The World FactBook 2011, put out by the CIA, is a dream for any trivia lover. All countries are listed, arranged neatly in alphabetical order. Although the information has changed over time, this reflects how the world has experienced a shift in parameter and objective. For example, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics used to be one large country. As it broke up into smaller territories, the FactBook reflected that.
The 2011 version is the first time the data has been made available to the public. Keep in mind the CIA is a covert operations group whose work generally gets reported solely to those who need the knowledge, such as the U.S. Committee on Armed Services (in both the House and the Senate). This makes sense when one considers Congress must give the President authorization to initiate war. Checks and balances are essential for government to work, and something like the FactBook helps people to make certain decisions.
Along with the ability to quickly look up any information on any country, there are also several more helps included. For example, a list of definitions the FactBook commonly used will assist any reader in defining exactly what the authors intend. The list is quite lengthy, but well worth the read.
At the back are conversion charts and other mathematical concepts designed to help aid comprehension of data. Maps are used in showing things such as population, age statistics, or how far HIV is spread in a particular country.
Although quite long, the attention to detail is impressive. Just about any tidbit imaginable has been included for quick and easy reference. For obvious reasons, not every detail is put in. However, what might be left out is probably not necessary for the general public.
The FactBook is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the world he or she lives in. Trivia geeks are going to love it as well.
Article first published as Book Review: The CIA World FactBook 2011 by Central Intelligence Agency on Blogcritics.