Reference books and texts that are the most useful to a new student - particularly one studying English Literature?

There are so many course books to buy, there are so many reference options on the shelves. What texts will be truly useful and build a reference library to last a lifetime not just the college/university years? A short guide for parents and students.

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...e internet, then "Why buy reference books at all?" I will reply by saying that I have never met a student who has not been at the mercy of some sort of technical failure. Additionally the amount which can be learnt and understood by flicking through a reference text is lost when searching with a computer. The chance theory can appear by accident, textual connections can become clear when they are seen in print, and it's always quick and easy to open a book rather than booting the computer up when the deadline is in 10 minutes.

Buy the best dictionary you can afford. Bigger is better. A good dictionary will give far more information than just spelling. You will discover the age and usage of words as well as much general, encyclopedic referencing. A good, workable thesaurus which suits your pattern of thinking is also excellent for times when the brain goes blank.
No computer spell-check will be as ...