At my local library today, I was fortunate enough to find a copy of Lawrence Schick's Heroic Worlds (Prometheus Books, 1991), which strives to be a "history and guide to role playing games".
Despite being (now) 17 years out-of-date, this book is absolutely engrossing.
Not only does Mr. Schick attempt to list and briefly describe every RPG product known to man, but he also gives recommendations for the top games of various genres. The 250-system Game Index is impressive, but perhaps most enjoyable for me were the essays. Herein, we have Tom Moldvay pimping Lords of Creation, Erick Wujcik discussing good game design, Ken St. Andre talking about whatever the hell he felt like, and plenty more famous game designers holding forth on a wide variety of topics. The introductory history of gaming is enjoyable to read, as well. Included in the back is a timeline that charts major developments in RPGs--I think I may be tempted to cut this out of the book before returning it.
I'd like to do some articles this week covering the various facets of this book, which I find hugely entertaining (only occasionally due to the outdated assumptions made therein). So be sure to tune in for the rest of the week, as we take a snapshot look at gaming as it was seen in the year 1991. If you think about it, the outlook and business models for the hobby then were very much different--no Vampire, no d20 SRD, no MMORPGs to contend with, no pdf publishing, and no internet community.
If you want to see just how different the assumptions were back then, consider this quote from the book:
"Role-playing games are the games of our generation, just as Monopoly was for the last generation". --Greg Stafford
Yep. Anyhow, if you'd like excerpts from any of the product blurbs/reviews contained herein, let me know and I'll try to respond as I can.