In most public libraries, students at high school and college levels are the heaviest users of books on literature. This section contains listings for these types of works as well as guides to popular fiction and quotation books that receive far more general use. The guides to popular fiction are used in book selection activities and in reader’s advisory services. Books of quotations answer many “who said,” “what was said,” and other types of questions.

Since most of the works on literature listed below provide at least brief information on the lives of important writers, there is no separate biographical section for authors. It also should be noted that general encyclopedias contain biographical and critical information on important authors.

General Works

E1. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia: The Classic and Only Encyclopedia of World Literature in a Single Volume. 4th ed. William Rose Benet and Bruce Murphy, eds. HarperCollins, 1996. 1,144p. (5)

This standard of over 50 years (first published in 1948) treats literary terms and movements, important writers, allusions, plots of important books and plays, literary characters, folklore, and much more. The focus is on literature, but the handbook also treats topics that may be alluded to in literature—historical events, art, and music. This edition has incorporated new scholarship and interpretation and given greater attention to African American, Middle Eastern, African, South American, and Eastern European literature. Entries vary in length from a few sentences to several pages, but most articles are concise. Highly recommended.

E2. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 16th ed. Ivor H. Evans and Adrian Room, eds. Harper & Row, 2000. 1,298p. (4, 2pa)

The current edition, an update of a delightful work first published in 1870, is a compilation of miscellaneous information such as literary allusions, major people and events in history, folk customs, superstitions and beliefs, movements in art and literature, and meanings and sources of colloquial expressions. Under the entry for “cat,” for instances, one finds explanations for colloquialisms such as “cat has nine lives,” “cat o’ nine tails,” “to skin a cat,” and many other expressions using the word. Numerous lists—symbols for saints, flowers and trees in symbolism, dying words of famous people—enhance the value of this work. Despite its British origin, Brewer’s has much ready-reference value in American libraries. An early edition of this work, published in 1898, is available on Bartleby.com at www.bartleby.com.

E3. A Handbook to Literature. 8th ed. William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman. Prentice-Hall, 1999. 671p. (4pa)

This useful source for high school and college students contains some 2,000 alphabetically-arranged entries that treat terms, concepts, schools, and movements related to literary criticism as well for the fields of film, radio, TV, printing, linguistics, music, and graphic arts. The emphasis, however, is on literature. Individual authors are not covered but often are referred to in articles. The handbook also provides an outline of English and American literary history.

E4. Internet Public Library: Online Literary Criticism Collection. (www.ipl.org/ref/litcrit)

This excellent site provides links to almost 5,000 critical and biographical Web sites about authors and their works. Links, selected for their usefulness to students and others interested in literature, can be searched by author, title,

and subject.

E5. New York Public Library Literature Companion. New York Public Library. Anne Skillion, ed. Simon & Schuster, 2001. 896p. (4)

This highly recommended work offers up-to-date information on literature available in English. The 2,500 entries, in a classified arrangement, include authors, critics, literary characters, and works for all periods throughout the world, with emphasis on the west. There are many lists such as literary Web sites, book awards, and great books. Sidebars include interesting miscellany, e.g., famous rejection letters, famous opening lines, and writers portrayed in fiction. Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature (Merriam-Webster, 1995. 1,236p. [4]), another useful work, provides some 10,000 concise entries on author and their works.

E6. TexShare includes these databases on literature:

Twentieth Century Poetry (American & English) that contains 52,000 poems drawn from 750 volumes of 20th century poetry.

Twayne’s Authors Series includes information on some 600 classical and contemporary authors and their works—biographies, bibliographies of their writings, and critical essays about their works. There also are books from United States Authors, World Authors, and English Authors.

Student Resource Center GOLD, aimed at high school students, offers information for homework assignments, research papers, and essays. There are 82,000 biographies, essays, and overviews, full-texts from 1,000 magazines, and more.

