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AN ALMANAC OF ALMANACS
America might have been discovered a little behind schedule if Christopher Columbus hadn't charted his course with the help of Ephemerides ab anno 1475-1506, an almanac published by Johann Muller, a German mathematician. Almanacs date all the way back to Egypt and the 13th century B.C., but it was Columbus' New World that made them a big business. Though Ben Franklin called his pseudonymously Poor Richard's, today almanacs are a way publishers try to get rich. Here's a rundown, with all-purpose guides first, followed by those of special interest:
Information Please Almanac 1980 catalogues all the facts (a group of leopards is called a "leap") with such extras as a 10-year U.S. environmental quality index (the air is better) and a "Guide to Growing Older" with a list of supportive organizations. (Simon and Schuster, $3.95)
The Hammond Almanac's 1,007 pages also cover the universe. In addition, there are special glossaries on Wall Street, scientific terminology and, for Sino-maniacs, a guide to Pinyin, the new Chinese spelling system. Peking is Beijing in Pinyin. (Hammond Almanac, Inc., hardcover, $6.95, paperback, $3.95)
The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1980 is probably the most complete, with the basic sections on nations, sports, politics, maps, dates and laureates of every ilk—right down to such arcana as the 1979 national spelling championship. Katie Kerwin, 13, of Denver, Colo. won it by spelling "maculature." Bet-settlers beware, though. While the World lists the length of the Amazon River at 4,000 miles, Information Please has it at 3,912 and the Hammond at 3,915. (Newspaper Enterprise Association, Inc., hardcover, $7.95, paperback, $3.95)
The Old Farmer's 1980 Almanac—the longest-surviving U.S. example, with continuous publication since 1792—contains its hoary weather predictions, recipes and riddles plus how-tos on pickling, brining and salting meats. (Yankee, Inc., $1)
Harboring visions of being a game show contestant or just interested in what makes Nielsen tick? The TV Guide Almanac answers some $64,000 questions about the tube. It even tells how to sell scripts and ideas for TV series. Included is an actual script from Happy Days, which did not, by the way, make the "Top 50 Programs of All Time." (Ballantine Books, $10.95)
Just itching to know the median voting age of your district? Canvass The Almanac of American Politics 1980. It notes that Nebraska, though it has for the first time two Democratic U.S. senators, has historically been the nation's most Republican state. (E.P. Dutton, $10.95)
For those baffled about how to cut fuel costs, choose a doctor, evaluate a charity or remove carpet stains, Help: The Indispensable Almanac of Consumer Information 1980 has answers. Energy conservers will be interested to know that one 100-watt bulb gives more light than two 60-watt bulbs—on 20 percent less energy. (Everest House, $8.95)
Freud asked, "What does a woman want?" The feminist-oriented Women's Action Almanac, put out by the Women's Action Alliance, doesn't have all the answers, but the book is an excellent source guide to such topics as career development, child care and how the ERA would affect women's lives. It also contains a directory of organizations. Yes, Virginia, there is a Women's Hall of Fame. Also a Black Women's Community Development Foundation, an Abused Women's Aid in Crisis organization...(William Morrow and Company, Inc., $7.95)
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