Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
The Politics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained

The Politics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained

Spring 2014 Non-Fiction
Ages: 13 & Up
Publisher: DK Publishing
ISBN: 978-146540214
Hardcover Price: $25.00

The British publishing house Dorling Kindersley (DK) has been pumping out "knowledge" books for decades. It creates encyclopedic references for children and adults that are highly condensed, abundantly illustrated and super simplified—publications along the lines of CliffNotes and the For-Dummies tutorials but taking on larger subjects.

This 354-page book is one of DK's latest series of adult-targeted "Big Ideas Simply Explained" publications, but it makes perfectly good sense for teenage students looking for a good briefing on politics and political philosophy, from Socrates and Confucius to Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi.

Hard to believe, but this all-you-wanted-to-know-about-political-thought book spans ancient and medieval times to yesterday-an indication of just how condensed it is. The introduction pages alone quote Aristotle, Alexander Pope, Karl Marx and Charles de Gaulle. Open any page and you find the thinking of Giuseppe Mazzini or Marcus Garvey or someone else who may or may not ring a bell. These glossy pages are deeper than you'd think.

From political thinkers to political stinkers, it covers history and global politics, starting with the book's first sentence: "If everyone could have everything they wanted whenever they wanted, there would be no such thing as politics."

The book contains some debatable interpretations (this is politics!), though always directly from the primary source, such as when it summarizes American political scientist Robert Pape's thesis that suicide terrorism isn't connected to fanatic religious fundamentalism. But most of its content is summary driven. So if you want to know what Frantz Fanon thought about colonialism and violence or what Ayn Rand thought about individual freedom, it's here—briefly explained.

You'll find everyone from Thomas Aquinas and Jeremy Bentham to Che Guevara and Martin Luther King. To its credit, the book sidesteps any Western bias by including global philosophical figures such as Sun Yat-Sen, Nelson Mandela, Abdul Ala Maududi and Shirin Ebadi, among others.

The pages are easy-to-read with helpful timelines, good graphics, interesting quotes, and some decent photos, all of which helps to set political thought over the ages into motion—even for younger political scientists.

Don Oldenburg   ©2014 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Share This