Can't-Miss Print Titles | Best Reference 2019

This year's Best Reference articles are marked by stunning visuals, from the stirring Protest! A History of Social and Political Protest Graphics to the quirky Atlas of Poetic Zoology.

As I look over this year’s Best Reference print list, a theme emerges: stunning visuals. Indeed, there were so many infographic-heavy books that the Best Reference committee was compelled to create a new category for them. As reviewer Patricia Lothrop noted, “Maps and other data visualization might be the future of reference books, because screens don’t do them justice.” From the stirring Protest! A History of Social and Political Protest Graphics to the quirky Atlas of Poetic Zoology, these beautifully designed titles will mesmerize readers—though the works also boast impeccably researched information (few texts can compare with the depth of material found in WWII Infographics). Many of these selections also had committee members debating what qualifies as reference. We stretched the definition at times, allowing for whimsy to creep in (Guitar: The World’s Most Seductive Instrument; An Underground Guide to Sewers). Treasure troves of primary sources (The Stonewall Riots; Black Lives 1900) will, shelved alongside traditional encyclopedias, deepen readers’ understanding of history. And as always, we strove to surface works that contribute to a more inclusive perspective—I was especially pleased by the Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History, recently awarded the 2020 Dartmouth Medal for excellence in reference. And don’t forget to check out our list of Best Databases and our best free websites and apps.—Mahnaz Dar

 


ARTS & LITERATURE

Bambach, Carmen C. Leonardo da Vinci: Rediscovered. 4 vols. Yale Univ. 2,350p. ISBN 9780300191950. $550.

Published on the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, this massive four-volume set will be the definitive work for years to come. A curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bambach examined more than 4,000 of da Vinci’s notes and drawings over 25 years. The result is worth the wait—with 1,500 stunning reproductions of manuscripts and paintings and Bambach’s lucid chronicle of the man’s life and career, this is a master class on a master artist.

Disability Experiences: Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Other Personal Narratives. 2 vols. Macmillan Reference USA: Gale Cengage. 913p. ed. by G. Thomas Couser & Susannah B. Mintz. ISBN 9781410388049. $325.

Couser (emeritus, Hofstra Univ.) and Mintz (English, Skidmore Coll.) compile writings by disabled individuals to illuminate sociocultural attitudes toward disability. The authors of these more than 200 critical essays span the globe and hundreds of years, from Teresa de Cartagena’s Grove of the Infirm and Wonder at the Works of God (1470) to Porochista Khakpour’s Sick: A Memoir (2018). (LJ 10/19)

Encyclopedia of the Black Arts Movement. Rowman & Littlefield. 410p. ed. by Verner D. Mitchell & Cynthia Davis. ISBN 9781538101452. $125.

The “artistic arm of the Black Power Movement,” the Black Arts Movement, which spanned from the 1950s to the late 1970s, has seen renewed interest in recent years. Covering seminal playwrights, authors, thinkers, works, and topics, Mitchell (English, Univ. of Memphis) and Davis (English, San Jacinto Coll.) have produced a detailed overview of an important and often overlooked cultural period.

Fiell, Charlotte & Clementine Fiell. Women in Design: From Ain Aalto to Eva Zeisel. Laurence King. 256p. ISBN 9781786275318. $45.

Noting that only recently have female designers started “to enjoy anything like equality with their male counterparts,” mother-daughter duo the Fiells profile more than 100 female innovators in architecture, interior design, fashion, textiles, furniture, lighting, and graphic design. The authors trace the evolution of women’s progress in design over the last century and demonstrate the need to highlight the contributions of those who remain lesser known.

Great Women Artists. Phaidon. 464p. ISBN 9780714878775. $59.95.

The cover of this book includes a strikeout over the word women—a statement that these are artists, tout court. Phaidon examines 400-plus women over the last 500 years, from Berenice Abbott and Yael Bartana to Xing Danwen and Andrea Zittel. With its lavish full-color reproductions and extensive range, this is the most extensive anthology of its kind to date, and a much-needed step toward redressing gender imbalance in the art sphere.

The Tile Book. Thames & Hudson. 304p. ISBN 9780500480250. $29.95.

Tiles, a ubiquitous artistic form that’s been delighting the eye for ages, get their due here. The work begins with a useful overview, but the stunning images and informative captions are the stars of the show, with examples from the 13th to the 21st centuries, from the Netherlands, Italy, and England to Uzbekistan and the Mughal Empire. Geometrically patterned or naively figurative, small or large, these colorful objects brighten the page and the environment.

