The World Book
Joe Fullman and Rose Blake
This book arrived at a tantalising time when India, the country I most want to visit in the near future isn’t issuing tourist visas. So like most readers of this chunky book, for the time being, I’ll have to remain an armchair traveller and make a whistle-stop tour of the countries of the world (and some territories) finding out something about each one.
Having acknowledged in his introduction that the recognition of countries isn’t universally agreed, author Joe Fullman takes readers, one continent after another, starting with those in North America, to stop at 199 countries, plus Antarctica and the Overseas Territories.
Each country is allocated a double spread, single page, or occasionally, a half page whereon we have a key facts box showing the flag, a location map and 5 facts: capital, official language or languages, (surprisingly the USA doesn’t have one while Bolivia has 37), currency, population and area. There’s an introductory paragraph for each stop off and paragraphs of salient information and observations as well as a handful of Rose Blake’s stylised vignettes.
We read about culture, food – you get nigh on perfect hummus in Lebanon, and Germany has more than 300 varieties of bread,
natural wonders, festivals and celebrations and wildlife – India is one of the most biodiverse countries with animals including elephants, peacocks, flamingoes, king cobras, tigers, rhinos, sloth bears and snow leopards.
However, Fullman doesn’t hold back from mentioning civil wars or political tensions. Syria we read is sadly, ‘currently in the midst of a traumatic civil war which has resulted in many Syrians losing their lives or taking refuge in other countries.’
While of South Sudan, Fullman writes, ‘South Sudan is one of the world’s newest countries. It broke away to become independent from Sudan in 2011 following a war of independence. It then entered a period of civil war from which it has only recently emerged. The future looks more hopeful, as the people move towards peace.’ Apparently the popularity of wrestling is something that is helping bring the country together.
All in all, this volume, as well as being interesting in its own right, will perhaps prompt readers who have alighted in a country that particularly interests them, to widen their explorations. (Index and glossary are included.)