The Riverside Dictionary of Biography
Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 867 pages
The Riverside Dictionary of Biography includes more than 10,000 people from around the globe and from all periods of history. All continents, fields of endeavor, and historical eras are richly represented: the likes of Plato, Sappho, and Michelangelo rub shoulders with Nelson Mandela; Frida Kahlo; Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing; and the actor-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The person’s full name, birth and death dates, nationality, and occupation are given, orienting the reader at a glance to the essential biographical data. Details of the person’s life, education, and achievements follow, along with information on the historical milieu in which he or she was active. Hundreds of short quotations provide morsels of wisdom, wit, and often a bit of humor while imparting the spirit of notables such as Stephen Hawking, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Thousands of cross-references thread related lives together -- the entry for the great blues singer Ma Rainey, for example, has a reference to her protégé Bessie Smith, and from Bessie Smith there are further references to the bandleaders Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong.
This wealth of information is arranged in an attractive, readable format with more than a hundred black-and-white illustrations. This is an indispensable resource for schools, libraries, and individuals who need an up-to-date and authoritative biographical reference.
What people are saying - Write a review
The Riverside dictionary of biographyUser Review - Book Verdict
Largely based on Chambers Concise Biographical Dictionary , a British reference work, this book contains about 10,000 biographical entries covering important figures throughout history and around the world. Each entry includes birth year and death (if applicable), nationality, and a very brief description of the individual's achievements. The entries range in length from a sentence to almost a quarter-page. Some photographs appear at the beginning of each alphabetical section, and notable quotations by some personalities are occasionally highlighted. Frequent bold-faced cross references provide good access to the entire work. Unfortunately, while the scope is wide, the depth is paper thin. Abraham, regarded as the father of the three monotheistic religions, gets barely a paragraph. Even more distressing is the comparative space accorded to the entries: Moses gets only a slightly larger entry than Moses Malone, the basketball player; Joan of Arc's entry contains only a few more sentences than Joan Crawford's. Bottom Line The need for this ready-reference work is questionable: any multivolume biographical encyclopedia would contain much more useful information, and no bibliographic references are given for further research. Not recommended.--Donald Altschiller, Boston Univ. Libs.