rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 4: p. 367
Sources: Battleground: Government and Politics
Todd J. Wiebe

Research & Instruction Librarian, Van Wylen Library, Hope College, Holland, Michigan

This new addition to Greenwood's Battleground Series provides brief contemporary overviews and analysis of a wide range of contentious political and social issues, primarily as they pertain to the United States. In two volumes (630 pages), Battleground: Government and Politics includes a total of seventy-five entries along with a short appendix, selected bibliography, and index.

Entries appear alphabetically throughout the volumes, but to aid in identifying themes, the front matter contains a “Guide to Related Topics,” which groups issues together under broad category headings such as “Civil Rights,” “Economic Controversies,” “Health and Welfare,” and “National Security.” All of the ever-popular hot button issues such as “Abortion,” “Death Penalty,” “Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Unions,” and “Universal Health Care” are included, as are many other topics of current interest, like “Amending Power,” “Cyberterrorism,” “Living Wage,” and “Veteran's Rights and Needs.” Each entry begins with a general introductory paragraph or section (placing the issue in context, defining key terms, etc.) and then proceeds to address and explore related questions and sup-topics. Suggested books and websites for further reading are given for each entry. Appendixes 1 and 2 contain lists of pertinent court case citations and statute citations respectively, and the selected bibliography is organized into fourteen overarching themes seen throughout the work.

It should be noted that this book is clearly targeted at high school and lower-level undergraduates, or “the young adult reader,” as it is laid out in the introduction. The Battleground Series in general claims to provide readers with “balanced, in-depth tools to serve as a launching pad for obtaining a thorough understanding of all sides of those debates that continue to provoke, anger, challenge, and divide us all” (xv). The key phrase here would definitely be “launching pad” as the entries, at least in the book being reviewed here from the series, are quite concise (as opposed to in-depth), and any thorough understanding would have to be obtained through other means. That is not to say there is no value in such works. As an academic librarian who works with scores of first year students each semester in selecting and developing research paper topics, this type of reference book is often one of the first places I point to, being sure to emphasize the suggested further readings. The next step might be to look for a related and current volume from the Contemporary World Issues (ABC-Clio) or Opposing Viewpoints (Greenhaven Press) series to further explore an issue.

As previously mentioned, the entries here are brief, but for the intended audience and purpose, this is to be expected. It is the breadth of issues covered, along with currency, that make this reference work stand out. There are plenty of other, issue-specific, reference books (too many to list here), many with primary sources and more substantial appendixes, available to follow-up with, but this one would make a perfectly good starting point or topic-prompter.

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