Long recognized as the outstanding reference on world literature, BenetÊ¾s ReaderÊ¾s Encyclopedia is the one against which all others are measured, and is the single-most complete one-volume encyclopedia available for those with a serious interest in the subject. The entries explore all aspects of literature from around the world: biographies of poets and playwrights, novelists and belletrists; plot synopses and character sketches from important works; historical data on literary schools, movements, terms and awards; myths and legends; and more. Completely revised and updated, this fourth edition captures the diversity of todayÊ¾s canon, with greater attention to African-American, Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, South American, Eastern European and womenÊ¾s literature.For nearly 50 years, this unique single-volume encyclopedia of world literature has been hailed as the best available. Here are over 10,000 informative entries, covering everything a reader could wish to know, including biographies of poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists and belletrists from around the world and through the ages, from Aristophanes to Toni Morrison, from Chuang Tzu to Juan Rulfo; plot summaries of important literary works, ranging from Beowulf to Wuthering Heights to Things Fall Apart; sketches of principal characters from literature, from Salome to Leopold Bloom; myth, legend and folklore, covering everything from Isis to the Midgard Serpentto to the paladins; biographies of artists, musicians, philosophers and other historical personages ranging from Roman emperors to U.S. presidents who figure prominently in literature; accounts of significant schools and movements in literature, such as the Bloomsbury Group and the Beat writers; original titles, as well as the most familiar English titles, for works in languages other than English and recipients of major literary awards, including Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners. From book cover.
The advantages of using Wikipedia to gather information about a particular work or author: it's comprehensive, entries easily link to further information, and it's fast. The disadvantages: it's not always focused on the literary importance of every cultural reference, and it's generally more information to wade through than you really need for casual reading.
Using online reference sources is like consulting a reference librarian; cracking open the "Reader's Encyclopedia" is like having a highly literate friend hanging around in your den--you can ask him for a quick fact, and depending on your mood you'll get your answer and go back to your book, or you'll wander off on a tangent and chat for hours about related topics.
There are certainly those who disagree with me and feel a focused subject encyclopedia like this is outdated--and I'm probably an old fart for thinking this way--but if books are your friends you won't regret having a copy of Benet.
-an addictive book, every entry pulls me into others
-later editions are better for women and world lit