Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Multiple-book index

Author Charles Panati has published a series of sharply written “origin” reference books, including the following:
  • Browser’s Book of Beginnings
  • Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
  • Parade of Fads, Follies, and Manias: The Origins of Our Most Cherished Obsessions
  • Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World’s Religions

In 2004, when I couldn’t find certain information in one of his books, I wondered if that the information might be in another of his books.

This led me to think that Panati (among other authors) should have a “master index” for all his like-minded books. I think I’d seen such a thing in some multi-volume encyclopedic works, but I’d never seen it with a group of similar books that were not technically a series.

I e-mailed Charles the idea. He kindly responded and wrote that he liked it.

In 2006, I saw that Do Elephants Jump?, one of the books in David Feldman’s Imponderables series, includes a “comprehensive index to all 10 Imponderables books.” So there it was!

This year, I mentioned the idea to Charles again, in passing. Because the publishing landscape has changed considerably even since 2006, he felt such an index wasn’t as relevant anymore. But I presume he meant only in terms of the printed books. I’d wager that posting such an index online rather than in the books themselves would still be valuable to researchers, and much easier on Charles since he could do it himself without asking his publisher to modify all his books before future print runs.

I’ll propose it next time he and I are in touch.

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