This one was part of a two-book combo I chose to build a foundational knowledge of civics and of the current political environment in the U.S. For someone like me, who wasn’t born in the United States and often doesn’t go past the headlines when consuming news, I needed a book that required zero prior knowledge, other than the ability to read.

The Everything American Government Book did an excellent job for me. This is a useful introductory book. One can start without knowing anything and the book arms the reader with enough ammunition to start making sense of the news. While reading the chapter on the Federal Budget, I had flashbacks to last year’s headlines on the budget reconciliation process and tax reform. It all began making sense in retrospect. And finishing the book left me craving to subscribe to a bunch of magazines.

But I digress.

The book is of digestible length, about 250 pages long. It covers Federal, State, and Local government institutions and processes. It focuses mostly on the Federal level, but gives enough information about state and local government to equip the reader with a decent “news translator” when picking your local newspaper.

The author does a good job maintaining a simple language to describe the functions of government branches. He also includes historical context and highlights curious events or characters (it’s good to have Wikipedia handy to investigate further).

I dare say this should be a mandatory reading for every resident of the U.S., particularly in these bizarre political times and when surveys reveal that two thirds of Americans are unable to name the three branches of government!

Even if you feel confident about your knowledge base, reading a couple of chapters could help solidify some concepts. It’s like being an engineer and watching Sal Khan explain why a negative times a negative is a positive. It makes you feel smarter.