Reference Rewind

Perfect Marriage?
Low-Calorie Desserts

Reference BooksMore Misinformation
Burnam
1980

A Dictionary of Common Fallacies
Ward
1978

Submitter: I thought I’d include these two books together as they’re very similar. Their design alone seems rather awful and I’m not sure how they would be used as reference materials – which, to be fair, probably isn’t the intention, despite the word “dictionary” in the title of one – given the awkwardly phrased subject headings. They’re also a bit tonally uneven in their scope – one entry quibbles that “black beetles” are actually “dark brown,” while an entry on the opposite page takes on a question that has fueled countless wars and atrocities. Imagine the nightmare reference interview that leads you to look up the entry “One Nation’s Blood is Superior to Another Nation’s”! (Which might have at least been phrased more helpfully as “Blood, One Nation’s Superiority to Another’s”). “Asking” a question into Google would be so much easier, even if the answers might also be more frightening. Overall, these books are entertaining and fun to flip through, but not of much use to an academic library.

Holly: I’m not sure which pages (below) go with which book, so they may be intermingled. These are kind of fun to browse, but Submitter is right that an academic library probably doesn’t have much use for them. Even public libraries, where this kind of thing is more likely to be browsed, could have weeded them 30 years ago. If they were in a reference section, they would have gotten even less use, though. They could have been circulated from the get-go, really, for a fighting chance at any use.

More Misinformation

More Misinformation

More Misinformation

More misinformation

6 comments

  1. Before the days of the internet, these were the sort of books you’d find in cafes so that single patrons could avoid looking lonely while they had their morning coffee and muffin. They were also staples in hotel lobbies and cruise ship ‘libraries’.

    They’re fun to dip into now and then but useless for a reference collection.

  2. I used to have Burnam’s “Misinformation” books (as the “More” suggests, there were two of them). They made for fun reading if a little lightweight for a library’s reference section. I think the pages you show were all from More Misinformation, they look familiar.

    1. Mary, I think the last page shown, which is in a different format, is from the “Common Fallacies” book.

      Also, though it’s not entirely apparent, I’m pretty sure that the material in the “Common Fallacies” book is organized by concept, and that “One Nation’s Blood…” is actually found under “Blood.” Look at the bold text in the headings on that page. (Burnam did not do this.)

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