Four book summaries

Four book summaries

Read a series of short book summaries to practise and improve your reading skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.


Reading text

Four positive books about the world

Factfulness – Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

In Factfulness, Professor Hans Rosling, along with two collaborators, asks simple questions about the world. Questions like 'How many girls finish school?' and 'What percentage of the world's population is poor?' It turns out the majority of us get the answers to these questions completely wrong. Why does this happen? Factfulness sets out to explain why, showing that there are several instincts humans have that distort our perspective.

For example, most people divide the world into US and THEM. In addition, we often believe that things are getting worse. And we are consuming large amounts of media that use a sales model based on making us afraid.

But according to the authors, the world isn't as bad as we think. Yes, there are real concerns. But we should adopt a mindset of factfulness – only carrying opinions that are supported by strong facts. This book is not concerned with the underlying reasons for poverty or progress, or what should be done about these issues. It focuses on our instinctive biases, offering practical advice to help us see the good as well as the bad in the world.


Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker

Are things getting worse every day? Is progress an impossible goal? In Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker looks at the big picture of human progress and finds good news. We are living longer, healthier, freer and happier lives.

Pinker asks us to stop paying so much attention to negative headlines and news that declares the end of the world. Instead, he shows us some carefully selected data. In 75 surprising graphs, we see that safety, peace, knowledge and health are getting better all over the world. When the evidence does not support his argument, however, he dismisses it. Economic inequality, he claims, is not really a problem, because it is not actually that important for human well-being. One cannot help wondering how many people actually living in poverty would agree.

The real problem, Pinker argues, is that the Enlightenment values of reason and science are under attack. When commentators and demagogues appeal to people's tribalism, fatalism and distrust, then we are in danger of causing irreparable damage to important institutions like democracy and world co-operation.  


The Rational Optimist – Matt Ridley

For more than two hundred years the pessimists have been winning the public debate. They tell us that things are getting worse. But in fact, life is getting better. Income, food availability and lifespan are rising; disease, violence and child mortality are falling. These trends are happening all around the world. Africa is slowly coming out of poverty, just as Asia did before. The internet, mobile phones and worldwide trade are making the lives of millions of people much better.

Best-selling author Matt Ridley doesn't only explain how things are getting better; he gives us reasons why as well. He shows us how human culture evolves in a positive direction thanks to the exchange of ideas and specialisation. This bold book looks at the entirety of human history – from the Stone Age to the 21st century – and changes the notion that it's all going downhill. The glass really is half-full.


The Great Surge – Steven Radelet

The majority of people believe that developing countries are in a terrible situation: suffering from incredible poverty, governed by dictators and with little hope for any meaningful change. But, surprisingly, this is far from the truth. The reality is that a great transformation is occurring. Over the past 20 years, more than 700 million people have increased their income and come out of poverty. Additionally, six million fewer children die every year from disease, millions more girls are in school and millions of people have access to clean water.

This is happening across developing countries around the world. The end of the Cold War, the development of new technologies and brave new leadership have helped to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people in poor countries.

The Great Surge describes how all of this is happening and, more importantly, it shows us how we can accelerate the process.


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Submitted by COUTCHER on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 02:21


I will share my point of view with this proverb: "The more, the merrier." While this proverb may hold true for celebrations or feasts, it is a completely different issue when it comes to human growth. In fact, as the population grows, injustice and inequality grow as well. Can we imagine that, as the most intelligent species on Earth, we have successfully created impressive innovative technologies, yet we have not solved the problem of malnutrition? Worse than that, one-third of the food we produce ends up uneaten, while millions of people are starving. Why, after all these centuries, are we still unable to grow psychologically in a way that ends human suffering through wars, crime, and all the rest? As individuals, we experience all kinds of suffering inwardly: sorrow, anxiety, sad moments, and joyful times apart from the pressure from the outside. Why not see oneself as the rest of the world?

It is important to talk about facts, but if, at the end of the day, all we gather as facts is the increasing number of children dying in Somalia from malnutrition, that is a shame for the clever people we claim to be. In my opinion, true distortion occurs inwardly when we live according to our thoughts rather than our consciousness. Progress stems from thoughts, but consciousness must direct our relationships with one another.

Reading broadens our horizon while giving us a different prospective , therefore i would like to read those books .

Submitted by Juaner on Sat, 18/05/2024 - 13:07


Tbh I really would like to learn the last one the Grat surge, because It would be interesting to have this idea of what's going on in developing countries and how the world is changing over the time and how the life of the persons is improving little by little

Submitted by oisoueuatina on Wed, 28/02/2024 - 15:54


No, it's actually not the type of book I like to read, but I would watch a documentary of them. 

Submitted by jmajo on Thu, 30/11/2023 - 14:55


Yes, I would like to read the book “The rational optimist” by Matt Ridley because it sounds more Interesting than the others due to the historical descriptions of his arguments and the coverage of the entirety of human history.

Thanks for the lesson.
Great site!

Submitted by Vitaliy128 on Tue, 31/10/2023 - 10:15


I don't even know if I would like to read any of these books because it's not my cup of tea. However, I strongly agree that the quality of life has become a lot better than it was before. And I think that it's not necessary to provide my speech with any examples as a reason that it's quite obvious.

Submitted by betelf on Wed, 25/10/2023 - 17:56


I'd like to read 'Enlightenment Now,' but I'm also skeptical about all of these books. The idea of getting manipulated seems more plausible, and I agree with the book that science is really important and cannot be changed.

Submitted by chpsueey on Thu, 05/10/2023 - 15:18


This reading task really evoked some long forgotten positive emotions in me. I indeed feel pessimistic and dreadful when I open my smartphone and read the latest headlines in my newsapp – and that almost every morning. And with time you even become numb and stop questioning yourself, so that you really start to believe that every politician is corrupt and that there are no good people in positions of power. But you should always try to defend your values and go out there and show what you think is right and wrong. It's not a good idea to wait for people to stand up. Because maybe there are people who wait for you to come up.

Submitted by İhsan Furkan on Thu, 16/03/2023 - 08:33


I would like to read "Enlightenment Now" because the ideas of the book are very impressive and from time to time I am thinking some of these ideas like if one day people don't listen what science says anymore, what would be happen? The author presents his ideas with graphs and datas and I like to talk with the solid realities.

Submitted by Cemill on Thu, 16/03/2023 - 07:20


Indeed, with the advancement of technology, a great transformation is taking place. People are getting rid of poverty while increasing their income more easily. Diseases can be prevented faster. For example, if COVID 19 had appeared in earlier centuries, more people would probably have died. Education is made more effective thanks to the internet and computers. Therefore, human beings live in a better world today compared to yesterday.

Submitted by bambamchabo26 on Mon, 09/01/2023 - 15:29


If we compare today and old times as life quality, it's a given to say that today is best of all times in history. To give an example, slavery abolished already, people have better income than before,diseases are seen rarely. We have both a lot of evidences and concrete data for it.