I keep this on my desk at all times,
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This review is from: The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford Paperback Reference) (Paperback)
I am an academic historian of science and my speciality is the history of astronomy in the 20th century. This Oxford Companion is an excellent one-stop reference. It has plenty of small illustrations. Importantly for me the book has many pen portrait biographies of astronomers.
First sentence: "The universe is a big place so it's nice to have a guide to help you find your way around" I agree. The book is suitable for lay readers as a bridge from popular science accounts and the academic literature. It is not suitable for outright beginners