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Friday, December 4, 2015

Why Writers Need The World Almanac



I recently came across the new edition of one of the best annual resources, The World Almanac and Book of Facts: 2016.  It calls itself “America’s Best-Selling Reference Book,” as it has been informing Americans since 1868 – nearly 150 years ago.  I recommend any serious writer, researcher, or editor – or curious human – own a copy of this book.

One might say this book is obsolete, something that need not exist in light of the Internet.  But it’s exactly because of the Internet that this book should exist.  We need something that collects information and says “these are the things you need to know,” rather than just leaving it to whim as to whether one searches for some random factoid.  Here, in a single, trusted source, we come across all kinds of interesting things that, upon their discovery, could better inform a fragmented society that feeds off of scattered information.

So what’s in this 1008-paged book?
·         A look back at the significant events of 2015, with words and photos
·         Their umber of sexual partners for US adults by sex and age, as of 2008
·         Cancer risk factors and warning signs or symptoms of diseases
·         Domestic leisure travel patterns
·         A list of the world’s largest corporations and top US franchises
·         Chronology of events in US history
·         Notable explosions and disasters
·         Presidential election results

It also has things pertaining to authors.  Pages 41-42 feature historical anniversaries dating 25-50-100 years ago, such as the publishing of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man a century ago or Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth 25 years ago.  It also listed seven pages of notable deceased and living writers.  You could probably have an entire almanac or fact book just about the world of books.

For some, such a thick book of numbers, dates, and details about so many aspects of the world and its history could be overwhelming, but for many, like me, it is so inviting to consume, however impossible it is to digest even 10% of its alluring content.

Random page turns reveal so many interesting things about science, history, culture, sports, and statistical marvels.  One page lists the tallest buildings while another ranks world populations.  There are profiles of every state and country, Olympic game results, a list of who is in the football Hall of Fame, famous Supreme Court descriptions, profiles of major religions, and things about animals, astronomy, and a timeline of major terrorist attacks are all here.

To see the book as a mere resource, to use when you need to look up some specific thing, is a mistake.  It’s much more than that, especially for writers.  It is an inspirational source for authors.  As you flip through its soft pages of hard data, one is instantly bombarded with timely and relevant factors that help the reader form a shaped view of the world. You begin to understand its size, depth, and history and feel that by knowing these things you have a grounded foundation of knowledge.  In order to write well or to imagine other worlds, you need to know a lot about the one we live in right now.

Not all of the facts will seem interesting or even useful, but over time you will come to call upon what you know in order to inspire the kind of writing that takes you to where you’ve never been.

Writers write out of experience, emotion, and education.  One’s imagination is spurred on by reality, as the more expanded your reality so, the more likely you’ll grow and nurture your creativity.

At the very least, readers of the book should be entertained, but I suspect the benefit of repeatedly referring to it will be greater than that.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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