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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite reference book, 23 Dec. 2010
This review is from: A To Z Of Everything, 5th Edition: A Compendium of General Knowledge (Hardcover)
Trevor Montague's credentials are impressive to say the least but even for him this book must have been a monumental achievement. The sheer size and scope of the thing is awe-inspiring and I'd defy even the most ardent quizzer to read it from cover to cover. I reluctantly purchased the 5th edition as I could no longer afford the very high price of Whitaker's and from the moment I opened the fly cover to find the world's flags depicted I just knew I was going to love it. I read all the abbreviations, art & architecture, astronomy, Britain, calendar, cinema, computers, current affairs and education in one sitting - all 250 pages! and then I fell asleep. I then spent my second night glossing up on famous people. This section is vast and as with the previous night's read I continually found surprising items and pure nuggets of gold. From middle names, unlikely forenames, causes of death, countries of birth, dying words, marriages, nicknames the section is exhaustive and I particularly liked the crime and punishment and philosophy biographies. Fashion and Food & Drink are covered extensively but not nearly as much as geography. I must admit I did not bother with all the world's capitals but it was good to see that all the countries were in bold type so easily chosen from the comprehensive list. The tables at the end of this section are very useful. I read the history section on another night and I really felt a greater understanding of how events meld together although whether I am able to retain all the information is another matter. Perhaps Mr Montague might write a book on memory techniques? The language section has alphabets and foreign words, derivations of phrases, cockney rhyming slang, Americanisms and forename meanings - apparently my name means 'from the dark water' hmm. The literature section has a fantastic section on both Dickens and Jane Austen including biographies of all the protagonists of their novels. My favourite segment was probably the precis of Pilgrim's Progress which encapsulates the journey of a Christian. London was covered quite well but not nearly as well as in Mr Montague's A to Z of Britain but then again I suppose he had to draw the line somewhere to save space. I also managed to read the whole of the Medicine and Military History sections at this sitting and found the list of Victoria Cross winners very enlightening. The following night I dedicated to the music section and believe me it requires several hours of study as it is absolutely enormous covering classical, jazz, opera and pop and here my favourite items were the derivation of pop group names and the composition of the bands, although I did like to test myself on some of the symphony nicknames as I have often set questions on this area. I skipped the mythology and nature sections as I simply couldn't face another lengthy read after the music so I simply read the newspapers, Nobel prize winners and organisations on the next night. I then skipped perfume (no interest at all) and read photography and politics although this section is really more of a reference section as I simply could not be bothered to read a list of current MPs or a list of former Cabinet ministers! Sport and Leisure took me a couple of hours and I did manage to name all the snooker world champions since 1977 and all the Derby and Grand National winners since 2000. I found the television section informative although had not heard of some of the programmes but the transport section was most enjoyable, particularly the voyages of Exploration. My final dip was last evening when I spent several hours attacking the USA and attempting to name the state nicknames and capitals (failed miserably in most cases). So I have spent the past week reading this wonderful book, not quite in its entirety but I'd estimate a good two thirds and I can vouch that it absolutely knocks Whitaker's, Pears and other such books into oblivion. My only criticism is that it is not always easy to find stuff when you try and cross reference as there is no index. I looked on Amazon Kindle and this book does not exist as an e-book which is quite extraordinary as I would have thought with the 'find and display' option this book above all others was made for being printed electronically and would actually be added value by doing so.
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