Showing posts with label reference books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reference books. Show all posts

14 February 2013

References, Anyone?

by Eve Fisher

I know that you can get everything on the internet any more, but I still think it's handy to have a shelf of reference works.  I still have a big fat dictionary, a Roget's thesaurus (the on-line ones are awful), Bartlett's Quotations (the on-line ones are almost all modern), a Dictionary of Science, of Language, of Foreign Terms, of Japan, of various other things, as well as the following foreign languages:  Spanish, French, German, Gaelic, Greek (Demotic and ancient), Latin, Chinese, Japanese, and (my personal favorite) Colloquial Persian. 

There are history textbooks, of which I have shelves, and also certain history books that I consider mandatory for giving you the real flavor of a time and place (what I call time-travel for pedestrians"). 

Liza Picard has written a whole series (and I have them all) about London:  "Elizabeth's London", "Restoration London", "Dr. Johnson's London", "Victorian London." 

Judith Flanders has written many works on Victorian England, of which I have:  "Inside the Victorian home : a portrait of domestic life in Victorian England", and "Consuming passions : leisure and pleasure in Victorian Britain."   What she doesn't tell about Victorian daily life isn't worth telling.  Her most recent work - just out, which I have got on order even as I write - is "The invention of murder : how the Victorians revelled in death and detection and created modern crime."  Woo-hoo!

Speaking of every day life, there's the "Everyday Life in America Series", which includes "Every day Life in Early America," "The Reshaping of Every Day Life 1790-1840", "Victorian America", "The Uncertainty of Everyday Life 1915-1945", etc. I have them all. 


As some of you may remember, I used to teach Asian history at SDSU.  I have TONS of books on Japanese and Chinese history, and making a list of them...  Well, what do you want to know?  Let's just hit some highlights about Japan for today:

The File:Tosa Mitsuoki 001.jpgfirst thing to read is Ivan Morris' "The World of the Shining Prince", about Heian Japan, specifically the 11th century Heian Japan of the Lady Murasaki Shikibu, author of "The Tale of Genji" (Note about Genji - there are 3 good English translations, and I have them all.  I LOVE THIS BOOK.  Feel free to e-mail me any time to discuss it; it's one of my obsessions.)

"Legends of the Samurai" by Hiroaki Sato - from the 4th century to the 19th, these are the stories the samurai told about themselves, building the mythos of the samurai - slowly - over time.

"Japan Rising:  The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe 1871-1873" compiled by Kume Kunitake. See the USA and Europe through the eyes of Japanese who had never been West before - and weren't particularly impressed.  (And who foresee the need for Japan to oversee the Pacific Ocean.)

"Memories of Silk and Straw:  a Self-Portrait of Small Town Japan" by Dr. Junichi Saga - Japan before WW2.


John Gunther (1901-1970) wrote a series of "Inside" books in the 1930s and 40s which are snapshots of Europe and Asia.  I am the proud possessor of two:  "Inside Asia - 1939"; "Inside Europe - 1938".  I consider these priceless because they were written, fairly objectively, before World War II:  and not all the portraits are recognizable by today's standards, especially those of Hitler and his gang. This is BEFORE the world was willing to accept that they were crazy.  Did you know that Mussolini was considered an intellectual?  Did you know that Putzi Hanfstaengl played piano to put Hitler to sleep every night? 

Don't forget diaries.  St. Simon's diary of the Versailles under Louis XIV and Louis XV; the diary of Colonial midwife, Martha Ballard; Lady Murasaki and a host of other upscale women of Heian Japan all kept diaries, and let us never forget Sei Shonagon's "Pillow Book"; Parson Woodforde's diary of 18th century rural Britain; Samuel Pepys, of course; and any others that you can get your hands on for the period/time/place you're interested in.  WARNING:  what I've found is that reading a diary of a period/time/place I'm not particularly interested in can generate a whole new passion...

And then there are maps.  Besides collecting all this other stuff (and I didn't even get to the Chinese daily life histories, etc.) I have atlases galore, including a couple that are very old.  (One came with a church insert that explained the League of Nations, which in itself was worth the price of the book!)  I have regular atlases, an Atlas of World History, of the British Empire, of the Middle Ages, of War, of Ancient Empires, etc.  And a bunch of plain old road atlases.  If nothing else, when I'm really stuck, I can pull them out and plan my next road trip...
I'm not sure where it is, but I'm interested in going there...