 


BUSINESS & ECONOMICS

Business Statistics of the United States: Patterns of Economic Change. 24th ed. Bernan. 494p. ed. by Susan Ockert. ISBN 9781641433389. $189.

Edited by Ockert (The History of Social Change in America), this detailed resource examines key economic performance indicators in the United States since 1913, including gross domestic product, personal income, spending, saving, employment, and unemployment. Charts and graphs make the information easier to understand, and the data is reputable, taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. An ideal first step for patrons trying to make sense of the American economy.

General reference

Halliday, Stephen. An Underground Guide to Sewers: Or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York &c. MIT. 256p. ISBN 9780262043342. $34.95.

Effective sewage disposal doesn’t just make city living more pleasant; it is lifesaving. Halliday, lecturer for Gresham College in London, chronicles the urban journey to create reliable clean water sources and methods of waste disposal, including ancient stone drains, collector sewers to gather waste in 1860s Paris, a water dam in Australia, and London’s “particularly horrifying” 2017 Whitechapel fatberg. The vintage photos, maps, and diagrams have undeniable beauty, despite the earthiness of the subject matter. (LJ 2/20)

Schiller, David. Guitar: The World’s Most Seductive Instrument. Workman. 216p. ISBN 9781523507726. $35.

Bound in a slipcase that looks and feels like a guitar case, this volume documents 200 of the world’s most famous six-strings. Presenting sumptuous photographs and detailed information on model, type, and backstory, Schiller (The Little Zen Companion) examines instruments used by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, and Prince. Readers will marvel at the oddities here—such as the Pikasso II, with four necks and 42 strings. (LJ 10/19)

health & medicine

Salem Health: Infectious Diseases and Conditions. 2d ed. 3 vols. Salem. ISBN 9781642650488. $395.

As the panic that’s spread in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak demonstrates, accurate, trustworthy health information is always in high demand. Tackling everything from abscesses and athlete’s foot to yellow fever and zygomycosis, this broad and wide-ranging overview covers the origins of diseases, effects, treatments, and more. Accessible enough for lay readers yet with enough detail to meet researchers’ and professionals’ approval, this latest edition is a must for libraries updating their health reference sections. (LJ 8/19)

 


HISTORY

Bartrop, Paul R. & Eve E. Grimm. Perpetrating the Holocaust: Leaders, Enablers, and Collaborators. ABC-CLIO. 446p. ISBN 9781440858963. $105.

Of the thousands responsible for the Shoah, this volume succinctly summarizes the careers of almost 150. Condensed accounts of the perpetrators’ childhoods convey a sense of interwar Weimar Republic and the anti-Semitism rampant from Egypt to Latvia, and track the rise of Adolf Hitler. Genocide scholar Bartrop and Holocaust consultant Grimm chillingly demonstrate how widespread in Europe was support for, and participation in, the Final Solution—and how many of the perpetrators never faced justice.

Brooks, F. Erik & Glenn L. Starks. African Americans and the Presidents: Politics and Policies from Washington to Trump. Greenwood. 318p. ISBN 9781440862113. $94.

Brooks (humanities & social sciences, Kentucky State Univ.) and Starks (public administration & policy, Walden Univ., MN) carefully analyze the policies, agendas, and moral positions all 45 U.S. presidents have taken in addressing the social, cultural, political, and legal concerns and rights of African Americans. Arguing that presidents’ actions are based not on personal agendas but on political and social climates, the authors avoid editorializing—no mean feat, given the subject—as they offer precise articles backed up by excellent documentation. (LJ 8/19)

Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 812p. ed. by Christopher R. Fee & Jeffrey B. Webb. ISBN 9781440858109. $198.

Despite the sensationalism associated with many of the topics covered here—crop circles, the Kennedy assassination, HIV-AIDS denialism—Fee (English, Gettysburg Coll.) and Webb (American history, Huntington Univ.) offer a balanced exploration of conspiracy theories and why they are so pervasive in U.S. culture. Americans will be debating these conspiracies—and new ones—for years to come; this accurate encyclopedia will help stem the tide of misinformation. (LJ 9/19)

50 Events That Shaped African American History: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 850p. ed. by Jamie J. Wilson. ISBN 9781440837869. $204.

Through 50 well-chosen snapshots, Wilson (history, Salem State Univ.) brings to vivid life five centuries of African American history, from the slave trade to the Civil War and Reconstruction to the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter and beyond. Display this one during Black History Month—and year round. (LJ 2/20)

Technical Innovation in American History: An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. 3 vols. ABC-CLIO. 1,082p. ed. by Rosanne Welch & Peg A. Lamphier. ISBN 9781610690935. $325.

