Reference books are usually encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, etc. They are intended to provide quick, reliable information, summaries of complex matters, and, very importantly, bibliographies--suggestions for futher reading.Some are in print; others online.
These reference materials are invariably written by experts in their fields, so they are more trustworthy than Wikipedia--all have gone through a process of editorial review. For an illustrated explanation, see the home page presentation, "What is a referred or scholarly article?"
EIU Country Reports
Economist Intelligence Unit economic and political analysis and statistics, worldwide.
Europa World Yearbook
Excellent source on individual nations, with statistics, political summaries, and economic information.
ISI Emerging Markets
News, company and industry reports, macroeconomic statistics and forecasts for 80 emerging market countries. 1995-.
World Development Indicators
Bank international development indicators, 1960-.
Countries and their cultures
Information on food, rituals, pastimes, arts, etc. of 200 nations.
Full text policy papers from think tanks, research institutes, and agencies.
The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world. Compiled by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.
The World Fact Book
Geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, transnational issues. Produced by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The Africana section in the Reference Collection runs from DT1 to DT791. It includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks, including
Peoples & cultures of Africa. T14.P46 2006
Encyclopedia of African peoples. DT15.E53 2000
Encyclopedia of African history. DT20.E53 2005
An African biographical dictionary. DT18.B76 2006
Africa on file. DT6.7.A34
Key events in African history: a reference guide. DT20.F35 2002
Encyclopedia of twentieth-century African history. DT29.E53 2003