Talking Points by Dr. Aamer Sarfraz is short and sweet; hitting just above the 100-page mark, it’s a collection of essays – of sorts – that discusses a myriad themes. From parenthood to feminism, from religion to its contemporary interpretations, from Pakistani politics to poetry. Each chapter spans ten or so pages, focusing on one theme. The chapters themselves are structured wonderfully. The author narrates them by interweaving personal experiences, character profiles of real people, engaging and simple-to-follow explanations of psychological research and its applications, as well as any required background history.
The title, Talking Points, is fitting. Each theme is presented in a conversational style; the author puts forth a topic, a psychological, philosophical or political phenomenon, or a personal anecdote before launching into discussion. He interweaves this casual conversation with informative and well-written research from psychology- covering the theories put forth by the likes of Bowlby, Harlow, Rogers and Maslow without ever overdoing the psychological jargon. He explains it in terms that everyday audiences can fully understand and appreciate. The sheer amicability of the language is the book’s biggest strength. It makes the reader feel as if he’s engaged in an intellectually stimulating conversation rather than sitting and listening to someone rattle off points relating to the topic at hand.
As for the discussions themselves, Dr. Aamer Sarfraz presents interesting insight into Pakistani politics and the current state of Islam. He applies psychological and philosophical concepts to real-life situations, such as why the current government in Pakistan operates the way it does – both on a party level and an individual level. He presents interesting, unorthodox discussions and interpretations of Islam; specifically regarding hijab and how it’s a societal concept rather than an Islamic one. I’d never seen the conversation presented from that lens, so it was both fascinating and illuminating.
My only gripe with the book was its overall structure. All the chapters were interconnected somehow; they all felt like they belonged into the book, but the way they were ordered made the book feel somewhat disjointed. For example, there are three or four chapters about women – from their role in Pakistani society, in religion, discussions about parenthood – yet they’re scattered throughout the book. If it were up to me, I would have structured it in a way that they were closer together so that the conversation flowed better. If the chapters were arranged so that those that were closely related were together, some transitions wouldn’t have seemed as jarring. Apart from this rather minor complaint, Talking Points is fascinating, informative and a welcome addition to my trove of books.