It's a pretty tall order to call any book "one of the greatest reference books ever published" but the Independent on Sunday says just that of The Cambridge Factfinder. The publishers, Cambridge University Press, similarly claim that the fourth edition of the book is "the most comprehensive, authoritative and up-to-date general factbook available". Certainly The Cambridge Factfinder is one of the best books of its kind. It is concise, easy-to-use, well laid out and affordable; moreover it covers a formidable range of subjects, from star constellations to the female winner of the 2000 Biathlon World Championship.
The 14 sections are clearly marked, and the Areas of Knowledge contents list, full Table of Contents and approximately 130 pages of index make sure that the reader is more than able to navigate his/her way around the book. Possibly one of the most useful sections is Human Geography, which not only features a political map and a map showing population density, but also lists largest nations by area and by population, and the largest cities by population. The alphabetically arranged country summaries include a small but clear black and white map, and feature essential information such as currency, capital, language/s, and head of state and political status, among other things.
If the Factfinder suffers from anything it is lack of colour, but the illustrations and maps are clearly and generously spread throughout the 900-plus pages, and presumably this omission relates more to the book's reasonable price than to economy on the publisher's part. This is a highly recommended buy. --Aruna Vasudevan [via]