Reference Books: When You Want to Look it Up

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff


A book of maps with or without text. The word atlas was first used as the title of a book by Gerardus Mercator in 1585.

Examples: Atlas of the World, Rand McNally Atlas of the Earth's Resources

Biographical Index

A book of information about people who are well known in a particular field.

Examples: Who's Who, Current Biography


Definitions, spellings, and pronunciations of words, arranged in alphabetical order.

Examples: The American Heritage Dictionary, The Misspellers' Dictionary, Young People's Science Dictionary


The names and addresses as well as other facts about specific groups, persons, or organizations.

Examples: Guide to Summer Camps, Children's Media Marketplace


Information on just about every subject arranged in alphabetical order.

Examples: World Book Encyclopedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica


A geographical dictionary or index with the names of places and their locations in alphabetical order.

Example: Chambers World Gazetteer: An A-Z of Geographical Information


Information and directions, often for travelers.

Examples: Fodor's Travel Guides, Guide to the Ski Touring Centers of New England, Barron's Guide to the Most Prestigious Colleges


Instructions on how to do or make something.

Examples: A Manual for Writing Term Papers, by Kate L. Turabian; The Manual of Martial Arts, by Ron van Clief


Synonyms, or near synonyms, for words as well as related terms.

Example: Roget's Thesaurus


Current information on a wide range of topics.

Examples: Time Almanac, Time For Kids Almanac with Fact Monster, Guinness Book of World Records

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