Best pocket-sized books to carry in your bag or purse?
January 1, 2008 1:37 PM   Subscribe

What are good "pocket-sized" reference books to carry in your bag/pack/purse, with the best ratio of useful information to page count and size?

I'm outfitting my new "every day carry" bag, and have room for a few pocket-sized books. So far, I've got these:

SAS Survival Guide Handbook (first aid, etc)
Pocket Ref (charts, tables, formulas)

The only other similar books I can think of would be something like a pocket-sized Bible, but I'm not really religious.
Can anyone think of other options? Non-reference books are fine too if they're tiny and light but dense.

I don't travel internationally, otherwise I'd add a phrase book.
posted by mrbill to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Schott's Miscellany
posted by Frasermoo at 1:42 PM on January 1, 2008

Not For Tourists
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:46 PM on January 1, 2008

Best answer: In the US? Maybe the Constitution or Bill of Rights.
posted by salvia at 1:47 PM on January 1, 2008

Best answer: This isn't a book but custom-made pocket calendar. I always end up with bunch of stuff in my purse and carrying around a book (no matter how small they are), is another thing to weigh my shoulder down.

I find being able to make my own weekly calendar useful. The information on here is limited compared to those mentioned above, but they're only what I need. I can always use it to jot down notes, finances, things to remember, etc.

Hope you find it useful as well.
posted by icollectpurses at 1:55 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The current year's Old Farmer's Almanac is pretty handy.
posted by hjo3 at 1:55 PM on January 1, 2008

Response by poster: icp: I should have mentioned I also carry a Moleskine notebook with a Pocketmod calendar in it. Thanks though!
posted by mrbill at 2:04 PM on January 1, 2008

O'Reilly HTML Pocket Reference

100 pages of geeky goodness.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:19 PM on January 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Local tram/train/bus timetables (with some taxi numbers included).
posted by pompomtom at 2:57 PM on January 1, 2008

By an old palm/pocket pc/etc from eBay and download wikipedia on it (programs such as this can read the files). In terms of size/knowledge ratio this is going to beat everything!

You could even add other things like dictionaries, atlas, etc. You could probably get all the information you would ever need on this one device, thus eliminating the need to carry around comparatively bulky textbooks.
posted by oxford blue at 3:07 PM on January 1, 2008

The hardback pocket World's Classics series are good for this - I think they are 16mo/sextodecimo size, about 15-17cm high. You've probably seen them in second-hand bookshops - they have blue cloth covers, if there's no dustjacket. You can search for sextodecimo or 16mo as a key word on abebooks - here's what looks like a good copy of Barchester Towers. Although Trollope is usually lengthy, these editions have pretty thin paper (though not onion-skin).

You might also try I before E except after C, which looks like a good, and small, book to carry around and learn things from.
posted by paduasoy at 3:17 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Where There Is No Doctor"?
posted by sharkfu at 3:18 PM on January 1, 2008

Make Magazine puts out several pocket refs, including the Pocket Ref you already have. I can't vouch for them, but they look interesting.
posted by thinman at 4:12 PM on January 1, 2008

an iPhone.
posted by matty at 4:14 PM on January 1, 2008

Best answer: I'm working through the Intellectual Devotional this year and plan to carry it with me in my bag. (It's small, but not exactly pocket-sized.) There's also a version available on American History.
posted by at 4:25 PM on January 1, 2008

I just bought a mini World Almanac 2008 today at B&N. It's about 4 /8 inches and jampacked with 900 pages of maps, tables, and rates, stats and current events. History Science & Technology Health, Facts, U.S. cities, populations of nations, Sports etc. There are numerous ones all about $12.00 US.
posted by Student of Man at 4:37 PM on January 1, 2008

The Intellectual Devotional may be a good read too. I was considering purchasing it. Maybe next time. Seconded.
posted by Student of Man at 4:41 PM on January 1, 2008

Not to be nasty, but flipping through that Intellectual Devotional, it looks awful. And "Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class"? I can see it now...

"Say, Chaz, what do you think of this Code of Hammurabi all the fellows are talking about?"

"Innovative, but I dare say, he was no Philosopher King. Say! Have you heard of this Hemingway chap?"

"Macho! Rumaki?"

posted by thinman at 5:47 PM on January 1, 2008

not quite what you were asking for, but related: print out hardcopy of assorted useful phone numbers ranging from family and friends to cab numbers and info lines. don't forget to include your lawyer's number if you've got one. if you use some flyspeck font, you can fit a whole lot of information double-sided on something that's a quarter of an A sized letter sheet or smaller. laminate it or use fake stick-on lamination for more durability.

and while a phrase book would be overkill, you could also include another similar reference sheet with some important phrases in a half a dozen languages. like "do you need a doctor?" and "are you hurt?"
posted by rmd1023 at 6:14 PM on January 1, 2008

an internet enabled device of some sort
once you have one you will wonder how you ever did without it
posted by caddis at 6:37 PM on January 1, 2008

Response by poster: I do already have an iPhone loaded with tons of goodness.
posted by mrbill at 7:15 PM on January 1, 2008

There might be a lot of overlap between this and Pocket Ref (or other general reference books), perhaps enough to negate its usefulness to you.. but, I highly recommend the Running Press Cyclopedia. It's tiny, thick, and fairly light. If I needed to carry an all-in-one reference book, this is the one I'd opt for. The link is for the current edition, the third. I have the second edition, but I'm sure it's essentially the same. It's got all kinds of scientific information, world geography and information about all current countries, general statistics, basic historical dates from 'early man' to 1994 (might be later now), mathematical/scientific formulae, information on the arts, and detailed information/statistics on the U.S. It's extremely handy. I always use it to fill in foreign currencies in crossword puzzles!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:03 PM on January 1, 2008

Response by poster: Tangentially, here's an annotated picture of everything else I carry in the bag. Great answers so far; I'll wait another couple of days before highlighting the best ones.
posted by mrbill at 9:31 PM on January 1, 2008

I've had the Sequoia Pocket Reference earnestly endorsed by a friend of mine, but I can't personally comment on it.

Another thing I can't personally vouch for is installing a snapshot of the Wikipedia database on an ipod, but if it works, it could be the consummate (non-networked) reference tool, I would think.

(The Amazon Kindle purports to let you access Wikipedia for free as well, but it would be twice as much money for the device, and limited to coverage areas.)
posted by Hildago at 10:01 PM on January 1, 2008

oxford blue,

You said 'programs such as this', meaning TomeRaider. They use a proprietary format. Is there an alternative?
posted by lukemeister at 6:02 AM on January 2, 2008

Best answer: Emergency and Critical Care Pocket Guide. Also, seconding the Sequoia Pocket Reference.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:24 AM on January 2, 2008

Response by poster: FYI, The Sequoia Pocket Reference is the same "Pocket Ref" I mentioned in the question.
posted by mrbill at 10:36 AM on January 2, 2008

You might want to concider a Hipster PDA, which is a thin stack of index cards held together with a binder clip (or binder ring). You could print custom cards for yourself for reference and have them laminated.

There's a number of pocket dictionaries, atlases and manuals available - even minibooks. Without knowing more of what you're looking to bring with you, I can't recommend beyond that.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2008

Best answer: Oh! How about the Worse Case Senario Handbooks? Thin but wider than the Pocket Ref.

You might also like The Book of Questions and the Pocket Zen.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 3:02 PM on January 2, 2008

Response by poster: I've picked up Schott's Miscellany, the Old Farmer's Almanac, and the Intellectual Devotional so far, and put "I before E except after C" on my "upcoming books" list. Thanks, everyone.
posted by mrbill at 8:36 PM on January 8, 2008

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