<span class="padlock_text"></span> v25 #6 From the Reference Desk

by | Feb 17, 2014 | 0 comments

by Tom Gilson  (Associate Editor, Against the Grain, and Head of Reference Emeritus, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC 29401) 

The second edition of Culture Wars in America: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices (2013, 978-0-7656-8302-1, $349) was just published by M.E. Sharpe.  Edited by Roger Chapman and James Ciment, these three volumes comprise approximately 640 entries plus more than 120 primary documents.

Like its predecessor, the focus is on hot button issues and individuals that reflect the culture divide that is part of the American landscape.  Coverage ranges from articles on ideologies and movements to those on activists and advocates and from those on specific events and incidents to others that discuss organizations and institutions.  There are also articles that discuss the conflict that surrounds numerous social, economic, political, legal, governmental, religious, and scientific issues.  The new edition also adds to the mix the divisiveness of the Obama years with the rise of new issues and new movements ranging from the Tea Party to the Occupy Movement to the economic issues/conflicts engendered by the Great Recession of 2009.  In addition, the new edition features numerous articles that have been updated from the first edition to include information up through 2012.

The articles are written with a broad audience in mind that ranges from upper-level high school students to undergraduates and to the interested lay reader.  As such, the style is accessible, straightforward, and factual.  There is an alphabetical list of all articles as well as a topic finder grouping entries by broad category in the first volume, while Volumes 2 and 3 each have their own tables of contents.  The third volume also has a collected bibliography and a thorough index for the complete set.  Each entry has “see also” references and brief lists of further readings.  B&W photos illustrate all three volumes.

However, the most substantive value-added feature in this set is the collection of 120 primary documents that are found in the third volume.  These documents are helpfully arranged by topic and represent the multi-sided aspects of the subject under consideration.  The documents focus on topics ranging from abortion to campaign finance reform;  creationism to gays in the military;  gun control to the Iraq War;  illegal immigration to public pensions;  pornography to social security;  and same-sex marriage to women in the military.

Culture Wars in America: an Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices should find a wide audience.  Students in particular will benefit from the accessible background information offered in this reference, not to mention the primary sources provided for specific issues.  Given the diversity of the coverage, this set could also serve as a first stop for those in the initial phase of searching for research topics.  It is a set that would be of value in the reference collections of high school, academic, and larger public libraries.

(This set is also available via Sharpe Reference Online as an individual title or a part of the U.S. History & Culture Collection.  Information about the options available via Sharpe Reference Online can be found at http://www.sharpe-online.com/SOLR/a/aboutus.)


Salem Press recently released the third edition of The 50 States (2013, 978-1-61925-208-0, $225), expanding a previous one-volume reference into a two-volume set.  Edited by Rodney Carlisle and David Garoogian, all the relevant data has been updated though 2012, and there are “several new features including current survey results, new color photos, and new statistical tables.”

Each state has its own chapter which provides an overall profile, a basic history and a timeline as well as Notes for Further Study, statewide county and city maps along with population and area figures, and a section entitled “Survey says…”  This last section contains the current rankings of the individual state drawn from a variety of sources including Forbes, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, CNN Money, Gallup, and the Huffington Post.  The “Notes for Further Study” section also warrants comment in that it offers a brief essay that highlights both published and Web sources that students and researchers should find of additional value.

Each state chapter ends with a series of statistical tables that provide useful data in categories ranging from demographics and vital statistics to key concerns like the economy, health and medical care, education, housing, transportation, crime, government and finance, and politics.  The data provided in the chapter charts and tables is a real strength and is enhanced by an additional section toward the end of the set that offers comparative statistics and state rankings in the same categories covered in each chapter.  The set is rounded out by an annotated bibliography of works that cover the states collectively, a Guide to Web Resources, and a General Index.

The 50 States is structured for ease of use and is tastefully illustrated with both B&W and color photos.  The overall impression one gets from examining this set is of a well-designed reference with high production value.  The audience for this work will range from high school students to undergraduates, and to the interested lay reader.  In short, anyone interested in facts and data about the 50 states should find value in this set.

