Pros: A lot of interesting statistics, good organization, nice format, useful index.
Cons: Lack of graphs, none of the Almanacs featured some statistics that I am interested in.
Almanacs may seem boring. However, they do something that TV news and other media entertainment do not. They give you a fairly complete picture. For example, a small disaster that gets a lot of media attention seems big and important. It may even seem like the biggest disaster in human history. A big disaster that gets no media attention does not seem to very big and in fact you may never know about it. However, if you make a complete list of all notable disasters you can easily see which disaster was bigger, just by looking at the numbers. You may find out that what you thought was the world's biggest disaster in fact was a minor one and that you might never have heard of any of the ten biggest disasters in modern times. That is just one example of what media entertainment may cause. This is why everyone should spend some time with Almanacs or other books on statistics that matter to your view of the world.
I typically buy Times Almanac, The New York Times Almanac, and The World Almanac every year, however, my favorite among them is the "The World Almanac".
About the World Almanac
The World Almanac contains a lot of statistics and information on all kinds of things including crime, economy, vital statistics, countries, states, sports, etc. It also contains brief summaries of world history, U.S. history, government, science and much more.
This is a brief summary the content of the World Almanac 2010
- Special Features (year in review, swine flu pandemic, etc.)
- 2009: Year in review
- Economy, business & energy
- Military Affairs
- Health & Vital Statistics
- Personalities Arts and Media
- Science & Technology
- Consumer Information
- U.S. Government
- U.S. Facts, History & Elections
- U.S. Cities, States & Population
- World History & Culture
There are three special sections in the World Almanac 2010 with pictures. The first one is the year in pictures. The second one is a list of the flags of the world and various maps. The third one is pictures from around the world.
The World Almanac 2010 has exactly the same format as the World Almanac 2009 and they both have 1,008 pages. However, the World Almanac 2009 contained a 40 page special section on the 2008 election and the World Almanac 2010 has a larger consumer information section including two new sub sections on Colleges & Universities and a directory of organizations and associations. The U.S. Government has a new sub section on State Government. The sports section in the World Almanac 2010 has been trimmed a little However, now I think the World Almanac is even better balanced then last year.
My opinion about the World Almanac
One of my favorite sections in the World Almanac is the section on the Nations of the World. This section is 106 pages long and each country gets about half a page. Each country has one paragraph with people statistics (population, ethnic groups, religion), one paragraph on geography, one paragraph on government type, one paragraph on economy, one paragraph on finance, one transportation and one on communication, health and education. Then a summary of the history of the country follows. It is small print so there is quite a bit of information that goes in paragraph. What I like about these entries is that by using a combination of bold, new lines, sensible units, and paragraphs they succeed in making the information quite readable. The same information is quite difficult to read in the Times Almanac despite the larger font.
I also think that the overview of science (concepts, formulas, theories) is concise but very well done, and the summary of the history of the world is also well presented, fact based and objective. The absence of agendas and political correctness is healthy. The World Almanac also has the most extensive and most useful index of the almanacs. The index is probably the most important aspect of an almanac because you rarely read it from beginning to end.
However, there are a few things that I miss in all three of the almanacs. First, I would like to see time based statistics for certain interesting statistics. For example, a time plot of GDP per capita or total GDP for various countries and the world over time would be nice (or similar statistics for average life span, infant mortality rates, etc.). All this statistics is available in the World Almanacs you just have to dig through all of them.
Second, I would like to see graphs for certain interesting statistics, histograms, and plots over time, etc. Sometimes a picture says more than a thousand words. There are a few diagrams in the book but very few.
Third, there is interesting statistics that I think is missing, especially statistics on conflicts and mortality from disease and starvation. For example, did you know that the number of armed conflicts in the world peaked in the mid 1980's and then again in 1991, however, since 1992 there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of armed conflicts (from 150 to a few dozen). The percentage of people starving has also declined and so has the number of people dying from genocide and democide. This statistics can be found elsewhere but I also think it should be in an almanac (with diagrams). This statistics should not be hard to extract from the UN statistics (I have done this myself in the past). I would like to add that this is the kind of statistics that can dispel the myth that the human condition is getting worse. Well if global warming kicks in badly the human condition might get worse but for now that is NOT the trend.
This is the best of the three almanacs I usually (Times Almanac, The New York Times Almanac, and The World Almanac). The reasons I feel this way is because of the organization, the content, the absence of narrative and opinion, as well as the index. However, I also feel that all of the almanacs would be better if they included graphs, statistics over time, as well as vital statistics related to conflict, disease and starvation. I recommend the World Almanac but hope to see it even better than it is. I'll give it four stars.