From minor (clothespins) to major (vaccines), technology has produced gifts and surprises. Welch (Women in American History) and Lamphier’s (history, California State Polytechnic) admirably wide-ranging guide to scientific discoveries and inventions throughout U.S. history will have readers marveling at the heights of innovation and eager to learn more. Frequent cross-references and detailed back matter will aid them in their quest.

World War I: A Country-by-Country Guide. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 763p. ed. by Spencer C. Tucker. ISBN 9781440863684. $198.

Some 22 countries participated in the Great War, with some disappearing as a result and new ones emerging. In this superbly organized work, Tucker (senior fellow, ABC-CLIO) details the reasons each nation entered the war, describes combat experience and life on the home front, and evaluates the war’s impact on the country. Abundant maps and images help readers understand the complex conflict, which still holds significance a century later. (LJ 8/19)

World War II Map by Map. DK. 288p. ISBN 9781465481795. $40.

This accessible look at World War II starts in 1918, continuing through the Sino-Japanese War, the Spanish Civil War, and the ineffective League of Nations. Text boxes superimposed on the maps elucidate complex developments such as Operation Cartwheel and Stalingrad. Time lines follow the unfolding story, while narrative overviews by a team of historians explain relevant social, economic, political, and technical developments. (LJ 11/19)

 


INFOGRAPHICS & VISUAL HISTORIES

Black Lives 1900: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition. Redstone. 144p. ISBN 9781942884538. $35.

At the World’s Fair in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, W.E.B. Du Bois presented on the post-abolition progress of African Americans. This dazzling re-creation captures the spirit of his exhibit—the gorgeously reproduced photos and charts and Du Bois’s own words are mutually illuminating, enhanced by essays from art historians Jacqueline Francis and Stephen G. Hall.

Lopez, Jean & others. WWII Infographics. Thames & Hudson. 192p. ISBN 9780500022924. $40.

Not for the fainthearted, this large-format book demands careful attention to unlock the reams of data coded into its graphics. But its very density makes it an invaluable resource on World War II, from the first chapter (political, economic, and social causes) to the last (the stunning costs to Germany and Russia; the Manhattan project; the dawn of the Cold War). Visual data deftly makes connections that would be harder to convey in text alone.

McQuiston, Liz. Protest! A History of Social and Political Protest Graphics. Princeton Univ. 288p. ISBN 9780691198330. $39.95.

Artists have long used engravings, lithographs, posters, murals, graffiti, and political cartoons to call for an end to discrimination, demand freedom from tyranny, and demonstrate against war. McQuiston, formerly of the Royal College of Art, traces visual representations of protest over six centuries, from woodcuts mocking the Catholic Church in the wake of the Reformation to graphics from Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. A potent testament to the spirit of revolution.

Rendgen, Sandra. History of Information Graphics. Taschen. 462p. ISBN 9783836567671. $70.

Capping a trilogy that began with Information Graphics and Understanding the World, Rendgen chronologically traces the surprisingly long development of data visualization, starting with the Middle Ages. This tome showcases more than 400 varied and beautifully colorful cosmographies, diagrams of slave-ship stowage, vote tabulations, and much more. This inexhaustible and fascinating trove will entice zoologists, technologists, cartographers, astronomers, historians, designers, educators, and casual browsers.

law & politics

American Political Humor. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 673p. ed. by Jody C. Baumgartner. ISBN 9781440854859. $204.

From George III to Donald Trump, political targets have proven irresistible to satirists throughout U.S. history, and cartoons, writings, TV and radio shows, and movies have shaped attitudes toward elections, wars, and more. Baumgartner’s (political science, East Carolina Univ.) profiles of satirists and comedians are models of academic investigation. All readers will benefit from the scope, expertise, and perspective of this work—and perhaps the wry or wistful laughter it elicits. (LJ 5/19)

Latinos in the American Political System: An Encyclopedia of Latinos as Voters, Candidates, and Office Holders. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 770p. ed. by Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti. ISBN 9781440853463. $198.

Monforti (dean, Coll. of Arts and Sciences, California Lutheran Univ.) investigates the increased political power, engagement, and mobilization of Latinx Americans—a group that makes up 20 percent of the U.S. population but only one percent of the country’s appointed and elected officials. This much-needed work astutely answers questions about Latinx presence in American politics and looks ahead to the future. (LJ 7/19)

Political Groups, Parties, and Organizations That Shaped America: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection. 3 vols. ABC-CLIO. 1,077p. ed. by Scott H. Ainsworth & Brian M. Harward. ISBN 9781440851964. $325.

