The adage "Write what you know," may help remind you of how this can be done. If you follow that advice strictly you'll wind up writing something only about your own life and direct experiences, quite possibly never needing a reference book (unless you spend time examining the eras in which you lived and some of the people and motivations around you ;-). But there are books that you can write requiring no references.
I just don't have much of an interest in writing books of that sort. So my library of reference books is building. Yesterday two references were added. One was free (a catalog of medieval and Renaissance style clothing and accouterments by Museum Replicas) and will be nice as a visual touchstone with Hollow Hearts and Hollow Hills.
The other was a book (that will help me with Dreams in Red) from 1926 that I found in the 14th annual Antiquarian Book Fair in Cooperstown, NY. My father actually bought it for me, talking the price down from $225 to $200 (waaay out of my price range). The reference book was one I'd seen listed on many bibliographies (but few writers seem to have access to one), but couldn't find. Mine is not a first edition, but it's amazing! Even in the first paragraph (of one of four lengthy chapters that relate directly to my book) I found 3 specific facts I hadn't found anywhere else. And that is just the beginning :-).
This reference will change many aspects of my writing--and deepen the authenticity of it in amazing ways. I challenge you to think about the way great books can make your writing even greater--Is there a particular reference book or antique book you'd want to add to your reference library?
Excited by a new (hmm---old?) book to use as a resource,