Saturday, May 06, 2006

Encyclopedia of Appalachia

I decided to post this here first, before I throw it up on the other blog. . . the choices we must make.

For my birthday my Dad went out of his way this year. . . put some serious thought into it and bought me one of the coolest books I've ever owned . . . The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Damn straight he did. Let me review it in the simplest terms.

One, the book is one of those tomes you find yourself flipping through constantly. . . definitely has that "coffee table" thing working for it. And even though, in many ways, it is definitely an academic repository of knowledge, formally approached and executed, it feels like you could sit down and read the whole thing straight through, despite the fact that it has quite enough heft to it to bring down a rampaging water buffalo - in other words, non-academics shouldn't shy away from it for fear of its size or the letters behind its creators' names.

That said, I hope that this edition is merely a first edition - there is much, much room to expand upon things. In particular, it would be invaluable to address the numerous municipalities and other governmental bodies in a wholly inclusive way, describing their history, economy, etc. . . this is a huge task though, and I can imagine why it wasn't tackled. Also, only a few higher educational institutions receive press time - Emory & Henry, my alma mater, gets a sentence - if the book's intention is truly to, as its authors insist, not only aid in Appalachian social, historical, and political scholarship but further to address blatent discrimination which the region is subjected to, showcasing our excellent schools (e.g. E&H, Maryville, Berea, Mars Hill, Concord, West Virginia Wesleyan, Washington & Lee, VMI, not to mention the various research institutions like Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, West Virginia, Marshall, James Madison, UNC Asheville, and so on) would go a very long way towards that end.

That said, the Encyclopedia is worth the green in my humble opinon. . . but heck, at $80 you may disagree. If so (or if not, frankly) I strongly encourage you to, well, strongly encourage your public or school library to acquire a copy or two for their reference section. So it is.


Shannon Hodgins said...

Request noted. This librarian will be ordering the sucker. Can't wait to read it.

Lance Houser said...

This is a great reference tool for anyone interested in Appalachia. As a student of Appalachia, I highly recommend it.

I also agree with your hope that this is only a first edition of many. Appalachia is always changing and it will need to be updated and expanded. Maybe one day I will have an article in it!