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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know Hardcover – October 3, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Rev Upd edition (October 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618226478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618226474
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 8.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This third edition of the 1988 reference, full of the same back-to-basics philosophy of the earlier volumes, promises to once again serve as a lightning rod for lively discussion. Divided into chapters such as "The Bible" (the editors point out that, regardless of one's religion, it is impossible to be culturally literate without some Biblical knowledge, just as one needs to know the Koran to be literate in Arab culture), "Technology," "Idioms," "World Geography," "Mythology and Folklore" (which includes everything from Medusa to Mickey Mouse) and "Literature in English," the book is a compendium of thumbnail definitions of the bedrock items that make up society. This latest volume includes about 500 (out of nearly 7,000) new entries, 200 of which are in the science and technology chapters. Other entries have been revised and updated. It's entertaining, snappily written, extremely handy and reasonably inclusive (although there are bound to be readers who will find issue with Hirsch's well-known conservative ideologies). Although the book will be a godsend for home schoolers and teachers looking to give students a basic reference, ultimately it may be seen as a giant list, along the same lines as the much-debated list of essential literature that Harold Bloom included in The Western Canon. Arguments over it will probably not center on its stylistics, but on who or what the editors consider essential e.g., Allen Ginsburg made the cut; Jack Kerouac did not.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Initially published in 1988 and revised in 1993, this book is given an exciting update whose 6900 entries include 1000 revised entries and 500 new ones, 200 of which are in science and technology alone. Given the book's aim to define "common cultural knowledge rather than to present a lexicon of words or topics," a revision was sorely needed; when the second edition appeared, almost no one knew what a web page was. The text is divided into sections by subject-e.g., fine arts, world politics, life sciences-each with a brief introduction; access is also aided by a thorough index. The entries themselves are complete, concise, and clearly written as well as extensively and effectively cross-referenced. All that need be said about this first-rate reference is that it is well written, well researched, and well worth the money. Students, general readers, trivia buffs, and those who like to have a great reference work at their fingertips will find it informative, useful, and just plain fun. Highly recommended.
Manya S. Chylinski, Ernst & Young Ctr. for Business Knowledge, Boston
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I find the book to be very interesting.
shopper1
We read the book together, until they experience what a great source of American cultural literacy this book is.
Novice
It's large, heavy and unwieldy but it's a good reference book.
Donna Snapp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 82 people found the following review helpful By SK on August 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a foreign citizen living in the US for about 4 years for graduate level degree in the US. Culture as well as language are the biggest obstacles of my life in the US. I overcame the basic survival and class language barrier after living 2-3 years, but the cultural barrier with combined with conversational language is very challenging. Not only for more socializing but also more nature English writing and speacking, I worked hard, and Culturacy Dictionary helps me a lot. It includes expressions from various areas, e.g. bible, literature, idiom, etc. During the reading or watching TV, I can understand better the implications and expressions rooted from relgion, history, literature, and other areas of culture.

I use this dictionary with several ways. First, just read the page I am intersted in. Second, I consult it during my writing to find better expression, and do more research to understand the background better via internet. Third, play game with this book with my American Classmates - in fact, this helps me the most. They explain what is not written in the dictionary, and this is the way I can acquire the knowledge of the expression easily and last long in my brain.

This dictionary is wonderful, I think, for both for navtive and non-native. Non natives can upgrade their English level with cultural understanding, and natives can be more sophisticated using their languages. It is a great tool, and I am happy to find it!
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By "yakbak" on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The pictures aren't flashy. The text isn't eloquent. But, this book delivers exactly what the subtitle suggests, "What Every American Needs to Know." Full of up-to-date and well-organized content, the book provides answers to everyday questions, in addition to being a source for research. (Writers of college papers will find this a very useful tool.)
Although I am not one to pick up a dictionary and read through it, I typically cover several pages at a time when I reference this book. While reading the text of one piece, I often find myself intrigued about, and looking up, another topic.
Every home should have a copy of this book!
"Tight Lines!"
~..~..~.. ><((((*>
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91 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Charles Floading on March 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Want to look up cultural references in Denis Miller's rants? Can't remember what the Byzantine empire did? Feel like your loosing your memory? This book can help!
Yes, I'll admit the title does have a certain haughtiness and presumptiouness to it, but this book is packed with information. The topics covered are quite broad, and I guess it would HAVE to be if the goal is to ensure cultural literacy. Including all the things you should have learned in highschool had you been paying attention, this book is a great refresher course in everything from History, to Literature, to proverbs and idioms in the English language.
It has a bit of a western bias, which is sort of what I'm getting at when I say the title presumes alot. Perhaps an alternate title (and I mean this without cynicsm) would be "what most Americans don't know about America but should." I include myself in that category, by the way.
The best thing about this book is it's organization. At first, I was wishing it was all alphabetical, but then you realize that grouping entries in catagorized chapters is better. Additionally, the bites of data are concise and easily digested, enough to answer a question and provide enough information for you to look elsewhere if you want in depth explainations.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By fluffy, the human being. on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
i am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you know what i mean. this book is just the ticket for a palooka like me. i've been dipping into the thing here and there for a couple of months now, and it's been a tremendous amount of fun. i was amazed by how much i had forgetten from my school days (i am 45). this compendium of learning covers a lot of ground, with a text that is clear and concise and enjoyable to read. the bible, mythology and folklore, literature, philosophy, religion, the english language, the fine arts, american history and world history, geography, psychology, sociolgy, business and economics, science, medicine, health, and technology, all get a going over. the format is easy and perfect for dipping into anywhere whenever you have the time to do so. a perfect coffee table book. a great bedside book. i highly recommend this to anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge or bone up on their facts in a wide variety of human endeavor.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sacerdos Atque Discipulus on January 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One would think that when living in and being part of a culture, one would then automatically be literate in it. However, this is certainly not the case for most indiviuals. This book can fill in the gap with its "must know" info. that we should all be a little more familiar with. Of course it is selective in some areas and deliberately brief in its enteries. That is understandable. Over all, I am happy I purchased this book and I am certainly getting my money's worth whether I am looking something up to get desired information, or simply kiling time by flipping through it. There's always something new to learn in this fine book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By "abbykapoff62" on August 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Our book club tends to stick with bestsellers like "Da Vinci" or McCrae's "The Bark of the Dogwood," so it came as quite a shock when this book was recommended. The truth is, it couldn't be more perfect, especially for a book club. The reason? You'll want to discuss what's in between these pages and boy, will there ever be a discussion! This is true food for thought and you'll all have a blast!
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