Saturday 13 November 2010

What on Earth is Going On? by Tom Baird & Arthur House

My boyfriend and I are one of those sad couples that like to read aloud to each other.  We don't do it every day, and it takes us a long time to get through a book.  Therefore we have the following criteria when choosing a joint book:  topic has to interest us, the book has to be relatively short and chapters must be short enough to be read aloud in ten to fifteen minutes.  Previously we read Animal Farm (my pick) and enjoyed it, and this time he picked What on Earth is Going on?

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  Already reading it in 2010 rather than when it was published in 2009 there was some out of date information: Gordon Brown is no longer Prime Minister, and the last UK coalition goverment wasn't in 1945 anymore!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.


  1. I LOVE reading out loud to my boyfriend!

  2. That's such a sweet idea - reading to each other. A great way of spending time together!

    I'm definiately up for a challenging if you want to try one to read American Gods! :)

  3. Aw, that's sweet that you read to each other :) This sounds like a book everyone should read to feel like they're on top of the latest issues. Nice pick!

  4. I think that's super cute that you guys read aloud to one another! Bad Love and I used to do that, it was sweet :)

  5. @Teacher/Learner - I do feel on top of issues now! I can watch the news very smugly because I know the background to what is going on.

    @Katherine - I do enjoy reading aloud, it just takes a long time and after a long day at work can feel a bit like an effort!