By Daniel Starer

Henry Holt x 1,239pp x $45

Why does a chicken cross the road? Well, you could start by asking the National Broiler Council or the Poultry Science Assn. If they can't help, you might want to try the Poultry Science Dept. of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Perdue Farms Inc. in Salisbury, Md., or the Meat & Poultry Inquiry Hotline of the Agriculture Dept. Poultry Digest or Meat and Poultry might know, and Egg Industry can address the related query that begins, "Which came first..."

That's just a sample of the sources to be found in Who Knows What: The Essential Business Resource Book, a 4-inch-thick behemoth that's a must for anybody seeking information about anything from business forms to dairy farms, with brief but comprehensive sojourns in the swine industry, the sign industry, and, inevitably, the funeral and mortuary industry.

For every subject, there's information about associations, periodicals, libraries, companies, and government offices, with capsule descriptions of each. There are phone numbers (voice and fax) and names: This book immortalizes more obscure trade-publication editors than I would care to shake a stick at. Did I say stick? (Forest Products Research Society, Creative Woodworking Co., Woodworker's Journal...)

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