For many readers, Reference Books occupy one of the least appreciated categories to be found in a bookshop. Unless we are engaged in a particular area of research, or need something to help us with Scrabble, or Songwriting, or Etymology, we tend to ignore them.
Yet a reference book can be one of the most enjoyable purchases we will ever make.
A good reference book provides our minds with a solid structure around which to build in ourselves a deeper knowledge of a subject. Browsing aimlessly through, say, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is an infinitely more rewarding experience than wandering aimlessly around the internet – probably because the book has been edited with a clear aim and agenda, and so offers us a greater chance of retaining what we read there than is the case with the half-digested cyberfacts that we encounter online.
Every so often, instead of reading a novel, try dipping into a dictionary or other reference book – almost any one – for half an hour a day. You may become an authority on all sorts of things – perhaps on Catch Phrases, or on Esperanto, or on the Greatest Women of the World. Or perhaps, like me (sad bookworm that I am), you will find that ten minutes spent flicking through Roget’s Thesaurus has become a real treat, full of surprises and laughs, and worth many multiples of the five or six euros you have spent on it.