Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens

Probably not is, sadly, the short answer. "Arguably" is not so much a book as a collection of essays and articles written for the publications Hitchens is currently associated with, Slate, Vanity Fair and Atlantic.

This genre appears to be relatively common among high profile journalists and is one that Hitchens has entered before, with his book, "For the Sake of Argument" released in the '90s when he was still in pre-9/11 mode at The Nation magazine.

The first book that I read in this particular genre was, I believe, "Lend Me Your Ears", written by London Mayor Boris Johnson in the days when he was a clownish Tory MP/journalist.

The book was something of a disappointment, as I read it immediately after Johnson's previous book, "Friends, Voters, Countrymen." While the first book was entertaining, telling the story of how Johnson became an MP, the second was far less so.

The main problem with the book was the title appeared to follow on from the previous book, so generating the expectation that the book itself would follow on from its predecessor. Sadly there was no such narrative and disappointment was the result.

However it could be argued that if one is more aware of what one is getting into, essay collections can still be of interest.

An example of this could be "Monday Morning Blues", written by Hitchens' brother, Peter Hitchens.

I recently read this knowing full well beforehand that it was a collection of old articles (mostly from the mid to late '90s), rather than what you might call a proper book.

This I found to be far more interesting than the Johnson book, mainly because I knew what to expect this time and had no inflated expectations of it, but also because one could see some of the arguments of the day about everything from the Balkans conflicts, to the life and death of Princess Diana.

Which brings us back to Christopher Hitchens' new book and why, even if one knows it's merely a collection of essays, it might not be worth bothering to go down to the shop to get a copy.

The only reason that "Monday Morning Blues" was worth getting is that most or all of the articles are no longer available to read elsewhere, being written as they were by Peter Hitchens when he worked for the Daily Express (he now works at the Mail on Sunday).

By contrast some of the essays being talked about in Christopher Hitchens' new book include, "Why Women Aren't Funny" (Vanity Fair), "Iran's Waiting Game" (also Vanity Fair) and "Easter Charade" (Slate).

All of these articles are freely available on the web at present, as are, one suspects, most of the other essays in the book. Any die-hard Hitchens fans are almost certainly trawling the web for his material anyway, reading it, re-reading it and (hopefully) learning something useful from it.

Perhaps the one thing going for this book then is that it does at least bring much of his most recent work together in one place and would allow one to read it without the need for a PC or laptop.

As such it might be worth getting the book on Amazon Kindle (where Hitchens recently released an excellent essay on Osama bin Laden called "The Enemy"), so that one can read it on the train or bus. However the actual book itself may not be necessary.

Hitchens, as is well known, is suffering from oesophageal cancer and has been told he may not have much time left. One of the few "good points" of this (although one hesitates to call it that) is that it may have brought him a larger audience.

Being very well acquainted with the Orwell-prize winning writing of his conservative (but definitely not Tory) brother Peter, I have long been aware that there was an older U.S. based brother but very rarely took interest in him.

Upon hearing that this brother had been diagnosed with almost certainly terminal cancer it sparked my interest and I immediately began reading much of what the elder Hitchens had been writing over the last few years. Although perhaps not much of a silver lining, his cancer has at least gained him one very impressed reader.

Sometimes his writing is exaggerated, sometimes it's over-intellectualised, but much of it is excellent, especially when on the subject of confronting the "Axis of Evil" and its subsidiaries.

His texts and speeches on religion meanwhile are often interesting and clever, but nearly always seem based on the worst possible interpretations of religion and the religious. This occasionally leaves him condemning religious beliefs which are not actually held by many of the religious.

Having said that he is much more impressive in this field than the absurd fanatic Richard Dawkins and it is a shame on the New Atheist movement that it is the latter who is its main figurehead, rather than the more talented Hitchens.

So while I don't want to join the near-worship of the apparently dying Hitchens, in which a number of sympathetic interviewers have spoken in hushed tones of awe to their idol since his diagnosis, it would be wrong to deny that he is a very talented writer and speaker.

As such I don't want to finish by arguing that what could be his last book is not worth buying. Those who wish to show Hitchens what he might call solidarity during this difficult time by buying his books, might be well advised to look at some of his older titles.

"No One Left to Lie To", a short book about Bill Clinton might be worth your time and money, as might "Why Orwell Matters" and "The Trials of Henry Kissinger".

Luckily if "Arguably" is his last book (and hopefully it isn't) Hitchens will still have left us plenty of interesting stuff to choose from.