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The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy Hardcover – August 31, 1993

ISBN-13: 004-6442655972 ISBN-10: 0395655978 Edition: 2nd

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA-- This book belongs in high-school libraries, if only because of the tremendous amount of publicity and controversy surrounding its compilation. It has large gaps in minority literature and history, but in other areas it is fascinating in its coverage. Adults will enjoy browsing to find what is included and what's not, while students will appreciate the quick reference.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Trefil, the Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University, is the author or coauthor of more than thirty books, including The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

Joseph F. Kett, Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the author of The Formation of the American Medical Profession: The Role of Institutions, 1780-1860 (1968) and Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America, 1790-Present (1977). He is the co-author of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (1988). A former History Department chair at Virginia, he has also participated on the Panel on Youth of the President's Science Advisory Committee, served on the Board of Editors for the History of Education Quarterly, and is a past member of the Council of the American Studies Association.

E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and the author of Cultural Literacy, The First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and The Core Knowledge Series. Dr. Hirsch is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a senior fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is president of the Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to educational reform.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 619 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (August 31, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395655978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395655979
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.8 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A must for any student!
"madjo"
From familiar expressions to world religion to history, this book has it ALL!
Dee Jay
If any ever buys a book, it should be this one!!
Fantom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Tome Raider VINE VOICE on October 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
One of the other reviewers suggested that this book was too simplistic, and I suggest that is its very appeal. It is not overly simplistic, in my opinion, and having used it for several years now I have yet to spot a glaring defect or error. For example, last night I needed to refresh my recollection on the distinction between an analogy and a metaphor and a simile. Using two different dictionaries (and fifteen minutes) I was still a bit uncertain. Then I turned to this book and had the distinction clarified for me in 30 seconds. As other reviewers have suggested, it really does make for great reading just flipping through the pages. You'll learn all sorts of interesting tid-bits of information, and obviously if you want to elaborate upon your understanding, you can then hit your full-on encycplopedias, etc.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris on April 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent resource, although because of the number of references, it cannot go into depth on many. But if you are looking for a general understanding of a concept, person, or phrase ingrained in American culture, you will find it here.
I fear that many critics of this book chastize it for its failure to include persons or events near and dear to their hearts. While I am sympathetic to that concern, the reader must understand that this book is akin to a popularity contest of culture, with the most commonly used/understood concepts rising to the top. This is actually a good thing, although it seems shallow at first blush.
As the authors note, the ability to communicate/read well stems from shared understanding. This book succeeds by providing what, at a minimum, should be known by someone because most literate Americans also know it. The authors, in fact, do not suggest we educate ourselves only within the confines of this book, or take its ideas as intrinsically more valuable. Rather, they say only that this is where we must start.
If my friends from abroad asked me what single best reference would prepare them to interact intelligently in America, this would be it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo (jimbo@graffiti.net) on October 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While not an in-depth examination of topics and more a survey of general knowledge the text is a MUST HAVE for any person wanting to be culturally literate. I discovered the book in the Reference Section of my local and college library. Especially useful for High School Students preparing for College entrance exams,Students/Teacher about to take their General Knowledge test for the NTA (National Teacher's Exam) and Teachers who want to offer the CORE of whats important! Great Buy Great Price!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is unbelievably useful and germaine. I initially purchased it to prepare for taking the Jeopardy! test (it's recommended by some of the champs), but it's usefulness goes far beyond that. Nobody can learn everything, and we all go through life not quite understanding that one mythological reference, parable, euphemism, historical reference, or slang term. It's all here in this one book! You will be unbelievably well grounded for existence in American society if you have this volume. Although it's great for looking up unknown references, I'm reading it from cover to cover and can't put it down.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Summer Belle on June 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Yes. That's right - i said a place to *start* your research journey.
This is in no way, shape, or form a book that will help you write a paper, pass a history course, or understand some obscure literary reference in a poem.
If you read it, however, you may just impress Jay Leno when he does his "Jay Walking" segments on the Tonight Show.
For what it is - an all purpose guide to Western / american culture - it does a good job. I've referenced my copy many times over the years. ie When I'm watching a movie set during the life and times of Horatio Nelson, I've looked up Nelson in the book. When I'm reading a book that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, I've referenced quite a few things.
Is this the entire history of Western / American culture? NO. It's a thumbnail sketch with many, many holes.
It is however, quite informative and interesting.
As long as you understand what it is and what it isn't - I'd recommend the book.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
No two people may agree on the choices contained in a reference work subtitled, "What Every American Needs to Know." However, other than the yearly almanac, few reference works maintain such best-seller status as this one. The reason, no doubt, is its user-friendliness and lighthearted approach to some heavy-handed subject areas. An earlier review centered on the supposed flaw of the text's definition of "separation of church vs. state," noting that its origin may be discovered in Thomas Jefferson's work. Unfortunately, the reviewer focused on technicality rather than reality. Any worthwhile study of American history mirrors the authors' conclusion. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment in relation to separation of church vs. state numerous times. If the reviewer disagrees with the authors' statement, it is more a matter of personal ideology and disagreement with the Supreme Court. According to the foreword, this book desires to "stimulate debate among readers" in order to promote learning. In accordance with earlier reviews and its longstanding status, this work achieves its goal.
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