Readers wondering how we arrived at our current political situation should consult Ainsworth (political science, Univ. of Georgia) and Harward’s (political science, Allegheny Coll., PA) exceptionally well-organized compilation of political organizations and interest groups throughout U.S. history. Exploring an enormous range of topics—the Tea Party Movement and the Prohibition Party keep company with Planned Parenthood and the March of Dimes—the editors offer a nuanced understanding of our political landscape. (LJ 11/19)

 


RELIGION

Religion and Contemporary Politics: A Global Encyclopedia. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 993p. ed. by Timothy J. Demy & Jeffrey M. Shaw. ISBN 9781440839320. $204.

Focusing on the 2001 to 2019 period, Demy (military ethics, U.S. Naval War Coll.) and Shaw (strategy & policy, U.S. Naval War Coll.) show that the relationship between religion and politics is complex and evolving—and that the two are often at odds. As the editors explore everything from religiously motivated terrorism to anti-Semitism, two trends clearly emerge: the rise of secularization in the West and the steadily growing effect of modernization and globalization on religious and political norms. (LJ 2/20)

sciences

Dirr, Michael A. & Keith S. Warren. The Tree Book: Superior Selections for Landscapes, Streetscapes, and Gardens. Timber. 900p. ISBN 9781604697148. $79.95.

Opening with an impassioned argument for why trees are more vital than ever in our increasingly urbanized world, Dirr (emeritus, horticulture, Univ. of Georgia) and retired tree breeder Warren offer planters everything they need to make the world a little greener, with detailed information on more than 2,400 species suitable for the temperate Northern Hemisphere. Featuring bouncy text and attractive photos, this tree “bible” will find eager disciples. (LJ 7/19)

Molina-Pérez, Rubén & others. Dinosaur Facts and Figures: The Theropods and Other Dinosauriformes. Princeton Univ. 288p. illus. by Sante Mazzei. ISBN 9780691180311. $29.95.

This survey of the theropods, a subgroup of dinosaurs that includes the T-rex, will keep browsers of all ages enthralled for hours with its intricate diagrams and records (largest, smallest, fastest, strongest). Die-hard dino fans, the target audience, will be enchanted by the intricate charts and complex analysis of dino anatomy and biomechanics. Whether put on display or shelved in circulating collections, this one will spend most of its time in the hands of aspiring paleontologists. (LJ 2/20)

Norell, Mark. World of Dinosaurs: An Illustrated Tour. Univ. of Chicago Pr. 256p. ISBN 9780226622729. $32.50.

Dinosaur lovers who don’t have the opportunity to visit the American Museum of Natural History will welcome this volume from curator Norell. With organization modeled after the way the collection is exhibited in the museum, the work features striking photographs of fossils and bones. Intricate details about dinosaur classification, discovery, biology, and extinction will make readers feel as though they’re on the ultimate dino tour.

Pouydebat, Emmanuelle (text) & Julie Terrazzoni (illus). Atlas of Poetic Zoology. MIT. 152p. tr. from French by Erik Butler. ISBN 9780262039970. $24.95.

Pouydebat (French Museum of Natural History) details 36 extraordinary creatures, from the pangolin to the honey badger, in lively, conversational, highly informational prose, accompanied by Terrazzoni’s gorgeous neon-lit close-up watercolors. A more whimsical meditation on the natural world than DK’s Zoology (see below), this will awaken readers’ imagination and foster a sense of wonder.

Sage Encyclopedia of Human Communication and Disorders. 4 vols. SAGE. 2,352p. ed. by Jack S. Damico & Martin J. Ball. ISBN 9781483380834. $755.

Don’t be fooled by the scholarly-sounding title—Damico (Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette) and Ball (Bangor Univ., UK) have produced an immensely accessible, impeccably comprehensive look at communication sciences and disorders. Students of education, language pathology, or audiology, as well as general readers hoping to learn more about, for instance, stuttering or tinnitus, will come away enriched. (LJ 1/20)

Zoology: Inside the Secret World of Animals. DK. 416p. ISBN 9781465482518. $50.

Moving from skeletons to mouths and jaws to eggs and offspring, this volume crafted in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute highlights the diversity, beauty, and occasional oddities of the animal world. Breathtaking photographs pinpoint every feather, scale, and tuft of hair, while concise text offers focused nuggets of information on everything from reptile skin to venomous spines.

social sciences

Dreams: Understanding Biology, Psychology, and Culture. 2 vols. Greenwood. 823p. ed. by Robert J. Hoss & others. ISBN 9781440856167. $182.

