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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: Factfulness by Hans Rosling (audiobook)

I recently looked up the quiz that begins this book and gave it to my step-mother, my brother, and his best friend. Granted, I'd already told them the premise of the book so they got more right than they would have. But what's crazy is how, even with knowing the premise, how many they still insisted on getting wrong. They probably knew the answers would be wrong when they chose them, but they did anyway.

Thanks to the 24/7 news cycles, the way our brains awfulize things, and assumptions, most people today think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and we're all wrong. The world really isn't as bad off as we all are told and believe. In this book, Mr. Rosling goes through and identifies, step by step, how inaccurate thinking processes, millennia of thought patterns designed to prepare for charging sabertooth tigers, the inaccurate data combine to make us all, on both sides of the aisle, think the world is a horrible place and getting more horrible every day. In fact, over the last century, we've made massive strides in everything from conservation to education to mortality rates, to poverty. The world is improving all the time.

Mr. Rosling was a consultant who regularly spoke to the UN, NGOs, ThinkTanks, and the like to explain where resources are and are not needed, and why it's a different list than what they had expected. He had an upward battle in every presentation and conversation, so he came armed with facts. While I listened to the audiobook, apparently a lot of these facts are presented as PopCharts which are easy to understand and visualize. That said, even without those, it was still fascinating, and did make me question a lot of assumptions. In fact, it's stuck with me for months. It's a great conversation starter and an important book for everyone to read, so we all can better understand what's really going on in the world, where we should focus our energy and efforts, and where we're throwing good money after bad.

This book is published by Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan, my employer. I bought the digital audiobook from Libro.fm. A portion of the proceeds go to Main Street Books in Davidson, NC, an independent bookstore.

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