Reference Reviews | May 15, 2013


Hartston, William. The Things That Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything. Atlantic Bks. Jun. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780857896223. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780857897169. REF

Should you buy for your library a book with hundreds of questions to which no one knows the answer? If so, you should consider this clever and wry compendium, written by the ever-curious mathematician, writer, and psychologist Hartston. He’s already done several similar, well-researched collections of seemingly “useless information.” Yet these are the mysteries that could keep readers up at night—puzzling over information they didn’t know that they didn’t know. Confused? Well, it’s that celebration of ignorance that makes this book both so much fun and such a conversation starter. While some topics and questions are quite obscure, there is plenty here to please any trivia enthusiast, scientific wonderer, or just the innocently ignorant (or, as it were, perpetually curious). Covering from aardvarks (do you share their DNA?) to zymology (much ado about yeast), the book takes a scientific look at a plethora of stuff you may never need to know, but once you scan the scintillating questions, you’ll want to know more. In the midst of all our knowledge and education, how did we manage to overlook some of these questions—What was the origin of laughter? Who destroyed the nose of the Sphinx? Why are so many female albatrosses lesbian? Topics from the curious (sex, sports, religion) to the mundane (plankton, coffee, hair) are here—and Hartston provides humorous tidbits of historical information about each—piquing our interest but, alas, revealing that the real answer is…there is no answer. Verdict This book goes beyond pop culture interest to engage those truly interested in scientific taxonomies; it’s one of those rare books patrons won’t want to put down and will be talking about for hours around the water cooler. Significant YA appeal as well. —Sharon Verbeten, Brown Cty. Lib., Green Bay, WI

Hock, Randolph. The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher. Information Today, Inc. 2013. 336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781937290023. pap. $24.95. REF

The Internet offers vast amounts of information from reliable to questionable, and wading through all the findings can be daunting. librarian Hock’s (Yahoo! To the Max; The Traveler’s Web: An Extreme Searcher’s Guide to Travel Resources on the Internet) work offers readers a wealth of tips to aid in faster and more effective searching. This revised update of the popular work contains recent additions and includes information on social networking, e.g., LinkedIn and Twitter, specialized sites, and improved features. The ten chapters range from “Basics for the Serious Searcher” to “Your Own Place on the Web: Participating and Publishing.” He begins with a discussion of the early Internet, including a time line and a short list of Internet-history resources. Interesting tidbits are highlighted in sidebars, while numerous screenshots add interest. A chart in Chapter 4 comparing the features of four popular search engines is more confusing than clarifying. Chapter 7 deals with the wealth of images and audio and video files available to the public. Several beneficial websites for storing and sharing are included. Chapter 9 provides “Five Tips for Buying Safely,” reminding readers that if “they follow precautions online purchases should be reasonably secure.” While the majority of the handbook covers using the Internet to find information, Chapter 10 focuses on providing material to others, looking at blogs, podcasting, and building your own web presence. Students will appreciate the resource’s clear writing style and its practical suggestions for evaluating the quality of websites. Verdict The affordable price and straightforward content make this a worthwhile purchase for high school and college students, writers, and most circulating collections. —Bobbie Wrinkle, McCracken Cty. P.L., Paducah, KY

McDonald, Linda. Quick Check Guide to Gluten-Free Foods. Barron’s Educational. 2013. 552p. bibliog. ISBN 9781438002422. pap. $8.99. REF

Gluten is what that gives elasticity to dough, and it is found in all sorts of everyday foods. Sensitivity to it causes some people a host of issues including bloating, migraines, fatigue, joint pain, and more. Others suffering from celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis must cut gluten from their diets in order to avoid becoming very ill. Unfortunately, trying to eliminate the substance entirely is a difficult and often overwhelming. This new guide will go a long way to helping people navigate both grocery shopping and eating out. The concise introduction explains what is gluten is, discusses common misconceptions, and includes lists of gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. The bulk of the book is dedicated to a listing of foods divided into categories, such as fats and oils, vegetables, fruits, dairy, etc., as well as a section on restaurants. Each section begins with an overview of the food type as well as shopping tips, standard portions, and any relevant word of caution such as chances for the food type to be cross-contaminated with gluten. Verdict Anyone attempting to live gluten free will find this a comprehensive, highly usable, and portable resource. People will need to remember, however, the books isn’t meant as medical advice, and the information on the foods covered is provided by the companies and restaurants mentioned, not by any lab analysis of the food itself. Further, there are no government rules for gluten-free labeling of foods. —Lisa Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham


Borang, Kajsa Krishni. Principles of Reiki. 128p. ISBN 9781848191389.
Hicks, Angela. Principles of Chinese Medicine. 192p. ISBN 9781848191303.
La Tourelle, Maggie & Anthea Courtenay Principles of Kinesiology. 192p. ISBN 9781848191495
ea vol: Singing Dragon. 2013. pap. $15.95. REF

