Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Vietnam War: The Essential Reference Guide

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Vietnam War: The Essential Reference Guide

Article excerpt

Vietnam War: The Essential Reference Guide. Ed. by James H. Willbanks. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013. 341 pages. acid free $89 (ISBN 978-1-61069-103-1). Ebook available (978-1-61069-104-8), call for pricing.

Moments after first setting eyes on this book I began questioning how it could possibly have scaled-down the broad and very complex topic of the Vietnam War into such a tiny, single-volume "compendium" without having left substantial content behind on the cutting room floor. I was right to question, as I soon realized that in this particular case, the "cutting room floor" is ABC-CLIO's The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (1998, 2011), a work from which almost all of the present title's content derives. And what I mean by "derives" is that the smattering of entries here have been extracted, repackaged, and republished verbatim. I suppose I could stop here by simply recommending that if your library already owns said "full version" of the book, you can pass-up this 2013 Essential iteration, but I won't. For all the little siblings of the publishing world, I will give this one its due review.

The book opens with an incredibly brief (three pages, one of which contains a large map) "Overview of the Vietnam War," followed by a series of short essays addressing the "Causes," "Opposition," and "Consequences" of the war. Additional essays include: "Communist Strategy," "The Tet Offensive and the Media," and "U.S Involvement in Indochina." Scant as they are, these introductory pieces do at least touch on some of the context-providing topics and themes that are essential to understanding the scope and historical gravitas of the war. The following section--the alphabetized "Reference Entries" comprising the heart of the book--is much less panoramic in its treatment of the subject. A cursory perusal quickly reveals that the emphasis of this work is placed very heavily on how the actual "war" itself was played out; battles, operations, tactics, generals, politicians, policies, etc. …

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