The Oxford Companion

No, I don’t mean some Ivy League escort service. The title refers to a series of reference guides put out by Oxford Press. John J. Miller, obvious book addict, extolls their virtues in an article for National Review Online:

Today, there are dozens of thick and weighty Oxford Companions, on everything from the sacred (The Bible) to the profane (The Body). There are also consumer-oriented titles on Food and The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History — I am not making this up — fills 344 pages, which is pretty short by Oxford standards.
I’ve certainly done my share to keep the enterprise afloat: I currently own 17 Oxford Companions and just bought a few more online. The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History is not one of them. But I do have the Oxford Companions to Military History, American Military History, and World War II. I also have Archaeology, Classical Civilization, and Ships and the Sea.

They do seem like fascianting and useful reference material but the price is a bit prohibitive for me. I suppose if you were a journalist, writer, or perhaps a teacher the expense would be worth it.

Besides recommending these illustrious books, John also argues for the importance of actual physical reference books:

The Internet, of course, poses a huge threat to reference works. When everything you need to know is just a Google search away, does it really make sense to shell out lots of cash for all these reference books? I say yes, and emphatically. My computer isn’t always on and even a laptop isn’t as conveniently portable as a book. The Oxford Companions don’t have batteries that need to be recharged or wires that must be plugged in. Most important, I’m skeptical about a lot of what I encounter on the web, but I trust everything I read in an Oxford Companion. There are some great brand names among reference works, such as Bartlett’s, Benet’s, Britannica, Roget’s, and Webster’s. At the top of the heap is Oxford. If you read something in one of these books, you can take it to the bank.

What?! Everything you read on the Internet isn’t true?

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

View all posts