01 December 2011

'tis the Season

by Deborah Elliott-Upton

'tis the season of stress. The news is filled with greedy shoppers elbowing their way to do hand-to-hand combat for the toy everyone wants this year. Prepared to get the best deal means being armed with pepper spray and perhaps trampling a grandpa in your way. Students are in a frenzy trying to finish up reports and finals before being released for the holidays. Moms are preparing for a return of the kids being home 24/7 with nothing to do but finds new ways to irritate their siblings. Writers are pretty much the same all year with the stress of finding a new twist on crimes as old as mankind.
As I sit safely in my home with little of my own shopping done and a manuscript half-formed in my mind, my thoughts wander to ruthless criminals preparing for their busiest season, too. Unlocked doors have a bounty of gifts under a tree just for the taking. Each burglar's booty will be a surprise present for someone. Identity theft is on the rise and cyberspace is the New Frontier. Every vehicle on the road is ripe for a carjacking experience to spice up the Family Newsletter this year.
Crime is never out of season and mystery writers seem to know that as much as a voracious readership. Mysteries hold a perpetual spot on my personal Want List. Fortunately, I'm not alone.
How many mystery books will be sold this season? With the popularity of e-readers, probably more novels will be downloaded than ever.
A few years ago, I was involved in an anthology of holiday crime stories to benefit Toys for Tots. THE GIFT OF MURDER was the brainchild of Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press. Edited by John M. Floyd, the anthology was a collection of stories by authors you just might recognize: J. F. Benedetto, Stefanie Lazar, Stephen D. Rogers, Anita Page, Randy Rawls, Earl Skaggs, Peg Herring, Bill Crider, Carolyn J. Rose, Elizabeth Zelvin, Barb Goffman, Austin S. Camacho, Sandra Seamans, Steve Shrott, Gail Farrelly, Hershel Cozine, Kris neri, Marian Allen and me. Though we shared the same theme of holiday crimes, the stories -- like the authors -- are vastly different.
My contribution was deemed "disturbing" by one reviewer which made me smile. My intention was to pen a more naughty than nice story this time around.
As for now, I am content to concoct a murder or two, an arson case and maybe a posioning. It really releives my stress.

05 October 2011

In Context

by Robert Lopresti

Follow up to my lament below. I have found a way to put the hotlinks in bold.
Beloved readers;

You may have figured out that Blogger is giving us some problems. This is mortifying for me because I was the one who suggested using it as a platform. Here's the latest kink: I put a number of hotlinks in this article and they are there and working but they aren't underlined as is usually the case. You have to run a cursor over them to find the damned things. THEN the underline appears. I have no idea why. So think of it as a fun game! Or don't. Grumble.


Back at our Old Location I may have mentioned three or four hundred times in passing that I am a reference librarian, and on occasion I have pointed out a favorite reference book or two.  Today's volume is a special treat for me because it is a government document. That's right, it was compiled with your tax dollars, so thanks very much.

Respectfully Quoted was edited by Suzy Platt and published by the Library of Congress in 1989. And this is cool, you can search it full-text online. (Sorry about the annoying ad that pops up.)

Briefly, RQ is a book of quotations compiled by a branch of the Library of Congress called the Congressional Research Service. So what makes it different from all the other dictionaries of smart-babble?

Pithy party


Well, let's think for a moment about how such books are compiled. There are two main methods. Either some expert reads a whole lot of books and finds a line he likes, says "Ooh! That's pithy!" and writes it down, or some expert reads a whole lot of books and finds quotations that other people have used, and writes them down.

But this book was compiled differently. You see, the CRS works exclusively for congresspersons and their staffs. So each of the lines in this book was asked about by a representative or a senator.

Well, what lazy devils. Why did they bother a bunch of librarians? Why didn't they just look it up in Bartlett's like everybody else?

You see, this is what makes the book unique. Let's say you are a senator preparing a speech. You find the perfect quotation, witty, to the point, perfectly making your case while devastating your opponents. You make your speech to wild applause.

The next day a reporter calls to ask why you had chosen to quote a statement that had originally been made in defense of Stalin's purges. At that point you know this is not going to be a good day.

If you are a politician you want to know the context in which something was said before you quote it. You don't want to use a term like final solution, modest proposal, or even crusade without knowing what they mean to some people. (Of course, you may also use quotes to pass a message to some of your listeners, which is sometimes called a dog whistle. Some people claim Michelle Bachmann is a master of this technique.) It would also be nice to know that the quote is genuine, and not something made up entirely or attributed to someone who didn't say it. And that's what makes Respectfully Quoted unusual. Each quotation has been checked back to its source and often provided with a context.

Who said?

All of these fall into the category of "attributed to but we can't find them among their works."

"Elect us and we shall restore law and order." Often attributed to Adolf Hitler.

"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Attributed to Ben Franklin.

"You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time." Attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

"England and America are two countries separated by the same language" Attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

“The finest Congress money can buy.” Mark Twain did not say it. He did write the following: "I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world." He intended to say this at a Fourth of July gathering in England but the US ambassador, General Schenck, decided that after his own wonderful speech no more were needed and cancelled Twain's. What a peach Schenck must have been to work for, huh?

Surprising sources

"Fifth Column." General:Emilio Mola used the term in the Spanish Civil War to describe those inside Madrid who would help the four columns of attackers outside.

"Founding Fathers." Apparently comes from that great speaker Warren Gamaliel Harding.


Odd but true


"These are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed." Who originated the famous motto of the mailman? Would you believe Herodotus? He was describing the messenger service of the Persian King Xerxes.

"You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?' I remember Ted Kennedy at his brother Bobby's funeral quoting Bobby quoting JFK with very similar words. But they come from George Bernard Shaw, who put them in the forked mouth of none other than Satan.

"I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." A boiled-down version of a a parable by medieval Arabic poet Sadi.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Attributed to Mark Twain, but Twain attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli.

"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Vince Lombardi says he didn't say it. Some people say he did. Others says Red Sanders did.

"If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum." - Sir Arthur S. Eddington.

It's a fun book to browse. But don't quote me.