Handy guides hit the right note

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Access to Geography

Series editor Michael Hill

Rural Settlement and the Urban Impact on the Countryside by Michael Hill

Hazards by Malcolm Skinner

Globalisation by Paul Guinness

Hodder Arnold, pound;6.99 each

Three new handy A5-size paperbacks in the "Access to Geography" series confirm the impression that it has hit the right level and style for A-level students as well as lay readers. It offers a general introduction to key topics, case studies, summaries and exercises, and plentiful subheadings and bullet-points help easy navigation.

Michael Hill's Rural Settlement has an up-to-date even-handed approach to the impact of urban development, and to the position of minority groups in the countryside. It refers to ideas in Everson and FitzGerald's brilliant book Settlement Patterns, which set school geography on new paths in the 1960s.

Hazards offers 20 case-studies and plenty of material on earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and so on. Risk assessment, perception and management of hazards are also covered. A salutary commentary on modern living is when the definition of hazards is widened to include burglary, transmittable diseases and the potential effect of nuclear waste dumps.

Picturesque new vocabulary emerges in Globalisation, where "Global civil society", "Glocalisation" and "Globaloney" are identified and defined as relevant concepts. The book features the thinking and writing of geographer Peter Dicken and sociologist Malcolm Waters, but also includes sceptical viewpoints about the extent and desirability of the whole globalisation process. Revealing statistics and graphs include a vaguely calibrated but intriguing diagram of "the most globalised countries in the world", placing Ireland at the top, Spain at the bottom and Britain about halfway. Case studies of the origins of Wimbledon's tennis balls, McDonald's fast food restaurants and Walmart chart the influence of transnational corporations.

The references for further reading are well-selected, but some topics are not provided with links to other sources. Hill's book includes a list of websites, a feature which could have been included in the other two titles.

The series would also benefit from short biographies of the authors (to establish their credentials) and a list of other titles available in the space on the back cover.

Rex Walford is a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and formerly directed the geography PGCE course and was head of the department of education at the University of Cambridge

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