"The Oxford Companion to the Year" by Bonnie Blackburn...

Editor's Choice

January 02, 2000|By Michael Pakenham

"The Oxford Companion to the Year" by Bonnie Blackburn ans Leofranc Holford Strevens (Oxford University Press, 937 pages, $49.95)

A millennial trivia cornucopia of almost 1,000 pages of tight-packed material related to specific days of the year -- any year -- to calendars, feasts, systems of dating, birthdays, national celebrations, religious usages, ancient annual observations in dozens of historic cultures, and more. "Dating" here has absolutely nothing to do with taking somebody to the soda fountain for a malted. This is a compelling compendium of scholarly and obscure, quirky and majesterial information on how and -- in some senses -- why humankind has tracked the days of its lives. Some will find it heavy on saints' days and liturgical technicalities, but they are easy to skip over, on your way to a fablous array of incidental and splendidly useless facts.

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