Those who are interested in alternative medicine can benefit from well-researched, unbiased books that separate effective treatments from unproven or invalidated techniques. This set of three books on kinesiology and Reiki and Chinese medicine will not help anyone trying to separate fact from conjecture. The philosophies behind Reiki and Chinese medicine are clearly presented, while kinesiology is sometimes described in scientific terms to support pseudo-scientific claims combined with elements of spiritualism. Although the titles are well intended, each suffers from major omissions. References are minimal and sometimes lacking entirely. Studies are mentioned but citations are not given. There is no inclusion of possible side effects, or information on when to consult a conventional doctor. Neither do the titles discuss studies showing that such treatments are ineffective, such as Reiki or the use of Riddler’s Reflexes in kinesiology for diagnosis even though there is little scientific evidence to support the use of those techniques. The theory offered to support the practice of surrogate kinesiology, in which the subject is supposed to feel the effects of muscle work through someone else they are in physical contact with, is based on a poor interpretation of how an electrical circuit works. Numerous testimonials are provided without evidence-backed support for claims. Only the volume on Chinese medicine contains a disclaimer regarding self-treatment. The author mentions that acupuncturists use sterile, onetime-use needles but does not encourage individuals to make sure a practitioner is following this procedure. The other books include self-help information and briefly mention untrained practitioners (in Kinesiology ) and the inclusion of orthodox treatment. There are no indexes or glossaries.  Verdict Not recommended. —Susanne Caro, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

Swinney, Bridget. Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy.Healthy Food Zone Media. May 2013. 458p. index. ISBN 9780963291707. pap. $19.95. REF

This well-thought-out update draws on the knowledge of registered dietitian Swinney along with a host of expert contributors, providing comprehensive, sound advice on nutrition from preconception to postpartum. While the book is somewhat intimidating in size and scope, it does not need to be read cover to cover; readers need only refer to the specific stage that applies to them at the time. This edition contains updated information regarding nutritional needs based on current research and evidence and includes information tailored to readers whose needs are not always considered in other works; it covers, for example, the needs of women who have had gastric bypass surgery or who have celiac disease. The section concerning fitness is particularly refreshing, as it takes into consideration the elevated exertion capacity of fit women instead of making the standard blanket recommendation that pregnant women should only do low-impact activity and not exceed a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. Certain recommendations were overly cautious (the limit on caffeine is extremely low, and the research on the effect of caffeine during pregnancy is fairly tenuous); these recommendations are relatively standard among medical practitioners, however, and it is understandable that Swinney would err on the side of conservatism. While several sections of the book came across as being overly dense, women wanting in-depth information will not be disappointed. Verdict A thorough, thoughtful, and useful text for those wanting assistance improving their diet before, during, and after pregnancy. —Lauren Sergy, Alberta Lib., Edmonton


A Dictionary of Law. Oxford Univ. (Paperback Reference). 2013. 602p. ed. by Jonathan Law. ISBN 9780199669868. pap. $21.95. REF

Limited to UK legal terminology, this alphabetically arranged dictionary’s entries include each word’s grammar category but exclude its pronunciation. Entries (e.g., “ab intestato”) can be as short as two lines, but the resource also includes 12 full-page entries on topics ranging from “The Terrorism Acts” to the “Appeals System.” Cross references abound, and some of the definitions refer to online further reading; links for “Adoption,” for example, connect the reader to the websites of the UK’s Adoption Register and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. Internet links are current at the time of this review with the exception of the “Web Links” URL printed on the book’s title page, which redirects to another site. The “Writing and Citation Guide” in the center of the book would be easier to locate had it been placed in the appendix along with the “Abbreviations and Online Legal Resources,” though, like the entires, these sections are extremely helpful to readers. Of the 25 contributors, 23 are legal professionals (academics, solicitors, barristers, lecturers) while two are financial professionals (tax consultant and MBA). Changes found in the seventh edition include updated citations to new cases and the “Online Legal Resources” section. VerdictConcentrating on legal terms used in European, international, human rights, and environmental law, this title is most useful to those patrons in need of UK legal terminology and is equally suitable for law students, practicing attorneys, and the general public. Not a replacement for Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usageor Black’s Law Dictionary . —Laurie Selwyn, formerly with Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX


Voices of Early Christianity: Documents from the Origins of Christianity. Greenwood. (Voices of an Era). 2013. 277p. ed. by Kevin W. Kaatz. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781598849523. $100. Online: ABC-CLIO eBook CollectionREF

