Swiss Watching, by Diccon Bewes.
I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first discovered it at Amazon.com, and I was not disappointed. I know very little about Switzerland, beyond the obvious -- watch makers, precision timing and punctuality, great skiing, even better chocolates, and Heidi, how could we forget Heidi. This book gave me just the introduction to Swiss history and culture that I wanted, without boring the pants off of me with a long recitation of history. To be sure there was a chapter on the history of Switzerland, but it was short and to the point, and very much added to the story being told rather than detracting from it. Separate chapters focused on such things as the mentality of the Swiss, the history of the country, its politics, its views of finances, etc. Each chapter was fascinating in its own right, and managed to draw me in again and again, leaving me shaking my head in amazement and sometimes leaving me laughing. Who knew that the Swiss have an island mentality? Or that in some cantons they still vote by showing up in the town square on the appointed day and time and raising a hand or a sword to indicate a yea vote, which are counted by hand? Or that any law passed by the government, be it at the canton level or the national level, can be subjected to popular referendum and booted out if enough people dislike it? Or that large numbers of people have been born, raised, and died in Switzerland without ever having the benefit of being Swiss citizens, because of Switzerland's strict citizenship laws?
Although a bit slow-moving at times, simply because of the subject matter being a bit denser than your average novel, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about Switzerland. 5.0