As with all Salem Press titles, an electronic version of this set is available as part of the price of the print volumes, and in this case, as part of the online format there is an additional interactive version of the ranking tables that Salem will make available to print purchasers.


McFarland has released the third edition of The Christmas Encyclopedia (2013, 978-0-7864-6827-0, $75), and it represents a substantial expansion in coverage from previous editions.  Published as a paperback original there are now 760 entries that discuss various aspects of the Christmas holiday, thus adding some 281 main entries to the previous 2007 edition.

In the preface to the third edition, author William D. Crump admits that, while a number of subcategories from previous editions are now listed as main entries to offer more individual treatment, he points out that many of these are country entries that previously were listed as part of a larger region.  He also lists some 14 new country entries as well as numerous entries unique to the third edition that focus on expressions of the holiday in popular culture.  These entries discuss Christmas novels, poems, short stories, animations, films, TV series, and songs.  But the emphasis is not only on these type depictions of the holiday.  As in the first two editions there are also entries that focus on the traditions, legends, customs, and biblical and secular events related to Christmas.

Mr. Crump has obviously done his research.  The entries are fact-filled and loaded with interesting details.  So much so that use of the index is necessary to access much of the content.  Fortunately Mr. Crump has done a thorough job with that as well.  For example, in looking for information about Thomas Nast, the 19th-century cartoonist famous for his early images of Santa Claus, one discovers that there is no individual entry for Nast.  However, the index leads the reader to eight specific pages where he is discussed.

A possible failing in this reference is the lack of bibliographies at the end of each entry.  But Mr. Crump does provide a complete list of his references at the end of the book.  Some may also find issue with the size of the type.  It is admittedly small, but there are numerous illustrations and photos that help break up the text, improving the overall visual effect.

This new edition of The Christmas Encyclopedia is jam-packed with fascinating and fun information about Christmas, all in a single volume at a very reasonable price.  Depending on patron interest this is a work appropriate for libraries of all types that could be placed in either reference or circulation.  (It is also available as an eBook ISBN: 978-1-4766-0573-9, $75)


From Suffrage to the Senate: America’s Political Women an Encyclopedia of Leaders, Causes & Issues (2013, 978-1-61925-010-9, $225) is a two-volume set now in its third edition.  Published by Grey House Publishing and written by Suzanne O’Dea, this new edition is updated and expanded to include the results of the 2012 election.  The number of entries has grown 11% and now total 937.  While more than two-thirds are biographies there are also articles covering organizations, social issues, and legislation directly related to women.

According to Ms. O’Dea the criteria used in selecting topics has remained constant through all three editions.  An examination of this version reveals her being true to her word.  Entries feature the “people, laws, court cases and organizations that establish or alter women’s relationships to their families, their communities and their government.”  Ms. O’Dea provides a historical perspective, as she includes pioneers of women’s political involvement like Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the Grimke sisters as well contemporary political figures ranging from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin.  In addition, there are articles covering topics ranging from the Colonial “Daughters of Liberty” to Women in the Abolitionist Movement to the Equal Right Amendment to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The articles are brief but substantive and linked by “see also” references.  A major value-added feature is the appendix of primary sources that includes 35 documents gathered in categories like women’s rights, political parties and agendas, racism and discrimination, presidential appointees, and women in the military.  Other appendices include tables of facts and statistics and a 27-page chronology running from 1638, when the General Court of Massachusetts Bay banished Anne Hutchinson for challenging ministerial authority, to 2013, when the Pentagon lifted its ban on women serving in combat.  However, there is one weakness here.  The references listed for each entry are limited.  The citing of additional resources would be of value to those doing more involved research.

The third edition of From Suffrage to the Senate… is a worthy successor to prior editions.  It should appeal to libraries of all types where there is need for a reference work that offers a thorough overview as well as useful background information on American women and their impact on American politics.  Buyers of the two-volume set get free online access at http://gold.greyhouse.com.


