A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
In a confusing universe, it’s reassuring to find that it isn’t only you who doesn’t grasp the intricacies – or even the basics – of the world’s problems. We probably all feel that at some instinctive level we understand most of the big issues, but the truth is – certainly as far as I’m concerned anyway – that we couldn’t even begin to explain the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims (and why it matters) or the US electoral system, or the Weapons of Mass Destruction controversy, or why the Palestinians are fighting each other or even why organic bananas are so much better for everyone, not just you.
In fact, I suspect that the number of people who could get any further in their explanation than “Err … well …” would be tiny.
Those are just some of the topics covered in this excellent and well-timed book by Lawrence Potter.
He unerringly picks out all the news topics that most confuse me – and I presume other people – and explains them as simply as possible. That isn’t to say that you don’t have to pay attention (and I frequently found myself re-reading a section to try and lodge it more firmly in my aging brain), but he manages to cut through the obscuring verbiage you so often find in newspapers to present just the facts. Each section has been checked by experts in that particular field to make sure that no factual errors have crept in and Mr Potter does an admirable job of keeping his own opinions to himself.
If that makes it all sound very worthy but dull, rest assured that it isn’t. It’s well written with a vein of wry humour which enlivens the important-but-potentially-tedious bits, holds your attention and keeps you reading to the end.
I now keep the book by my bedside, not only because it’s useful to remind yourself now and then of why, for instance – to pick a current “hot” topic – it’s important to get former Ba’th Party members back into the infrastructure of Iraq, but also because it’s a good “dipping into” book. The layout of the book is such that you can pick a section at your leisure without necessarily having read what went before.
Considering what a comparatively slim volume it is, the amount of information in it is amazing, and it’s just so pleasing to be able to listen to a news broadcast or read a paper and actually have a reasonably clear idea of what they’re talking about. In fact, smugness is in danger of setting in …
Oh … and Mr Potter also tackles the thorny question of whether George W Bush really IS stupid.
The answer may surprise you.
Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd. 2007. ISBN 978-0-7145-3137-3. 272pp.