The world is a complicated and changing place, with nations large and small cooperating and competing in trade, culture, and influence. Thankfully, a new guidebook places vital facts about every nation of the world at the fingertips of student and statesman alike. The World Today is a concise but comprehensive directory of the world's nations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. This hefty volume provides thumbnail sketches of world powers and developing nations. Each nation's entry begins with a small map and vital statistics, including capital, population, and gross national product. The entries go on to list a wealth of useful information, beginning with a short historical sketch, which generally concentrates on the country's 20th-century developments but does not ignore major events or leaders from antiquity.
Overviews of territory and population, social statistics, and a description ofthe government follow. Summaries of the nation's economy, defense structure,natural resources, trade, industry, communications, social institutions (such ascourts), and culture complete the entry. While it's hard to generate muchexcitement rattling off agricultural statistics, the historical summaries anddescriptions of political institutions prevent the book from reading like acollection of box scores. The book is also a gold mine for trivia buffs anddevotees of world history. If you're interested in the GNP of Denmark ($22,120per capita, with a population of 5.32 million), the miles of paved road inLebanon (6,265 km), the capital of the island nation of Palau (Koror), or theyear the Silla dynasty succeeded in uniting Korea into a single kingdom (668 AD),The World Today places the facts at your disposal. Of course, as a printedbook, the guide cannot reflect the most recent world events. (For example, itlists Nawaz Sharif as prime minister of Pakistan.) Still, changes will inevitablyoccur after such a book goes to press, and this does not detract from the book'simpressive scope and timeliness. Whether you're a student preparing a schoolreport, a journalist researching a new assignment, or a politician boning up fora pop quiz, The World Today can be your one source for complete and up-to-dateinformation.
Gregory Harris is a writer and editor living in Indianapolis.