Talking Points by Dr Aamer Sarfraz is short and sweet, hitting just above the 100-page mark. It is a collection of essays – of sorts – that discusses a myriad of themes. From motherhood to feminism, from religion to its contemporary interpretations, and from Pakistani politics to poetry; each chapter spans 10 or so pages, focusing on one theme but has various angles. The chapters themselves are structured wonderfully well. 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 befitting. 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 further 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 beautifully without ever overdoing the psychological jargon. He explains it in terms that everyday readers 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 is engaged in an intellectually stimulating conversation rather than sitting and listening to someone rattle off points relating to said topic at hand.As for the discussions themselves, Dr Sarfraz presents interesting insight into Pakistani politics and the current state of Islam and why both are hard to swallow for the world at large. 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. “A standard ploy of all governments is to keep the public alarmed or occupied with one or the other trivial issue. They also conjure up fantasies, which appear like oases in the desert, and people flock to them because their lives are harsh and distressing.” – ‘Mind Games’Dr Sarfraz rather modestly considers himself to be a composer of ideas and writings scattered around the world. I, however, believe that he has a unique writing style as no one else to my knowledge writes the way he does in Pakistan. He seems to make it compulsory for himself that the reader always takes away something from his write-up. His articles pack more than a proverbial punch; often containing almost too much knowledge and new learning for readers’ consumption. He can often be funny and satirical either himself or brings in quotes from others to push his line of argument. “The federal government also decided to deploy the special weapon called ‘civil servant’ – the problem is that it does not work, and it cannot be fired!” – Tipple-edged Humour“They have a tendency to make and believe in their own publicity, often feeling as if they have a direct line to the heaven.” – Messiah ComplexDr Sarfraz presents interesting, unorthodox discussions and rational interpretations of Islam; specifically regarding hijab and how it is 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. No wonder it is one of the most read articles ever published in the Friday Times. Some quotes from Idea of the Hijab:“Hijab was a Persian practice and Muslims were introduced to it during the expansion of their rule into modern-day Iraq in the 7th century.”“Only the wives of the Prophet were asked to converse from behind a curtain and draw a jilbab (Cloak) over them, to distinguish themselves, when going out. During Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime no other women in the Muslim community observed the hijab and the term for donning the veil, darabat al-hijab, was actually used interchangeably with ‘becoming Muhammad’s wife’.”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 semi-disjointed to me. For example, there are three or four chapters about women – from their role in Pakistani society, in religion, discussions about motherhood – 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 as a theme so that the conversation flowed more fluidly. If the chapters were put together so that those that closely related any others 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 arsenal of books.