Book Review: Book of isms

This book is different, and it will get a different book review from me.  I have not read it, but I have scanned it.

This book aims to give extended yet compact explanations of the definitions of words that end in -isms.  It does so with varying success.

Here is my thesis: the more you care about a given ism, the less you will like the explanations in the book.  The entries are long compared to a dictionary, but short compared to an encyclopedia.  Personally, I found entries in areas that I have detailed knowledge of to be too short, and in some cases inaccurate.  This applies to many of the entries on Christianity, and some on economics.

Aside from that I found that it was less than consistent to add in isms that were not belief structures.  In that were a variety of diseases, and words like prisms and schisms.  Also there were behaviors, like Bushisms and Spoonerisms. I would have stuck to belief structures, and expanded them.  A brief volume focused on comparative religion and philosophy would have been more valuable.

Then there are the accidents of spelling: Cataclysms and Paroxysms.  Why don’t they get into the book, if prisms and schisms can get in?

I did not find this to be a book that one can sit down and read.  It is worthy for reference to understand the basics of an ism.

If you want to buy the book, you can buy it here:  The Economist Book of isms: From Abolitionism to Zoroastrianism

Who would benefit from this book

This book impresses me as a good book to give to someone that you’re not sure what he would like.  Even new, the book is modestly priced, interesting, and doesn’t poke anyone in the eye, at least too hard.  The book is small at ~240 pages, and 4X6″.  It would make an excellent small gift for those for which you have no idea what to get.

Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy, but I did not ask for it.

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