Extra Servings

M.E. Sharpe released two new titles this fall:

•    World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence (978-0-7656-8300-7, $219) by Mary Ellen Snodgrass takes “a global, multicultural, social, and economic perspective, this work explores the diverse and colorful history of human attire.  From prehistoric times to the age of globalization, articles cover the evolution of clothing utility, style, production, and commerce, including accessories (shoes, hats, gloves, handbags, and jewelry) for men, women, and children…”

•    American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change, Second Edition (978-0-7656-8212-3, $399) by James Ciment and John Radzilowski “traces the scope and sweep of U.S. immigration from the earliest settlements to the present, providing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to all aspects of this critically important subject.  Every major immigrant group and every era in U.S. history are fully documented and examined through detailed analysis of social, legal, political, economic, and demographic factors…”

SAGE Reference has recently added the following titles to their list:

•    Encyclopedia of Media Violence (ISBN:978-1-4129-3685-9, $295; eISBN: 978-1-4522-9965-5, $369) edited by Matthew S. Eastin helps “to define media violence, exploring the current research in this hot-button field, and drawing conclusions about the issues raised, this balanced, accessible, and jargon-free reference examines media violence theory, as well as the research and debates, to help readers better understand questions from varied perspectives…” 

•    Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology: An Encyclopedia (ISBN: 978-1-4129-9963-2, $350;  eISBN:978-1-4522-7631-1, $438) co-edited by R. Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms covers “the most influential theories and scholars in the history of anthropology, the comprehensive and completely up-to-date, two-volume Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology provides the most pertinent facts — the “who, what, where, how, and why” — of both the theories and the theorists…”

•    Encyclopedia of Public Relations, Second Edition (ISBN: 978-1-4522-4079-4, $325; eISBN: 978-1-4522-7623-6, $406) edited by Robert L. Heath explores “the complexities of key challenges facing the profession, such as earning the trust and respect of critics and the general public, while detailing the evolution of the field with substantially deeper and broader discussions of the events, changing practices, and key figures who developed and expanded the profession…”

November saw Oxford University Press add:

•    The Grove Dictionary of American Music: 8-volume set (978-0195314281, $1195), now in its second edition, “reflects the growth in scholarship the first edition initiated.  At eight volumes, it provides greatly expanded coverage, particularly in the areas of popular music, cities and regions, musical theater, opera, concert music, and music technology, as well as the musical traditions of many ethnic and cultural groups…”

Routledge has also added to their catalog:

•    European Union Encyclopedia and Directory 2014 – 14th edition. (978-1-85743-699-0, $895) provides “information on all matters relating to the European Union (EU): the financial crisis affecting the Eurozone is covered in depth, including details of recent developments such as the EU’s emergency funding mechanisms and the new ‘fiscal compact’;  progress regarding the recent and future expansion of the Union is addressed;  and the EU’s legal and social frameworks, the environment and external relations are discussed…”

ABC-CLIO plans a December release for:

•    Faiths across Time [4 volumes]: 5,000 Years of Religious History (978-1610690256, $415) “chronicles developments in religious history from 3500 BCE through the 21st century.  The set comprises four volumes, treating the ancient world from 3500 BCE through 499 CE, 500 through 1399, 1400 through 1849, and 1850 through 2009.  Each volume includes hundreds of brief entries, arranged chronologically and then further organized by region and religion…

Palgrave Macmillan officially launched a new online reference work:

•    The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management (http://www.palgraveconnect.com/esm/) made its debut on November 1st and is offered as a “resource for students, teachers, scholars and practitioners wishing to understand the central ideas and issues of strategic management as the topic continues to develop…  Areas covered include the history, schools of thought, applications, biographies of key individuals, and indeed the role of practitioners in its advancement, while also securing a balance between the theoretical and the empirical/practitioner-oriented sides of the field…”

Oxford Reference Library added three new online titles in November:

•    The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art & Architecture (2 ed.), a … guide to the broad range of terms used in the study of the history of Christian art and architecture, including themes, artists, and movements.

•    The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2 ed.) covers “the lives of influential poets writing in English, in Britain and around the world, illuminating the influences, inspirations, and movements that have shaped the lives and works” of these poets

•    The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women “provides clear, current, comprehensive information on the major topics of scholarly interest within the study of Islam and women.  With more than 450 articles written by leading international experts and with a concentration on contemporary issues…”

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