Review: Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

prisoners of geography.jpgThe Premise: Tim Marshall is former diplomatic editor at Sky News. Aside from this probably meaning that he has at some point suffered the misfortune of having to talk to Eamon Holmes, it also means he knows everything. Subtitled Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics, Prisoners of Geography goes through ten areas of the planet and gives an incredible amount of information in a short space of time, all of which will make you a fascinating conversationalist and probable pub quiz champion.

Happy Bookworm: Marshall takes the reader on a world tour, spanning from Africa to the USA, Japan to the Arctic, explaining the ways in which a nation’s geography determines its politics. This is geopolitics, and I am now obsessed with it. I learned so much from reading this book. For example, I now understand that a system of connected rivers is essential to building a successful economy and that the whole of human history has been dictated by a bunch of dudes drawing straight lines across maps a couple of hundred years ago. I was particularly struck by the fact that global political dealings are entirely predicated on the fact that all countries are completely paranoid about someone else trying to steal their stuff.
I now actually know what the Louisiana Purchase was and have an understanding of the conflict between India and Pakistan, previously only encountered in the very boring Salman Rushdie book, Shalimar the Clown. I can now also talk convincingly about why Russia is a quite scary country. Marshall guides us through all this information with the occasional smirk and some personal anecdotes and predictions, and his tone is authoritative without lecturing.

Sad Bookworm: Prisoners of Geography is too short (only about 260 pages). Why are so many terrible books so long when a complete gem like this is over far too soon? Additionally, I am now very scared of North and South Korea ever falling out with each other again. There is also a very brief mention of the UK’s vote to leave the EU and consequently I had to have a little cry while reading.

In Conclusion: I was contemplating purchasing a copy of this for my husband but now probably won’t bother as I kept regaling him with the fascinating facts I gleaned from reading it myself. It’s a brilliantly written book and the subject matter is completely compelling; it draws together a little of what you know already with a whole lot of information that you didn’t know/used to know but forgot due to having to learn the words to Gangsta’s Paradise or something equally academic. I fully intend to use the knowledge I have gained from Prisoners of Geography to educate/annoy/argue with anyone unfortunate enough to speak to me. You have been warned.

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