Book antirecommendation

Prisoners of Geography
Tim Marshall

Don’t bother.

It says it’s about ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics. It ends up being half a paragraph on a map – for Russia, the existence of the Northern European Plain – followed by 15 pages of lightly digested Economist editorials.

A useful test of a book is whether, having read it, you think you can have done it better. I’ll admit that it passes this for I couldn’t have done it better. Don’t have the stomach to read enough Economist editorials to collect the necessary number of third hand opinions to regurgitate.

8 thoughts on “Book antirecommendation”

  1. The number of people who have recommended it to me, though, beggars belief.

    I read it and, even though the fact that geography certainly has a very strong influence on strategy, economics, politics, culture, etc., it is worth a small 1,500 word column at best, not a book. Truisms don’t need books.

  2. Sounds like the sort of book that would have had an entry in the Book Review malarkey going on at ACT.

    And a review of The No Breakfast Fallacy is in the runners up category, incidentally.

    Anyway, took a look at the Marshall book on Amazon, and … was it written for fourteen year olds? The language and style seems, odd.

  3. Seems pretty easy to beat this one, the North European Plain is the Netherlands to Poland, nothing to do with Russia. Russia is in the East European Plain.

  4. Maybe it serves a purpose. Most people don’t have a clue about the geography of the world. So they don’t see countries in the context of where they are. Like they see Europe as being between the US & Russia/USSR. They can’t appreciate west & east join at the back & they’re almost within shouting distance.

  5. Origins by Lewis Dartnell is quite good, as an introduction. Geology shapes human history.
    Most of it will be achingly familiar but I thought it good enough to give a copy to my daughter (16).

  6. About 2000/2001 there was a book called Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton. The opening chapter was lifted straight out of Hakluyt’s Voyages with no attribution. I was so angry that I slung it away without reading any more.
    Milton is a journalist first and foremost, I guess. This cut and paste attitude seems to be their modus operandi.

  7. I recently bought 1177BC: The year Civilization collapsed. Loads of positive reviews, but it’s badly written and kind of repetitive. Definitely on my antirecommendation list.

  8. I’ve read this and don’t think it’s as bad as you suggest. The author certainly has a point that countries’ international relations are to a large extent driven by their geographical situation, although it is more relevant to some than others. It’s especially true of Russia.

    It’s also true that international relations would be very different if China and India shared a border across which large-scale military attacks could be carried out.

    It does, however, often become repetitive and waffly. There is a lack of structure within the chapters.

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