Democracy in America (abridged) by Alexis de Tocqueville Harper Perennial, HK$152 Often quoted, seldom read, Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is the basis of any discussion about democracy. This particular form of government developed in the US is being exported worldwide, with de Tocqueville being quoted in many arguments, generally without challenge. The author visited the US in 1831 and 1832, and spent the next nine years writing his acclaimed De la Democratie en Amerique. The first English translation ran to about 1,500 pages and even today the Penguin Classics 2003 edition is 935 pages. Scott Sandage, who wrote Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, took to heart de Tocqueville's observation of Americans: 'They like books which are easily got and quickly read.' His slimmed-down version, at 406 pages, has cut about 60 per cent of the bulk by condensing paragraphs, eliminating repetition and tightening sentences, all without spoiling the 19th-century tone. Sandage says his aim was for the 'shortest and clearest version possible'. The biggest cuts were 'the parts people skip', essentially chapters now deemed redundant or digressive. This abridged version is based on the Jacob-Peter Mayer 1966 edition translated by George Lawrence. Required reading before July 1.