Reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and almanacs are vast storehouses of information that provide answers to general questions. These books are available as traditional paper books and in electronic formats.
A dictionary provides definitions of words in a given language. A typical entry also lists the correct pronunciation, usage and etymology of a word. Some dictionary entries show conjugation of verbs, examples of usage, style notes or synonyms of the word. Unabridged dictionaries are not truncated, thereby containing every word known in a given language. Dictionaries can be general or specialized, such as medical, bilingual or visual dictionaries.
An encyclopedia contains articles about a wide variety of topics of general knowledge. Popular 20th century encyclopedias were available in sets, often alphabetized, and included the World Book, Funk & Wagnalls and the Encyclopedia Britannica, which billed itself as “the sum of human knowledge.” In the 21st century, electronic encyclopedias such as Wikipedia often replace paper versions.
Almanacs contain statistics, facts and figures. Typical almanacs come on the market annually and encapsulate events of the coming or previous year. The oldest American almanac still in continuous annual publication as of 2015 is the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Printed annually since 1792, the reference contains practical information about weather, gardening, cooking and farming.