Friday, October 06, 2006

The Two Best Books In The House

My grandfather was a great person for having the right books. Specifically, having the two most important books in his life: the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, and the Rand-McNally Atlas. They were tops in their line; with these, we could understand the world around us. People might have had that atlas in their homes, but I doubt very many would have that very large and equally expensive dictionary hanging around.

It taught me not to scrimp on the necessary reference works. While I still have that dictionary, I also have its child, the Third Edition. The atlas, woefully out of date by now, rests in my bookshelf; its successors have also been well-used. Successors? Yes, because an atlas slowly becomes outdated and after about ten years, it's time to look for a replacement. What you finally buy should be thick, with an index that's about 1/3 the size of the book; an atlas has much information, but is of little use if you can't access it. You give the previous edition to friends who can use it and aren't quite as fastidious.

We aren't very good with our basic geography -- where places are, what's east of us, south of us, how big are other countries compared to some of our states.

We aren't even very good with our basic words -- where they came from, what they originally meant, how they are related to other words.

My grandfather, with his diploma from International Correspondence School, knew what were the two best books in the house.


Blogger D.K said...

I have ,in my collection, The American Heritage Dictionary (1982 edition).

October 07, 2006 10:26 AM  

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