Talk show hosts and lecture coordinators, book this author. He's a layman's best friend, a scholar who can explain an important but complicated issue briefly and clearly - and make it interesting.
From the arrival of Muhammad to the arrival of information technology, from the rise of fundamentalism to the rise of the Saud dynasty, from the discovery of oil in the birthplace of Islam to the discovery that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the American routing of the Taliban, from Arab unity under Nasser to Arab disunity over Saddam. Desert nomads and extravagant princes, veiled faces and unemployed clerics. Revolution and reaction, socialism and democracy, modernization and secularization. Politics, sociology, economics, history, culture, religion, philosophy, theology, psychology, genealogy, even sexuality.
Saudi Arabia, everything it affects, and vice versa. Colin Wells puts it all in context and makes it amazingly easy to understand.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Saudi Arabia is in four parts. Historical background, the Gulf War and its aftermath, Saudi society, and the terrorism issue. It includes an FAQ, a timeline, a bibliography, a glossary, and an index. Definitions, notes, and cross references abound. The book also benefits from lively prose and juicy humor. And the author shares his opinions and predictions liberally. Kudos to the book's designer for making it easy on the eyes.
In his letter to the reader, Wells promises, "...an easy, step by step approach that doesn't require any previous knowledge...too many commentators spend their time either condemning or defending without doing any explaining. You need an objective guide, one who has no axe to grind but who also keeps a tough-minded skepticism in play at all times..."
He keeps his promise. The book is comprehensive, concise, vivid, insightful, detailed, relevant, and accurate. The ultimate primer on this subject.