In Brief;Subject of the week;Reference books
DK Pockets Spelling Dictionary
Dorling Kindersley, pound;3.99) contains over 45,000 words, spells out difficult plurals, parts of verbs and problem words and includes alternative spellings and American forms. A list of common rules acts as a useful aide-memoire for spelling tricky words.
The English language is rich with metaphorical phrases not meant to be taken literally. The Dictionary of Curious Phrases (HarperCollins, pound;6.99) "spills the beans" on the origin of such phrases as "kick the bucket", "scream blue murder", "the mind boggles" and "funny-peculiar or funny-ha-ha".
The 10th edition of An Atlas of World Affairs by Andrew Boyd (Routledge, pound;14.99) contains over 100 clear, updated maps illustrating the geographical contexts of recent international events such as the break-up of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
From Alexander the Great to the Spice Girls, over 26,000 potted histories on the famous and not so famous from all walks of life can be found in The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia (second edition, Cambridge University Press, pound;35) along with "ready reference" listsof political leaders and rulers, Nobel prizewinners and the like.