General Reference Books

Here, you will find things like encyclopedias, dictionaries, compendia, and other works that contain a broad-but-somewhat superficial view of a subject.

These books have been carefully chosen. I have read at least a good chunk of each and every one of them, in an effort to identify the best books on any given topic. However, I am not an expert in these fields, and if you believe I have not chosen well and would like to make a recommendation, please don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know.

All of the books are for sale, except where otherwise noted.

Wherever possible, I get the books directly from the publisher — but this is not always possible, for a variety of reasons. Just know that it’s important to me to support the good work of authors and publishers. If you have any questions about any of the books, please contact me.

The Catalog is always growing, so check back often.

World Economic Plants

ISBN: 9781439821428 Hardcover. Pub. 2013 by CRC Press 1336 pp., no illustrations. Used copy, Ex. Lib., very good cond. Free shipping.

$60.00

by John H. Wiersema and Blanca Leon

This book was a major source of information for me when I was working on Crazy Useful Things. It is an alphabetical listing (by genus, and then by species) of over 12,000 plants determined to have some economic value. Each listing contains information about: common name, a broad category of economic use, and its distribution.  An additional section contains an alphabetical listing by common name, which refers back to the scientific name.

Important note: This book gives a general category of economic use. For example, “Medicine” or “Food.” Only rarely does it list a specific product, such as “Taxol” or “Mace.” Often, the common name is a dead giveaway — but not always. Further research is sometimes required to find out exactly what the product is.

Concise Encyclopedia of Mineral Resources

ISBN: 9780262031554 Hardcover. Pub. 1989 by MIT Press 426 pp., B&W illus. Used copy, very good cond. Free shipping.

$30.00

by Donald D. Carr and Norman Herz (Eds.)

This book was also a major source of information for my book, Crazy Useful Things. It is (not surprisingly) an encyclopedia of minerals and their uses.  It includes great information about source locations and the various uses of each mineral.  Important to note: it contains very little information about how to find, collect, sell or mine minerals, process them, or manufacture items from the minerals. However, it is chock-full of references for further reading on every topic it presents, so it could be a real rabbit-hole if you find that rocks are your thing. It is one of the books in the Advances in Materials Science and Engineering series, published by MIT. There are two versions, one published by MIT Press for distribution in North America, and one published by Pergamon Press for distribution in Europe. They are essentially identical..

By the way, you might be wondering why I chose a book that was published in 1989: to be honest, this book is great, and I have not found a better tool for exploration on this subject.

9780262192897-1

Concise Encyclopedia of Wood and Wood-Based Materials

ISBN: 9780080347264 Hardcover. Pub. 1989 by MIT Press, European edition distributed by Pergamon Press. 354 pp., B&W Illus. Used copy, good cond. Ex lib. Free shipping.

$35.00

by Arno P. Schiewind, Ed.

This is an an alphabetical encyclopedia of 73 articles covering a variety of topics having to do with the properties, uses, and distribution of wood and wood-based materials. It is mostly descriptive, and does not really contain instructions about how to cultivate, process, or manufacture items made from wood or wood-based materials. However, it is chock-full of references for further reading on every topic it presents, so it could be a real rabbit-hole if you find that wood is your thing. It is one of the books in the Advances in Materials Science and Engineering series, published by MIT. There are two versions, one published by MIT Press for distribution in North America, and one published by Pergamon Press for distribution in Europe. They are essentially identical. I think this book is excellent, and I haven’t found anything really comparable as a serious but lay-person’s introduction to the world of wood material science.

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