978-0-9674536-0-6 / 0967453607

Understanding USA

by Wurman, Richard Saul




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About the book:

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Understanding USA is one of the most comprehensive reference books ever written. Every page is packed with clear, simple graphics designed to break down massive amounts of information into easily digestible bits--but while the text is certainly informative, it tends to be a bit superficial. Nearly any topic that relates to the U.S. in a broad scale is covered here: financial, social, and political statistics are presented in reasonably clear-cut chapters. As each chapter is color-coded in the top right corner, it's easy to flip to the section of interest. General subjects include war, crime, education, environmental issues, and federal income and expenses. Within each of those areas, you can dive into the numbers of pretty specific queries, such as "How many nuclear weapons have been detonated since 1945?" or "How solvent is the social security program?" The format for all these statistics is reminiscent of USA Today's front page--pretty colors, a large variation in the type of chart use, cute graphics, and an occasional photo of real people. It's easy to understand, and full of interesting--although not always useful--information. Certainly, an understanding of the electoral process is good to have. (And there's a great explanation in the second chapter, but does it matter much that "in 1997, over 8 million people reported difficulty in lifting and carrying"?). As a basic family reference book, or a sourcebook for trivia buffs, this is a fine choice, but you'll need a deeper level of information than this to achieve true understanding. --Jill Lightner

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