tackles our country’s response to 12 post–World War II environmental crises by playing devil’s advocate with each. Chapters include an introduction and background, then launch into analysis (sections entitled The Debate, The Case For, The Case In Defense Of, Outcome and Impact, What If?) and conclude with Chronology, Discussion Questions, Web Sites, and Primary Sources. Topics include the Makah Whale Hunt, the Donora Smog, and Hurricane Katrina. VERDICT The “Issues and Controversies” series continues to be a no-brainer purchase for school libraries. This is an excellent resource for students.

Older Americans Information Directory. Grey House. 2012. 1200p. ed. by Laura Mars. index. ISBN 9781592378678. pap. $165. Online: Grey House GOLD database REF

Since “older Americans” comprise a sector of the nation’s population that is forecast to increase nearly 40% by the year 2030, a comprehensive directory is ever more vital. OAID contains more than 11,000 listings organized into chapters covering Organizations, Agencies, Awards, Continuing Education, Disability Aids, Living Facilities, Legal Resources, Libraries, and Print Resources. Serving as an introduction, the Department of Health and Human Services’s “Profile of Older Americans: 2011” provides a wealth of statistical data and ready-reference information on this growing demographic. VERDICT An essential resource for public libraries and any academic library supporting a program of study for those training to work with the elderly.

Robinson, Jancis & Linda Murphy. American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States. Univ. of California. 2013. 288p. maps. ISBN 9780520273214. $50. REF

A gorgeous browse, this book practically guarantees daydreams of romantic vineyard picnics near and far. The authors demonstrate that American wineries are no longer confined to Napa Valley. As the world’s fourth-largest wine maker, the United States currently boasts over 7,000 producers (compared to a mere 440 in 1970), from terrains as varied as Hawaii and Alaska. Here readers learn about up-and-coming wine regions such as Virginia, how to read wine labels, and about the ever-evolving technology involved in transforming a grape into vino. VERDICT A lushly photographed tribute to one of America’s favorite products; purchase for public libraries.

Smith, Dan. The Penguin State of the World Atlas. Penguin. 2012. 144p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780143122654. pap. $22. REF

The most engrossing atlas you’re likely to read for a while. Thought the United States had the highest rate of obesity? Nope, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have us beat. Wonder what type of cancer affects women the most? Breast and cervical, in every country except for Mongolia, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. Without exaggeration, every page is a work is to be studied and pondered. Now in its ninth edition, the work’s new topics include mental health, living with disease, waste, and cyber warfare, among others. Maps are divided into seven parts: Who We Are, Wealth & Poverty, War & Peace, Rights & Respect, Health of the People, Health of the Planet, and Vital Statistics. Crammed with ready reference information, this is a book you’ll want this at your fingertips. VERDICT For this price, buy for your circulating and reference sections. A winner!

Working Americans 1880–2012: Educators & Education. Grey House. (Working Americans). 2012. 549p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781592378777. $187.50. REF

In this 13th volume in Grey House’s unique series, 36 individuals are in the spotlight for their achievements in the field of education. Drawing from diaries, family histories, government statistics, newspaper advertisements, and feature articles, profiles are displayed as bulleted lists in three categories: Life at Home, Life at Work, and Life in the Community. Additionally, each subject is placed in context historically and economically, with a diverse range of significant political, cultural, and socioeconomic events listed in the Historical Snapshot section, as well as Selected Prices and reprinted notable news items of their day. Owing to the small number of profiled subjects, this is a hit-or-miss resource, but the primary-source material makes it worth a look. ­VERDICT This work is appropriate for large public and academic libraries.

Stoeger, Melissa Brackney. Food Lit: A Reader’s Guide to Epicurean Nonfiction. Libraries Unlimited. (Real Stories). 2013. 350p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781598847062. $60; ISBN 9781610693769. REF

Check out this jam-packed readers’ advisory gem for further-reading suggestions when you’re feeling hungry for the written word. Stoeger ladles out generous portions in four sections: “Life Stories” (memoirs and biographies), “Nonfiction Genres” (food travel and adventure), “Nonfiction Subject Interests” (the history of food and food science), and “Stylistic Genres,” including investigative food writing, narrative cookbooks, and essays. Appendixes like “Food in Fiction” and “Food Writing Awards” enhance ready-reference appeal. VERDICT A scrumptious buy for public libraries. [Stoeger is a readers’ services librarian at the Deerfield Public Library, IL, and an LJ reviewer.—Ed.]—Christina Connolly, Reference Librarian, Worcester P.L., MA