Reference Tomes

Aside from the SD series, what does everyone consider as required or useful factual reference material ? OED, PDR, CRC etc. What is on your shelf ?

The Illuminatus Trilogy, Predatory Dinosaurs of the World by Paul, The COmplete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe (the opportunity to use this book here has not yet arisen), The Tightwad Gazette, Dune, Silverlock, Watership Down, Norstrilia, Ulysses (I am going to finish this some day, I’ve been working on it for twenty years now), and On the Track of Unknown Animals by Heuvelmans. Tolkein is next to Lovecraft next to Asimov (The Foundation Trilogy). The Golden Turkey Awards is between Audubon’s Birds of North America and The Flight of Dragons.

The books downstairs in boxes are rather more eclectic.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
“You cannot reason a man out of a position he did not reach through reason.”

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The Book of Essential Knowledge, which is a dictionary plus list of presidents, nations in the UN, a section on mythology, various foreign phrases, various proverbs and famous sayings, business law, rules of typing and letter writing… etc etc. Unfortunately, it’s sadly out of date (it lists Johnson as our most recent president) but the appendix portions are still quite useful and dictionaries rarely go out of style.

Also, a large collection of books on angels including A Dictionary of Angels, Angels A to Z, and Angels: An Endangered Species all of which discuss the divine host without getting bogged down in extra dogma.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

“The Timetables of History” is a fascinating, year by year table of human history. That and the Betty Crocker cookbook.


Am I the only one who hung on to my university textbooks? Frankly, I’m supposed to know all of this, but I keep University Physics by Sears, Zemansky and Young right here and handy. An Atlas and a few dictionaries and whatever I’ve read that’s lying around - that’s the SW SD outpost #133458 armory.


Nope, you’re not unique. Your list sounds just about like mine. . .right down to the Sears & Zemansky, printed in 1947. The last I knew, F still =ed m·a. For electricity and magnetism, I also have Sears, printed the same date. Somewhere along the line I seem to have lost the third related physics book on optics and, I think, a little atomic physics. I also kept some math and engineering texts but sold or through away all the junk from nontechnical courses.

My 1951 Hammond’s atlas is sadly out of date as to political demarcations and statuses and names of countries.

Ray (Yesterday I were an injun-ear, but today I don’t know how to spell one.)

I have the Encyclopedia Brittanica, in book form and on DVD. Also, I have a whole slew of astronomy books (and cd roms) and some military books and magazines. More and more of my research is shifting to the internet though. You can, in fact now get The Encyclopedia Brittanica on the web.

The problem with the web is 90% of the web is now comercial garbage and 90% of whats left is just plain garbage (My AOL web page falls into the later category). Check out THe Teeming Millions Reference Desk for a list of good web sites for starting your research.

Jim Petty
An oak tree is just a nut that stood it’s ground

Strunk & White, The Chicago Manual of Style, the American Heritage Dictionary, and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte. Oh, and the latest World Almanac and Book of Facts. Don’t leave home without them.


I find historical atlases to be invaluable tools, along with several good dictionaries (never found one that was “complete” – not even the OED). Out of date but helpful are the Lincol Library of Essential Information and several Norton Anthologies.
Also a Bible Concordance w/greek translations, Encyclopedia of Mythology, and the Kama Sutra.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity

On my reference shelf:

The Oxford English Dictionary.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (lots lighter, for simple word checks.)
The New York Library Desk Reference.
American Hospital Formulary (The mentioned PDR is published by drug companies, not a good source for unbiased information.)
The Bible, New American Standard edition.
King James Bible.
1999 World Almanac
Principia Mathematica.
A Book of Five Rings.
The Art of War.
A Manual of Recipes and Formulas. (An antique, and very interesting chemistry/pharmacy manual)
Field Survival Manual (US Army, 1961)
Science (AAAS magazine. The issues from the last two years. The rest are put away somewhere.)
The Collected Works of William Shakespeare
The History of England; from the Invasion of Julius Caesar, to the Death of George the Second.
By Dr Goldsmith. and continued by an eminent writer to the present period. (That being 1808)
(Another antique)
Rise up Singing. (Collection of popular, and folk song lyrics.)

I keep a set of The Chronicles of Narnia, in used paperbacks, in case I meet a kid who hasn’t read them.

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Oh, yeah, and HTML, for Dummies, quick reference. That is still on the computer desk.

Total Baseball is a handy reference source in addition to many mentioned before.

Speaking as a librarian, I’ve never been too enamored of the NYPL Desk Reference. I’ve never used it very often in my day to day work. It’s not as reliable as the World Almanac, the workhorse of all librarians.

Kane’s “Facts About the Presidents” can be handy too, although you will have to buy a new one every 4 to 8 years. You’d be surprised by how many people care how many presidents were left-handed or how tall each one was.


For the Encyc. Brit., from the Web page you cite, you have to click “more options” and go to:,5830,1,00.html

and then set the engine there for the EB, instead of

As someone else pointed out earlier, it’s easier to go directly to:

for the EB.


Is this, by any chance, a Merck pub.?

I think the cover is black, maybe leather flexible? My dad owned a drug store and had an old Merck on hand which I loved to look through. It’s lost.

If you an old Merck, please tell me the year of publication and exact title, I’d like to try and get one from a used bookstore.

Webster’s, of course.
Dictionary of Word Origins
Everyday Life in the Middle Ages
Everyday Life in Renaissance England
Everyday Life in Regency and Vistorian England
Everyday Life in Colonial America
Everyday Life in the 1800’s
Who Wrote That Song
Book of Popular Americana
The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft
Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law
The Movie List Book
The Dictionary of Film Quotations
The Order of Things
Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs
Time Travel

All are books that I have either used to answer a question, here or on AOL, or could have used to answer a question but someone beat me to it, or could reasonably expect someone to ask a question that could be answered out of the book. *People have actually asked questions that could be answered by this book, but I cannot find it; however, since it is somewhere in the house, it still counts.

beatle–I also kept most (all but two) of my textbooks, but many are still at my parents’ house, several more have been “borrowed” by sisters and the ones I have on hand aren’t all that useful on SD.

Your Official Cat Goddess since 10/20/99.

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

I make all my shit up.


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DrFid, there have been (I think) two postings where my complete Edgar Allan Poe has come in useful.

I’m assuming everyone’s set of Cecil’s books are so well-thumbed and part of the ambience that all have neglected mentioning them.
I mean, it goes without saying, right?

From the OP

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Oh, they’re around here somewhere.

AN unhealthy portion of my library is composed of reference books.

Off the top of my head:

French-English Dictionary
German-English Dictionary
2 Russian-English Dictionaries
English Dictionary
Russian Dictionary
Uncountable Russian/German reference grammars
5 Dictionaries of Russian obscenity/slang
3 Encyclopedias of Russian Lit
1 Encyclopedia of General Lit
Dictionary of Theories
Dictionary of Russian Culture
1 style/cite form guide
3 “Computer Yadda-Yadda for DUmmies” books
The New Our Bodies OurSelves
2 volumes of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang

I find that the Yellow Pages come in handy now and again, too.