Saturday, December 02, 2006

Judging a book by its index

Recently whilst browsing in a bookstore, I had reason to think about the index reference checks I have adopted over the years.

These are those items that I will search in the index of a book that purports to be encyclopedic in its area to see whether the book is worth buying. If the index doesn't contain the particular reference I am looking for then I conclude the book is a slap-dash effort. If my reference is there I will investigate further the text further.

As far as I can recall, here all the index checkers I use:
  • Any book listing significant Hollywood actors or actresses needs to have Rosalind Russell. After all she was nominated for four Academy Awards. I recently came across a book of "greatest stars of all time" that omitted her but had Kurt Russell! Likewise it should ideally also include Natalie Wood, Eve Arden, Irene Dunn, George Raft and James Cagney.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt needs to be included in any list of great historical figures or great women.
  • Any book on great musicians or jazz needs to include Django Reinhardt.
  • A book listing great songs or standards should list The Lady is a Tramp.
  • Any cocktail book needs to include recipes for a Negroni and for an original Daiquiri (ie with lime).
  • A general cookbook must contain a recipe for french onion soup.
  • Any list of significant historical events should include Hearst's alleged role in blowing up The Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898 and starting the Spanish-American war. As a fairly significant event in terms of press manipulation this one needs some commentary.
  • A book on great cities and travel experiences should list Melbourne.
  • A book of great quotes needs to include both Dolly Parton and Nelson Mandela.
  • A book of great speeches needs to includes Ted Kennedy's speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention when he withdrew from the nomination for President. Even better if it contains Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" speech from 1851.
  • Depending on the context I will check books on films for one or more of the following: The Women, Spellbound (the 1947 version), His Girl Friday, Barefoot in the Park, The Thin Man, Little Caesar, The Maltese Falcon, The Magnificent Ambersons and The Awful Truth.
  • A text on Australian history and events needs to record our (shameful) role in the 1975 invasion of East Timor.
  • A book on great political leaders or Presidents better devote some time to Harry Truman.
  • Gardening books need to explain how to care for gardenias when their leaves turn yellow (as mine do constantly).

I fear that this could be a Ms Batville only habit as it does smack a tad of Asperger's Syndrome. I think I need a catchier name than "index reference checks" for this but am running low on inspiration.