31st March 2000 at 01:00
Advanced Geography: Concepts and Cases. By Paul Guinnessand Garrett Nagle. Hodder amp; Stoughton. pound;19.99. With its 500 large and well-filled pages, this is a heavyweight contender in the small but competitive field of single-volume texts claiming to cover the entire A-level programme, whatever the syllabus selected.

Reversing the traditional sequence, six modules on human geography precede eight on physical topics - the latter, unusually, claim around 60 per cent of the space. Both authors have distinguished track records, and have tackled the challenge of planning a major comprehensive text in an interesting and unusual way.

The emphasis is overwhelmingly on the text, enabling them to provide a remarkably full treatment of key concepts and issues, drawing frequently on references and extracts from specialist journals, and leading students towards those areas where academic experts don't agree - which should surely be the distinctive feature of any A-level course. Thus, debates about the relationships between population growth and economic development, the real extentof fossil energy reserves and the nature of desertification are introduced, encouraging the reader to adopt - where appropriate - a guarded approach to the reliability of data.

References for further study are up to date and include websites. A good balance between the general and the specific is maintained by case studies drawn primarily from North America, Brazil, Japan and South Africa; the book is strikingly non-Eurocentric.

These extensive analyses are achieved by adopting a fairly ruthless attitude towards other traditional components of such texts. Panels of questions and study skills are allocated very little space. I applaud this, for teachers working at this level are quite capable of looking after these aspects. Similarly, pictures occupy less space than usual; they tend to be small, emblematic page-diversifiers - visual prompts rather than sources to be analysed.

An "in-depth overview" sounds a bit oxymoronic, but that is what the authors provide, in austere but accessible language; Advanced Geography deserves to do well.

Michael Storm

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