In his latest nonfiction guide, Lim (Reinventing Government, 2010) tenders a sprightly tour of items he thinks ought to be packed in your intellectual arsenal.
Some basic knowledge, Lim suggests, can help build your foundation as an informed citizen. Certain bedrock features in the political–cultural landscape and important moments in America’s national history are good to know so readers don’t end up sounding like a congressman who says he’s quoting from the Constitution when he’s reciting lines from the Declaration of Independence. Lim’s technique cogently—and without condescension—explains the fundamentals: the marketplace, debt service, risk, spread sheets, credit card use, insurance and mortgages. This brief overview provides just enough material so readers can start asking sensible questions to plug in the gaps. Lim does, however, dive a bit deeper to employ critical thinking; after all, “No discussion of epistemology would be complete without a discussion of the dangers of generalization, extrapolation, and analogy,” he writes. Often the advice is avuncular: think smart, use the good silver, buy the cheapest car and the best house you can afford. Lim also includes several top-10 lists for classical music and literature (no women made that list, but Peter Høeg did, “notable because of the coherence of the overall artistic vision”). His roster of essential political philosophers excludes Hume, Paine and several others; readers may take pleasure in bickering with the author about who’s essential and who’s not. The last few pages consider a number of “improvements” in the regulatory policy of the Reagan era, the “entitlement” of Social Security and Medicare, hierarchy in the business place and dress codes. A serviceable manual that may fill the gaps in readers’ knowledge.