Saturday, 13 November 2010
What on Earth is Going On? by Tom Baird & Arthur House
Synopsis: The subtitle of this book is 'A Crash Course in Current Affairs', and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. It's divided into chapters arranged alphabetically, each of which is about a different current affairs issue (from topics such as politics, health, the economy, other nations etc). Each chapter is then divided into shorter sub-sections that give you a brief outline of the issue, assuming you have no prior knowledge of the subject whatsoever.
Score: 4 out of 5
I consider myself to be a relatively well-educated person and I both watch and read the news, but whilst reading this book I was amazed at how much I didn't know. I found the history of nations with conflicts particularly interesting, especially the chapters on Sri Lanka, Burma and Georgia. The chapters dealing with economics or finance were less interesting for me personally, but still informative. I would like to say I now fully understand hedge funds, but that would be a lie!
The best thing about this book is that it gave you lots of information at a beginners level and beyond without being at all patronising. The writing style was simple and straight-forward and the information chunked into short memorable sections. There is also the odd touch of humor to keep things light and away from the academic zone. There could always be arguments about what is kept in and what is omitted, but as an introduction or a refresher in current affairs, I don't think it could be beaten.
The major downfall is that this is the kind of book that will date extremely quickly. Already reading it in 2010 rather than when it was published in 2009 there was some out of date information: Gordon Brown is no longer Prime Minister, and the last UK coalition goverment wasn't in 1945 anymore! The whole book is written from a UK perspective, but I found there to be a good balance between domestic and foreign issues.
Overall, it was easy to read, informative and a good refresher course in what is going on in the world. Recommended.