Friday, November 11, 2011

The Handy Presidents Answer Book by David L. Hudson, Jr.

I still consider myself a reference librarian. Because I work away from the reference desk attending to other duties half of the time, I appreciate finding a reference book that will help me answer questions clearly and quickly. So, The Handy Presidents Answer Book, Second Edition by David L. Hudson, Jr. is just my kind of book. It is even written in question and answer format. With its beginning chapters focusing on the powers and election of the president and subsequent chapters profiling each of the men who have served as president, I can find many answers as quickly by scanning as by using the index.

Hudson keeps every chapter to twelve pages or fewer. George Washington and John Quincy Adams get the longest spreads. I would have thought Franklin D. Roosevelt might have gotten the longest. Whatever, each chapter answers basic questions about the family, the education, and the early career of a president, and then identifies highlights of each his presidential administration. Most questions and answers are brief. Readers wanting detailed stories will have to seek presidential biographies.

While entertainment is not the primary intent of The Handy Presidents Answer Book, it can be fun to browse. Anyone who has taken a class in American history will recognize the names, but I'll wager that many have forgotten what they ever knew about Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, and William Howard Taft. Taylor was a veteran of four wars, whose nickname was "Rough and Ready." He died of gastroenteritis while in office, making Fillmore, a lawyer from Buffalo president. Fillmore sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to force the closed society to open its markets to the United States. Arthur was the former beneficiary of a political appoint to a plum job who later as president signed the Pendleton Act which required civil servants to be hired according to merit. Taft was a trust buster who battled Standard Oil Company and American Tobacco Company. He became chief justice of the Supreme Court eight years after being president.

Because many libraries are reducing their reference collections, The Handy Presidents Answer Book will increasingly be found in the circulating stacks. It should be popular with students.

Hudson, David L., Jr. The Handy Presidents Answer Book, Second Edition. Visible Ink, 2012. ISBN 9781578593170.


Claire G said...

So, Rick, where on the shelf and in the Dewey system has your library put this book? It’s an interesting (perhaps Pollyanna-ish) thought that the reduction of reference collections may mean that some very interesting books find more readers among the general public.

I commented on an earlier post of yours about reference (March?) and have looked at the topic in my own latest post, about some recent library experiences.

ricklibrarian said...

Claire, we put it at 973.099 in the circulating collection. I have most of the new titles going into circ and have moved others there. I think the reference collection will eventually be just the encyclopedias and other sets. We let those check out, too, and keep them together mostly because it is easier to find and shelve them that way.