Textbooks, Atlases, Thesauruses, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias. I’m a sucker for weird reference books. Not just the common ones like Webster, but ones dedicated to specific fields or topics. It’s a weird compulsion, but the kind of information one can gather from a really weird dictionary or encyclopedia is superlative to that of any other knowledge medium. I find them more entertaining than a novel. Their indices and comments are as artistic to me as the contours of a flower. Their comprehensiveness a testament to the gathering of knowledge.

I suppose I first noticed it a few years ago when I was shopping with my Mom at Costco. I wandered into the books and came upon The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. The book was full of charm, sarcasm, humor, tragedy, and an appreciation for the normal things in life. It was by no means an extensive index. It was alphabetical, but the point was not definitions or history. Every object had a story of particular significance to this individual human being. It was like poetry.

Next I bought Know-It-All. The comical and superfluous exploits of a man bereft with his brother-in-law’s superior knowledge base. He takes on a project to read and consume the knowledge contained within the ENTIRE Encyclopedia Britannica. Much of the book is notation on interesting facts that few people know or consider. While the exercise creates a great amount of pain and tension, it proves worthwhile. This book explains and explores the quintessential drive within every person who collects knowledge.

At this point in time, it became apparent to me that reference books are bubbling with utility and intrigue, they merely need people to give them life. My collection exploded into several medical dictionaries, a dream encyclopedia, the encyclopedia of made-up languages, a sourcebook of signs and symbolism, a heavy duty study bible, survival guides, mathematical proofs, crossword dictionaries, scrabble dictionaries, rhyming dictionaries, and artistic journals.

I think it’s closely connected to my love of analyzing and writing essays. The more-informed opinion has less chance of being wrong, or at least it has more appeal as an argument.

What are some of your obsessions? Do you have any books to suggest?


6 responses »

  1. well, i can’t say i share your love for essays and encylopedias, humorous or not, as i’m rather inclined to philosophy, romance and historical gossip hardly found in the optimum compilation within such books. this doesn’t mean i can’t enjoy them as much, but they’re not my cup of tea in the end! i’m hopelessly infatuated with diaries, memoires and biographies of great, preferably aristocratic, characters that either change the surface of the world through their ideas or embellished it by taking the risk of being living works of art. oh, and just for the sake of looking less like an egoist speaking only about herself: great post!

    • hehe. Historical gossip? What do those typically look like? and what kind of philosophy are you interested in?

      • historical gossip is much alike the one we have today but way more refined-at least that’s how i see it. always welcomed to realize history is alive and juicy!
        about philosophy- i’m merely a beginner so i’ve started with the ancient greeks and tiny bits of sartre, simoen de beauvoir or cioran for now; hobbes and descartes too but clearly not enough to state that i’m fully understanding their point of view… it’s a shame i don’t have enough time to manage it all, though

      • Hobbes is easy. The political structure of Kingdom was the most advanced one to date, and it was seen as the hierarchy of divine authority. Because Protestantism and free thinking in religion was becoming a hot topic, the nature of tyranny within that structure was uncertain whether it was justified. Hobbes said that Tyrants will naturally rise to the top, and that man is so wicked that we actually need those people to keep us in line. Descartes is super complicated. Descartes believed in separation of soul and body. The body was just a machine.

      • i know but you can’t deny they’re both complex in their thesis and to completely understand them one must also study their lives to see what made them believe in a certain philosophy. i need a background to fully apprehend them.
        somehow, i agree with hobbes’ ideas as i do with descartes, whom i don’t find terribly complicated yet a little abstract on certain issues…

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