American Literature

E7. Oxford Companion to American Literature. 6th ed. Ed. by James David Hart and Phillip Leininger. Oxforc University Press, 1995. 779p. [7]

This standard work covers American literature and popular authors from colonial times to the present, and major social and cultural movements reflected in American literature. The 5,000 alphabetically arranged entries provide short biographies of authors and information about their styles and interests, and over 1,000 summaries of novels, short stories, plays, biographies, tracts, narratives, and histories. There also are definitions of literary terms, historical outlines of literary schools and movements, literary awards and societies, scholarly organizations, and lists of magazines and newspapers. A chronology of literary and social history concludes the volume. Concise Oxford Companion to American Literature (Oxford, 1988. [3, 2pa]) also is available.

Note: Other volumes in the “Oxford Companion Series,” important additions to any library collection, include: Oxford Companion to English Literature (Rev. ed. Margaret Drabble, ed. Oxford University Press, 1995 [6]); Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature (Oxford, 1996. [2pa]), Oxford Companion to African American Literature (William L. Andrews, et al, eds. Oxford University Press, 1997. 480p. [2pa.]); and Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English (Jenny Stringer, ed. Oxford University Press, 1996. [6]).

Popular Fiction

There are many official and unofficial Web pages about popular authors that provide background information about their lives and work. Examples include official author sites for Anne Rice at www.annerice.com and Danielle Steel at www.daniellesteel.com.

The sites listed below are useful for both book selection and readers’ advisory.

E8. Book Page. (www.bookpage.com)

The database is based on a monthly magazine that focuses on popular books. In addition to interviews with authors, some quite lengthy in which they discuss their lives and writings, The site includes reviews of recently released books. There also is an archive of previous reviews and interviews.

E9. Book Browser. (www.barnesandnoble.com/bookbrowser)

This excellent site provides reading lists and book reviews (over 7,800) plus information on book titles, authors and more. Two outstanding features of this site are the “If You Liked, Try…” section recommending similar titles and a list of author pseudonyms.

E10. BookSpot. (www.bookspot.com)

This site provides links to the best book-related sites on the Web, organized into categories such as bestseller lists, book awards, reading lists, book reviews and book news.

E11. Book Wire. (www.bookwire.com)

A product of Publisher’s Weekly, this site provides some 5,000 categorized links to four major areas: booksellers, publishers, libraries, and other book resources such as associations, book-related newsgroups, and review sources.

E12. Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction. 5th ed. Diana Tixier Herald. Libraries Unlimited, 2000. 400p. (5)

Over a period of many years, librarians and patrons alike have relied on this work for help in identifying quality books. Genreflecting is a guide to good reading in popular fiction—crime, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance with numerous subdivisions in each category. Some 6,000 titles are included. The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery by Bruce F. Murphy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. 560p. [2pa] is a useful supplement to this work.

E13. What do I Read Next? Available through TexShare.

This database includes award winners, bestsellers, and books included on recommended reading lists, over 100,000 highly recommended titles. Useful for book lovers of all ages and genres.


E14. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. 16th ed. Justin Kaplan, ed. Little, Brown, 1992. 1405p. (5)

The best known of the quotation books, Bartlett’s, as it is usually called, began its history in 1855. The latest edition includes more than 2,550 authors (340 new to this edition) from ancient Egypt to contemporary times, cited in some 22,500 quotations. Arrangement is chronological by birth dates of persons quoted, with indexing by author, subject and keywords contained in the quotation. Exact references to original sources are provided, as well as helpful historical footnotes. Bartlett’s is available at several Internet sites. An early edition of this work is available on the Internet at Bartleby.com at www.bartleby.com/.

E15. Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 5th ed. Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 1999. 1,136p. (4)

Considered by many to be the ultimate book of quotations, this work contains 20,000 plus quotations from 2,500 authors representing all times and places. Arrangement is alphabetical by author, giving birth and death information and career identity. There is a full thematic index, designed to assist users in finding the best quote on a chosen subject, and a key word index. In addition there are boxes within the main body for 20 categories such as advertising slogans, toasts, and film lines. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Oxford, 2001. [3]) also is available.

Note: Earlier editions of quotation books should be retained, since some quotations are deleted from each revision. The 16th edition of Bartlett’s, for example, dropped 245 persons included in the previous edition.

Price Guide: (1) Under $15 (2) $16-$25 (3) $26-$35 (4) $36-$45 (5) $46-$55 (6) $56-$65 [7] $66-$75 (8) $76-$85 (9) $86-$95 (10) Over $96

Page last modified: March 2, 2011