Almost defying classification, this unusually multifaceted exploration of how and why we dream offers scientific, cultural, sociological, and psychological approaches. Academics, journalists, artists, and other contributors mull nightmares, lucid dreaming, and whether animals dream. The depth of information will impress scholars, and the comprehensive, jargon-free text will spark general readers’ curiosity. (LJ 6/19)

Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History. 3 vols. Gale Cengage. 1,800p. ed. by Howard Chiang. ISBN 9780684325538. $692.

Queer history has overwhelmingly focused on the Anglo-American world. With this Dartmouth Medal–winning work that spans the globe, Chiang (history, Univ. of California; After Eunuchs) offers a much-needed antidote to this Western-centered perspective. Meticulously researched. (LJ 5/19)

The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History. NYU. 352p. ed. by Marc Stein. ISBN 9781479816859. $35.

Though most are aware that the Stonewall riots represented a milestone in LGBTQ history, Stein (history, San Francisco State Univ.) argues that many lack a true understanding of the significance and context of the events. Published on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, this thorough volume gathers 200 primary sources, from firsthand accounts to newspaper articles to photographs to court decisions, demonstrating that history is rarely as neat as textbooks would have us believe.

 


TRAVEL & ATLASES

Epic Bike Rides of the Americas. Lonely Planet. 320p. ISBN 9781788682572. $35.

“There’s no better way of experiencing a place, a culture and its people than by bicycle,” proclaim the editors of this guide to bike rides through North and South America. With 200 routes, immersive firsthand accounts from expert cyclists, and valuable tips on where to stay and best times of the year to ride, this compelling text will have cyclists eagerly planning their next trip; adventurous nonbikers may even be inspired to don a helmet and join the fun.

Man-Made Wonders of the World. DK. 416p. ISBN 9781465482525. $50.

This gorgeous volume more than delivers on its promise of taking readers on a journey through space and time. Examining everything from the Brooklyn bridge to the pyramids of Giza, these entries root these human-made creations in historical context, accompanied by lavish photos and detailed cutaways. Another visual tour de force from DK, produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian.
(LJ 1/20)

National Geographic Atlas of the World. 11th ed. National Geographic. 448p. ISBN 9781426220586. $215.

Weather patterns, water usage, population trends, world health patterns, refugee statistics—readers eager to explore the world will be well prepared after browsing this oversize atlas. Detailed maps lay out landscape features, state and country borders, and major roadways. For big picture discussions, travel preparation, or information on the connections between countries, smartphone maps are no equal to this comprehensive updated work.

The New York Times 36 Hours World: 150 Cities from Abu Dhabi to Zurich. Taschen. 768p. ed. by Barbara Ireland. ISBN 9783836575331. $40.

The latest guidebook based on the New York Times’s popular “36 Hours” column offers creative ideas to fill a weekend in Bogotá, Sydney, or Detroit. Though the brief itineraries are designed for quick jaunts, they’ll also inspire those with more time on their hands. Covering 150 cities on six continents and featuring detailed maps, 800-plus photographs, and recommendations for nearly 600 restaurants and 350 hotels, this is a bonanza for the armchair traveler and the globe trotter alike.

Waterman, Jon. National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks. National Geographic. 432p. ISBN 9781426220579. $65.

Former ranger Waterman shepherds readers through Yellowstone, Death Valley, Yosemite, and other National Parks. The photos are majestic, and Waterman’s intimate knowledge of the parks, from political protections to the effects of climate change, make him a top-notch guide. (LJ 2/20)

Wright, Ian. Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 1001 New Ways To See the World. Experiment. 208p. ISBN 9781615196258. $19.95.

Maps don’t just convey information; they tell stories, says lifelong cartophile Wright. His provocative volume compiles 100 maps that won’t be found in more straightforward atlases—from a breakdown of countries with no McDonald’s to a look at what the Roman Empire would look like if it reunited with modern borders. Readers will emerge with a newfound appreciation for the power of maps; direct them to Wright’s website for more fun.
 


Mahnaz Dar is Reference & Professional Reading Editor, LJ & School Library Journal; Maggie Knapp is a Librarian, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX; Patricia Lothrop retired from teaching at St. George’s School, Newport, RI; Dave Pugl is a Librarian, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL; Laurie Selwyn formerly worked at the Grayson County Law Library, Sherman, TX; and Rob Tench is a Librarian, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month