VOYA - Susan H. LevineThese attractive books begin with a map, country facts, and a short time line of major historical events and then get right to the business of describing the country's topography and climate, culture, religion, history, economy and resources, and current events (through mid-2005 or early 2006). The emphasis is on current happenings and the effects that the above topics have had or continue to have on the countries. If there is any research topic that benefits greatly from combining written information with Web sites that keep updating that information, the Middle East is certainly that topic. The links are varied and reputable and include the BBC, CNN, the U.S. State Department, the CIA's World Factbook, Perry-Castaneda Library, and sites specific to the subject country and people. Each book provides password, instructions, and Web site descriptions for easy accessibility. In Lebanon in the News, Aretha briefly describes the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, the resulting pressure to oust Syrian soldiers, the rise of Hezbollah, the devastation of the fifteen-year civil war, and the great diversity of land and people in the tiny country. The obvious lack of information about the war between Hezbollah and Israel this past summer makes using the Web sites essential. The series, which also includes books on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine, provides a well-designed introduction to the Middle East and promotes greater understanding of the area. There are a few passages that include minor mistakes or questionable statements. In the Lebanon book, the sentence "All marriages . . . must take place in a church" seemsunlikely. A fact, backed up by a resource in the Iraq title, says that about 2,500 Jews live in Iraq. Other sources indicate, however, that one hundred or fewer Jews live in Iraq. A description of Lake Van in the book on Turkey says it is a bit less than 1.5 square miles. In reality, it is just under 1,500 square miles.
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