While in New York several years ago, I had the opportunity to take in a performance at the now defunct Wetlands. After the show, I was talking to the bass player from one of the bands and I happened to mention that I was living in Pittsburgh at the time. He looked at me rather perplexed and asked where that was. I was completely shocked and I wondered how it was possible that he did not recognize a major city located so close to his own. But now, as I think back on it, I am not so surprised anymore. As Americans we have developed a somewhat disturbingly isolationist, if not pompous attitude towards the rest of the world.

So, as I flipped through the pages of Ram Iyer’s new book, “Geography Bee Demystified” I was excited to evaluate my own knowledge of world as well as national geography. However, after testing myself on a few dozen questions I felt a strange sense of ambivalence. I was a bit disappointed in myself at first. I found that the questions in “Geography Bee,” although meant to prepare junior high and high school students, are hard. After my initial personal frustration though, I felt really good about this book. If middle and high school kids (including Iyer’s two boys) are able to answer questions like: “Name the high tech capital city of the Indian state of Karnatka that is located on the Precambrian Deccan plateau.” (The answer is Bangalore, by the way) Then perhaps there is more hope than previously thought in our precarious education system.

The questions within this book are rigorous and require a dedicated student to spend many hours preparing for stiff competition. Iyer’s personal experience with his sons’ forays in the Geography Bee will certainly pay off for anyone who studies from this book. Although, for obvious ethical reasons, none of the questions are directly from previous Geography Bee competitions, Ram Iyer knows enough about the competition to lay out a solid ground plan. Another nice feature about this book is the fact that it is not some antediluvian text with archaic facts and numbers. It focuses on recent events that are relevant and will continue to play an important role in our rapidly changing global landscape. For example: “In February 2007, a rebellion started in part of the Sahara desert that is home to some of the world’s largest uranium deposits. What is the name of the Berber ethnic group that is demanding a greater share of this mineral wealth?” (Tuaregs) At 242 pages of questions, Iyer’s book contains 10 sections focusing on the various continents of the world as well as one on current affairs and another on physical geography. There are dozens of questions within each section testing knowledge of rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.

If nothing else, one of “Geography Bee’s” most successful achievements is its organization. The questions are numbered, easy to study and the answers are in bold-face type and unmistakable. Perhaps the one thing lacking with the first edition of this book is an accompanying map. The only visual aid is the globe on the front and I dare say it would be better suited between its covers. Still, any serious student of geography will surely bolster their chances in the competition with this book and their trusty world atlas at their side. Visit www.booksurge.com to order a copy of: “Geography Bee Demystified”

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