Four book summaries

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

Instructions

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.

Discussion

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Average: 4 (2 votes)

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

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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.

Submitted by meknini on Sat, 16/07/2022 - 01:52

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Factfulness by the Roslings is one book that I am highly likely to get as it has piqued my attention as I believe many of what the professor has written actually hit me hard on the head. By learning from this esteemed professor I think many of my already pre-set belief could slowly transform hopefully turning most if not all the ideas and thoughts long embedded into softer and gentler realizations that ultimately make me a much more open person.

Submitted by alexiamontes2004 on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 02:51

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Would you like to read any of these books?

If the book of The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley because it speaks to us as the pessimism of people over time has been deceiving us because in reality the world is improving little by little and I would like to be able to see the world in a different way more optimistic as the book mentions.

Submitted by delgado1984 on Thu, 16/06/2022 - 23:43

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I disagree with these books. The reality should be analysed with facts and not be analysed with states of mind. When I hear someone saying that this is the truth and that is fake, that is the exact moment I start to ask questions and have doubts. Who knows the truth? You don't, nor I. I am aware that the way to see reality in a good way is an unconscious human behaviour to survive and refuse. Furthermore, the gap between poor and rich is going to be present in our future, it is a core factor of capitalism and capitalism rules the world. We have to rebuild our system because what we call society now is an unshaped mess.

Submitted by Sumi.M on Sun, 10/04/2022 - 11:35

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I’d like to read “The rational Optimist” and “Enlightenment Now”.
I agree that pessimism tend to be more prevalent than optimism.
I watch news every day and notice that many of them are described in a pessimistic fashion.
The content itself may be gloomy.
Do we like to see the negative side of social phenomenon?
I suppose it is easier to regard things in that way.
In “Enlightenment now”, the author says that our mind could be damaged irreversibly by the biased thought.
Our point of view tends to be unfair.
I believe we can have a non-prejudiced point of view, although it needs a great deal of effort.

Submitted by tuguu4 on Fri, 11/03/2022 - 09:08

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If I have to read one of them, I would read definitely 3rd one named 'The Rational Optimist'. Because the book's argument liked by me and this one has been very special summary.

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Mon, 25/10/2021 - 16:30

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I want to read all this book. This is exciting. I like to read such books. I agree with all content in in this book. Many development in the world takes place. But I think many more problems arises in this era. Recent Afganistan news is afraid me. There is lots of human casualties occurred. We should ensure that this situation is become normal soon.

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Submitted by Hennadii on Wed, 23/06/2021 - 17:37

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Definitely, I would like to read each of them. And not because they are positive but because I like reading a lot. As far back as I can remember I always read books. Different books if you ask. I like fiction and non-fiction, books about adventures in the future, and historical novels as well. And I prefer the positive ones. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing pink glass, but it's great to read something optimistic. And I like this kind of book that makes people thinking in general and thinking about the future and how to make it better the most. Not long ago I read the book "Machines, platforms, the crowd" about the huge impact on our life of the third digital revolution. And it was extremely interesting and optimistic. I've read lots of new information that I've never heard before and got some positive feelings about our future.
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Submitted by danisep on Sun, 18/04/2021 - 05:57

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Yes, some of those sounds really interesting and I completely agree that news sometimes sells fear or makes bad news even worst with the purpose of gain viewers, but the reality is completely different. I would like to read how the quality of life has changed through the time with Enlightenment now and see the numbers about how the developing countries are moving to betters well-being positions.