I picked up this book, along with The Everything American Government Book, out of desperation. I had spent most of my life saying that I didn’t care about politics or the news except in the greater context and curation provided in history books. Then one day I woke up to realize that we’re living history and are here to take action or, at the very least, witness the ride. However, whenever I read a news article, I understood no more than 30%. I was missing the blueprint of how government and politics work (or are supposed to work) and the background of most current affairs.
I could’ve kept reading newspapers and magazines and hope to, by sheer repetition, construct the desired mental maps. But there’s gotta be a book that short cuts this, I thought, and amazon.com took me to What You Should Know About Politics… But Don’t. The title said it all for me. And the subtitle added more validity to it: A Nonpartisan Guide To The Issues That Matter.
Jessamyn Conrad does a very nice job identifying and describing some of the most important political and cultural topics of this decade. For each topic, Conrad provides background information about the issue at hand and the players that surround it, sometimes going back several decades. This background was essential in helping me weave a narrative (in my mind) and be better equipped to formulate a position.
The book touches on 13 topics in a little less than 400 pages. With approximately 30 pages per topic, the book is not at risk of being boring, especially because the topics are independent of each other.
As for the subtitle, Conrad limits her narrative to providing the main viewpoints around each topic, and the arguments presented by opposing parties. She doesn’t adjudicate the upper hand (ethical or logical) to any particular position. So, in my opinion, it checks the nonpartisan box.
The one thing missing perhaps is a complete update of the 13 topics, and perhaps the addition of new ones… things changed on January 20, 2017! This is the third edition, published in 2016, when Obama was still president.
In sum, if you’re looking to build or strengthen your blueprint of current American politics, read this book… and buy the fourth edition when it comes out.