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On This Date...Title: On This Date...
Author: Sandy Whiteley (compiler)
Copyright: © 2003
Publisher: Contemporary Books, an imprint of McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0-07-139827-9

Relevance: On This Date... provides reporters, news anchors and other media types with accurate listings of important or interesting world events from a (mostly) American perspective. Complete with over 2000 individual listings, On This Date... is perfect for small news rooms, media outlets, and of course, trivia buffs.

Review: Designed for media types and trivia buffs, On This Date... has the answers to hundreds of date-based questions and is packed with information about over 2,000 cultural events, milestones and (mostly US- based) trivia.

Taken from the news editors' bible Chase's Calendar of Events, this stripped-down version offers more than enough for most small newsrooms, media outlets and people who need to "know it all".

The book is arranged in calendar-date order, starting of course, with January 1st and ending with December 31st. Each day's entry features the events, anniversaries and other milestones that are celebrated on that day -- as well as at least two or three birthdays of famous people. Thankfully, there is an extensive and comprehensive index that serves to cross reference most important entries.

By definition, On This Date... is not as complete as Chase's Calendar of Events, but it does whet the appetite and provides a groundwork for quick fact checking and accurate reference finding.

For example, entries on July 4th include Calvin Coolidge's birthday (with a brief one para biography), a quick note on the anniversary of the approval of the US Declaration of Independence, a small note about Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthday, and a paragraph mentioning the anniversary of the famed agricultural-industrial institution Tuskegee Institute. Notable birthdays on July 4th include the playwright Neil Simon and advice columnist Abigail Van Buren.

Those working in radio and television (or simply people who watch a lot of television) will be pleased to know that On This Date... features many -- but not all -- important television show premieres. From Alfred Hitchcock Presents (October 2, 1955) to the Young and the Restless premiere (March 26, 1973), the premiere dates of dozens of shows are noted.

Important space exploration milestones, including the date of the first Sputnik (October 4, 1957) as well as key Dow-Jones stock average plateaus are also listed. One of the few drawbacks we note to this book is that the index does not list the year in which the event occurred, merely the month and day. This causes a busy writer to have to check back in the book under that day to confirm the year.

For example, the index clearly provides a birthday of March 10 for Sharon Stone, but one has to flip back to page 61 in the book to find the applicable cross reference for Sharon Stone to discover her birthday is on March 10, 1958. This could be easily corrected in the next version by simply adding the year to the index reference in the back of the book. We were puzzled why this had not been done initially.

We mentioned earlier that the events and other facts in On This Date... had been selected from Chase's calendar of events. Busy newsrooms will require this larger (and much more expensive and unwieldy book) to provide the comfort factor a precise and complete reference can provide.

Star Trek listed, some sequels not:
Although this selective incompleteness is made necessary by the relatively small size (fewer than 400 pages) of this book, it can still be irritating for readers. An example: the original Star Trek television show (premiering September 8, 1966) is mentioned in the book and a brief note included. Its six spin-off films, cartoon TV series, sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation (arguably more popular than the original) and the sequel-to-its-sequel Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, however, are mentioned only in passing. Interestingly, Star Trek Voyageur and Enterprise -- two still-later sequels to the venerable series are not mentioned in the book at all.

The book also features a small section near the back called Calendar Information for the year. These one-page summaries appear for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and feature year-to-year calendar information for the changeable and fixed days of celebration for both religious and civil holidays within the United States, Canada and Mexico. It also shows when seasons change by year and includes times at which the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, as well as the summer and winter solstices come in every year.

Again, this is very useful information but we found ourselves wondering why Calendar Information had not been extended to other countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia, Brazil or Australia. The answer, we assumed, is space. On This Date... simply has no space for additional non-North American information. Although understandable, we wished there was more international material in this book, as this would be especially useful for reporters and correspondents who must travel frequently outside North America.

On This Date... will satisfy the curiosity of many a trivia buff and provide useful information for small newsrooms and media outlets. Larger outlets and those that need more of the complete picture will be drawn to the more complete (and more expensive) Chase's Calendar of Events, but On This Date... is certainly worth the money. Recommended.

End of Review

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