In Search Of…The World Almanac and Book of Facts

(Reference Books You’ve Gotta Know About!)

The World Almanac and Book of Facts
Funk & Wagnalls Corporation
Virtually any year — you know the drill

I was looking at my bookshelves around the other day, trying to figure out what reference book I could cover for Heartbeat, when I realized that there was one already sitting on my desk. It’s one that most people have, in one edition or another. It may not be the newest edition, but not many people really need the newest edition. It’s one that, with all this Web business, people might have forgotten about. It’s pretty simple. How many people don’t have an almanac?

Back before the Internet, my children, this mysterious thing called the almanac held all sorts of facts that people could look up easily. Its general index is so extensive that it’s almost 30 pages long (27, in this particular version I’m holding — The World Almanac 1994). (I should add here that in my office alone I have three versions: 1993, 1994, 1998. The 1994 version is just the first one I picked up.) There’s a chronology of the year just past, which is handy if you’re dealing with an event that you need to find information about in reference to other events of the same year. If you need to delve into the US government, the almanac can give you all sorts of information about the different branches, the different politicians and bureaucrats. If you need to know about weights and measures and numbers, there’s a section that’ll tell you exactly what you need to know. Education? The best universities, the average salaries of college professors, the most popular subjects? You’ll find it in an almanac. Population? The history of the Academy Awards? You’ll find it here too.

The biographies of US Presidents, the First Ladies, the flags of various nations, world history, historical figures. Disasters of the world. Need to know if there’s an association or society for something? Find out here. What’s the name of the young of various animals? (Did you know that the young eel is referred to as an “elver”? I sure didn’t.) Find out about states, food information, religion (the Ten Commandments and books of the Bible, Jewish High Holy Days, the Muslim calendar). Sports. Overview of nations.

Of course, I had it on my desk because I was looking up the Constitution of the United States. Yes, I found what I needed.

You may be rolling your eyes by now and muttering to yourself, “But I could look up all of this on the Net!” Yes, there’s no denying you could. And in the middle of the night, if you don’t have an almanac on hand, you’d have to. But it’s going to take longer to look it up on the Net (depending on your modem); for me, it’s just easier to flip a few pages and locate what I need in a few seconds.

We’re thoroughly in the Internet age, and while that has opened up a wealth of possibilities, sometimes it’s just good to have a reference book you can hold and not have to log on to use. You can flip these pages much as you can Web pages, and let’s face it — you can get inspiration and information the old-fashioned way too.

Copyright 2006 EMS Flynn