The AHA (American Historical Association) Guide is among the most useful and prestigious reference works in the English language, and more specifically one of the modern historian/researcher's indispensable tools.
The AHA published the guide first in 1961, in response to the enormous growth of historical publications in America. A true collaborative effort, the project drew on the thousands of scholars in hundreds of fields affiliated with the AHA to produce a concise guide to the labyrinth of American and European historiography. Since then it has gone through regular updates and new editions, keeping it as up to date as possible. It remains at the elbow of many many scholars today, easing the bewildering process of preliminary research for anybody who wants to learn about a subject from scratch, be they of the historical persuasion or otherwise.
But what is the AHA guide exactly, and why does it warrant our attention, praise, and critically, our money?
An illustration is perhaps in order here...
Picture this horrendously cheesy example, you are applying for a job, have talked with the potential employer a number of times, and they are considering you among a number of applicants. In your interviews, you note that his office is littered with maps of the middle east, statues of knights, repro scimitars, and books on the crusades...This fellow is apparently quite the crusades buff. You want to bring it up, perhaps have a decent conversation, earn some points, etc, but alas...ignorance strikes...The only thing you know about the crusades is that the last one involved Harrison Ford...To the library then right?,
Of course, the library, but arriving at the section containing works on the crusades, you are steamrolled by two towering stacks, a hundred books or more, thousands and thousands of pages...Which one or two books are you going to read in the next week? Which are pearls, and which are but peas?
Fortunately, you remember that one day, while doing your civic duty to read new writeups, right before you clicked "downvote", a token writeup written like a choose you own adventure novel without the choices and bookmarks had recommended a course of action which proves to be your salvation...The AHA Guide.
So, you retreat to the Reference section of the library (the place where the dictionaries are) and track down that red bound two-volume low tech search engine. If you choose to use the contents page to track down the subject "crusades" you find a well laid out tree, organized by geographical region, time period, and subject. If you go to the index, you are stunned by the exquisite masterwork of indexing prowess that you behold. Either way, a minute or two in, you have found the "crusades" section, and a list of 3-10 books is tidily laid out with all the bibliographical information you need. These books were handpicked by vote and consensus among the members or the AHA as the most distinguished, peculiar, useful, or even outrageous works on the myriad of subjects listed in the guide. ie, these are the cream of the crop, special for whatever reason, of works on any given subject, as deemed by a council of working historians. Each entry contains, in addition to the bibliographical info., a short spiel on the contents of the work, and what makes it great, special, or a case study in historiographical blundering.
Armed with your picks from the list of the best, you return to the stacks, select your two or three, and return home with a degree of confidence that you have accurate
information, intelligent presentation, lucid analysis,
insightful interpretation, and quality prose.
Should you decide to talk shop with your prospective employer, or anybody else on the subject of the crusades, you are well equipped, and didn't have to read dozens of books to get a good basis in the subject, or a stable foundation for further research.
Or, if when creating a writeup on e2, a gentleman comes to the counter looking for works relevant to dialectics, the AHA is simply cracked open to the historiography/philosophy of history/history of philosophy section, and voila, another problem abolished by the mighty AHA
So there we have it, a fantastic execution of a wonderful idea, the AHA Guide to Historical Literature. Get it cheap on Amazon, use it at the local library, and if they don't have it, relentlessly mock and deride their institutional legitimacy until they have rectified the matter.
All the best wishes for fun and ease in your future scholarly ventures.