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4.6 out of 5 stars21
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 17 April 2012
Bought this after reading a review in the Sunday papers. It has lived up to the promise. Each chapter addresses a different issue in a direct, simple and informative way. Just dip in as and when you like and be both entertained and informed.
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on 12 May 2012
This is a quiet bombshell of a book. From its pastel cover and serviceable title we are misdirected into expecting another Brysoneque tour of the nation replete with sketches of village cricket greens and extravagant hats at Ascot. (Sigh). Yet behind Mark Easton's calm, non-judgmental and no-nonsense A to Z tour of current Britain (A is for Alcohol; B is for Bobbie) is a more factual and edgier narrative. His reporter's instinct for a story runs to the counter-intuitive leading to a series of fascinating revelations: alcohol's connection to violence is due to societal conditioning; families are happier now than any time in the last 50 years; there has been no knife crime epidemic; and, my favourite, the mighty dachshund is the most vicious dog of all, the pit bull way down the charts. Easton charts eloquently how public hysteria (often fuelled by the media) forces politicians to act, whether the hysteria is justified or not. To not act immediately, to counsel caution, is to risk your political hide. As a BBC reporter covering the false media circus of alleged crises in knife crime or vicious dogs or the Soham murders Easton has no doubt been forced to go with the news flow. So here is a strong sense of putting the record straight. His best chapter is Y is for Youth, an eloquent, almost incandescent look at how the country has failed its youth. E is for Edgier?
Easton sets out his wares like a street vendor and leaves his reader to judge and value these 26 items on display. Is it a weakness of the book that there is no arc to the story, no attempt to summarise, suggest, or sermonise? At first I thought, yes, but on further reflection I find that it is better as is. After delving expertly into the worlds of media hysteria, spin, false confessions, defensive PR manoeuvres, etc. the contract Easton is making with his reader is more direct and honest. R is for Refreshing.
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on 16 May 2012
I can't improve on, disagree with or add much to JMAnderson's excellent review (12 May 2012), so I'll just make a couple of extra points. Mark Easton seems to have researched his book exhaustively, throwing in a comparison with Finland here or evidence from some obscure 1957 report there to support an argument, without ever getting bogged down in a welter of facts or figures. His writing is consistently crisp and drily witty, and I'll excuse the occasional painful pun that he seems not to have been able to resist. He also makes judicious use of illuminating quotes from the speeches or writings of other observers of the national scene or experts in the relevant fields. I came away from Britain etc. with a new and better informed outlook on several key aspects of modern British life and armed with some delightful anecdotes that I plan to sprinkle into my conversation wherever possible. I'm tempted to organise a dinner party just so I can show off.
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on 20 May 2012
A wonderful piece of insightful literature, delving into Britain's eccentricities, obsessions and foibles. Like any good book, it's something I will keep to hand and dip into whenever I feel the need.
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on 27 January 2013
This is a thoroughly engaging book and a great read. Whilst I don't necessarily agree with every detail (it is written by a journalist after all!) it is none the worse for that. My hope is that Mark Easton will put pen to paper more as his style is very accessible. Buy it, you will not be disappointed.
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on 5 May 2012
An informative and entertaining book that approaches familiar subjects in an unusual but intelligent manner. It makes you see topics in a new light - would recommend to all those interested in current affairs.
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on 25 October 2013
I enjoyed this book. Twenty-six subjects (one for each letter of the alphabet) arranged in twenty-six chapters.

Mark Easton looks at some very interesting subjects from alcohol, drugs, immigration, knives and youth. Each subject is discussed in terms of the current "British" situation, and then looked at from the view point of history. Explanations for certain current situations (such as the way teenagers are viewed by the older generation, or why the British swear more than some other cultures) are provided and explored. The only thing that I didn't like was when he talked about the role of the press in some chapters. I know he is a press correspondent, but while he covers the damage the press have done (and continue to do) to society, there doesn't seem to be any remorse there. Perhaps it is unfair to tar all journalists with the same brush though.

It is a very easy read, but well cited and sourced, and the range of topics covered should ensure there is something for everyone.

I know some others have mentioned a dislike for the political references, but I found them necessary. I also didn't find them biased in any way. I didn't know his political affiliation before, and still don't!
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on 8 July 2013
As a student of sociology this book caught my eye, I enjoy reading about Britain and this gave me a fantastic insight into the histories of the features of the UK that we see every day without thought. I definitely recommend this book!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 January 2016
Easton takes each letter of the alphabet as a chapter and gives an account on the corresponding subject matter. So for instance T is for Toilets.

Covers matters such as drunkeness in the UK and how Brits act is more cultural conditioning; Brits get drunk and display anti-social behaviour, yet in other countries they drink just as much without the nonsense and remain quite calm.

Quite a variety of subjects covered, from immigration to silly hats to our obsession with the weather.

If you like dry humour and info in small nuggets which means you can dip in / out of this book, then you will enjoy this book.

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on 28 December 2013
I bought this book on my kindle as I was looking for something light. Like other reviews, I though it would be a Bryson-esque book, with humorous stories about how eccentric British people are. However, I was pleasantly surprised to be find that this book, delivers details that challenge comfortable thinking. I would recommend this book for anyone involved in public policy as it shows that rushing to respond and deliver results, usually achieves the opposite effect. I thought I was reasonably informed about today's Britain but Easton's essays showed how shallow some of the foundations of my knowledge were. I would highly recommend this book.
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