The editor’s intention with this book is to teach about early Christianity using primary-source documents, with the title also offering a treatise on how to evaluate and think critically about primary sources. Why were they created? What else was happening at the time? Who are the people and places mentioned? Why were they important? All of these questions and more are answered in detail through the study of documents under the headings of “Early Christian Life,” “The Church,” “Early Christian Women,” “Conflicts of the Early Church,” “Persecution,” and “Church and Politics.” Each subtopic offers an introduction explaining what the relevant issue is; things to “Keep In Mind While You Read”; selected pieces from original documents that were in some cases retranslated from the original Latin or Greek by the editor; boxes that define unfamiliar terms and explain what their meaning is within the text; and an “Aftermath” section that talks about the ramifications of the document on the history of Christianity. Closing each en try are discussion questions, a selection of topics to consider, and a further-reading list that includes books, journal articles, and websites.Verdict The issues that Kaatz discusses resonate strongly today just as they did when they were first created. Kaatz cuts to the heart of what could be an unwieldy subject and provides excellent context and explanations on all the issues he discusses. Readers interested in bettering their understanding of the functions of the Christian religion and the Catholic Church will learn much from the questions and discussions within thisvolume. —Christine Sharbrough, Chelmsford P.L., MA


Hiro, Dilip. A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East. Interlink. Jul. 2013. 750p. maps. index. ISBN 9781566569040. pap. $25. REF

Hiro is a well-respected expert on Middle Eastern, Islamic, and central Asian affairs, and this latest work illustrates his deep and broad knowledge of this region. The dictionary focuses on those countries encompassed in the geographic area from Egypt to Iran, including Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Yemen. Hiro concentrates on people, places, and events that affected the region during the 20th century, but also includes historical information on religions and religious sects, figures, places, and events that continue to shape the Middle East today. The more than 1,200 clearly written entries cover politics, religions, international relations, politicians, groups, natural resources, literature and art, and myriad other topics, with ample cross referencing. Though they were not available for reveiw, maps and indexes will be included in the published volume; it will not, however, include a bibliography or references. Verdict Hiro displays an admirable even-handedness when covering contentious areas. He gives equal time to both sides of a conflict or disagreement without passing judgment or editorializing, making this an excellent reference source for readers and students interested in solid, fair explanations of the history of, and frequently contentious issues at play in, the Middle East. For this reason, as well as for its very reasonable price tag, A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East is highly recommended for secondary school and college students and for the both the specialist and the general reader interested in the region. —Amanda K. Sprochi, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia

Richter, William L. Historical Dictionary of the Old South. Scarecrow. ( Historical Dictionaries of U.S. Politics & Political Eras). 2013. 592p. bibliog. ISBN 9780810879140. $130. Online: eBooks on EBSCOhost, Overdrive, MyiLibrary, EBL, & Questia REF

In this volume, the second edition of the title, “Old South” refers to presecession South (1790–1861). Richter, who is referred to in the foreword as an “academically trained historian” retired from “his own horseshoeing business,” has written other volumes on the topic, including the first edition of this title. The volume offers a chronology, an introduction (which serves as a historical overview and an explanation of the author’s standpoint), 600 brief alphabetically arranged entries, and a bibliography. Coverage includes a range of topics including people, economics, politics, law, society, and culture. Standout features include the introduction, which is truly a helpful historical overview of the Old South and in and of itself an excellent reference article. Greenwood’s 2000 title Encyclopedia of the Antebellum South may suffice in libraries where this topic gets little traffic, but it does not cover as broad a time frame and focuses more specifically on social history. Verdict Recommended for larger collections and where there is a need, especially in libraries that lack the first edition. Likely a must for southern institutions. —Lura Sanborn, St. Paul’s Sch. Lib., Concord, NH

The Economics of Inequality, Poverty, and Discrimination in the 21st Century. Praeger. 2 vols. 2013. 598p. ed. by Robert S. Rycroft. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780313396915. $110. Online: ABC-CLIO eBook Collection REF

This work is much longer and more comprehensive than Rycroft’s (economics, Univ. of Mary Washington) well-received single volume Economics of Inequality, Discrimination, Poverty, and Mobility , published in 2008. Once again, he examines differing academic and political perspectives on the effectiveness of current social and economic policies in balancing inequity among disparate groups. Emphasis remains on the United States with some attention to similarly prosperous and free societies. The 64 chapters are written by 44 economists, sociologists, philosophers, and lawyers who are acknowledged experts in their fields. Volume One identifies the causes of inequality, poverty, and discrimination, and Volume Two offers solutions to those problems. Each volume is divided into five sections: “Measurement”; “Inequality and Mobility”; “Institutions and Choices”; “Demographic Groups and Discrimination”; and “Policy.” Chapters range in length from 15 to 20 pages each, with several including charts, tables, and graphs, and all offering notes and an extensive bibliography. The set concludes with biographical information about contributors and a comprehensive subject index. The entries are objective, insightful, and thought-provoking. They are so well written and researched that not only scholars but also casual readers will be completely satisfied with the data and information in each article. Undergraduate students will find the work particularly useful for papers and reading assignments in classes that address the conflicting paradigms of affluence, destitution, education, race, economic advancement, and mobility. Verdict A full and fair treatment of a complex subject that greatly expands on Rycroft’s earlier work on the topic. It will find broad appeal among generalists, specialists, and students of economic and social issues related to equality and discrimination. —Rob Tench, Perry Lib., Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, VA