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Tuesday, 30 July 2013 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

The Doctor Who Book Guide
Written by Chris Stone
Published by Long Scarf Publications
Published July 2013
Over the course of the last few decades I've amassed a large clutter collection of books relating to Doctor Who, and whilst many of the reference books of recent times are available to hand on a nearby bookshelf, the multitudes of fiction novels and redundant non-fiction volumes are lurking in boxes up in the loft, piled precariously on bookcases upstairs, or strewn haphazardly in columns in premium floorspace. However, the bigger question isn't on where they are but, more importantly, what have I actually got?!!

In one of my rational moments I did create a spreadsheet so that I know which book is in which box (though not necessarily where the box is in the loft, oops), but that only tells me what's actually there - the "known knowns" to coin a phrase - it doesn't indicate what I might be missing and still need to track down (the "unknown unknowns"). However, this predicament may have a solution in the form of The Doctor Who Book Guide, a book compiled by Chris Stone that aims to list every publication relating to the Doctor's travels in time, space, and bookshops.

The book is split into several sections, covering fiction and non-fiction publications, which are again split into their 'series' where applicable. For fiction, annuals and graphic novels are also included as well as the novels, as are fan publications. Similarly, non-fiction sections include the gamut of reference works, but also items such as Doctor Who Discovers, plus a summary of other factual books organised by publisher. Books that are related to spin-offs like Torchwood are also included in their own section.

Whether this book would be of use to you really depends on whether you are looking for an in-depth reference work delving into the history of Doctor Who literature, or if you are looking for a tome that you can use to keep track of your own collection. This book falls firmly into the latter category, as the author states in his opening paragraph: "This book is designed as a checklist for any Doctor Who Book collector.". So, if you were looking for a detailed history of Target books, for example, then you'd turn to The Target Book from Telos - what The Book Guide provides is a list of each publication of those novelisations. Taking the first entry as an example, The Abominable Snowmen details nine British 'incarnations' from the 1974 first edition from Universal/Tandem through to the 2011 reprint by BBC Books, noting things like which have a Chris Achilleos or an Andrew Skilleter cover - the overseas versions of the novelisation are also included in their own section. In my case, I've collected three such editions, my original 1978 edition which is well-read and well-thumbed from my youth, a copy of L’Abominable Homme de Neiges, and then a 'pristine' first edition I picked up much later. However, it's clear that if I were to pursue all of my 'known unknowns' then my existing storage facilities would be very hard-pressed very quickly!

Though I found the listings to be quite exhaustive and, as mentioned, a way to check off which editions I already have (the book does have a handy checkbox column for those who don't mind "desecrating" a book in that way!), its large format means that it falls into an "keep on the shelf" type book rather than a "take out on the field" type, which I actually think is the more useful function in the proactive pursuit of filling those holes in the collection. There are often times when I'll go into a second-hand bookshop and there'll be a pile of Doctor Who novels staring at me from the shelf, but I don't know exactly what I've got; having this to hand would be a godsend in those cases but it would be a bit impractical to carry the physical A4 book about - for that, I think a smaller 'Rough Guide' type size would perhaps be more useful. Actually, this sort of book begs to be turned into a mobile app which would make the task even easier - something for the author to consider for the next edition, perhaps!

In summary, this isn't an in-depth reference work on the history of Doctor Who books, so might not meet everyone's needs, but if you want as comprehensive a list of book releases as you can get (up to May 2013) then this book more than adequately provides that - and name a fan who doesn't like lists! However, I personally would have liked a format that could be used more 'pro-actively' (on-the-hunt) rather than 'passively' (checking off what you've got).

The Doctor Who Book Guide is available to purchase through E-Bay.