The glorious thing about this fat and enticing old friend is that it brims over with facts. Turn to Whitaker's Almanack 2003
for all the things you think you should know, the things you once knew but have forgotten and the things you didn't think you needed to know but which are somehow fascinating. Did you, for example, know that Dr Benjamin Spock was born just a few days before the death of Paul Gaugin in May 1903? Or that the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire is JDB Smart or that the national anthem of Swaziland is Ingoma Yesive?
Having begun life in 1868 as a journalist's fact book, Whitakers has gone from strength to strength through its 135 annual editions. It's useful on history and social structure--like a mini Debretts--and it details most of the UK's institutions with names and contact details. As always there's extensive data about every country in the world as well as maps, recent obituaries and a run down on last year's main news stories with pictures.
"A calendar, a calendar. Look in the almanac. Find out moonshine. Find our moonshine", cries Bottom excitedly in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In Shakespeare's day that's all an almanac was. Although the traditional calendars, astronomical and tidal information is all proudly still there, Whitaker's has taken and developed the almanac concept for so long that it has evolved into one of the most exciting indispensable, eclectic, accessible, modern reference books available. If you could have only one single volume information book, there's simply no contest. Whitaker's it would have to be. --Susan Elkin
A source of delight as well as a gold-mine of information -- Jonathan Dimbleby
Indispensable to all journalists -- Trevor McDonald
Whitakers still scores where it counts most -- The Independent