Book Review- Factfulness By Hans Rosling

It is good to have a balance to reading, to flick between fiction and non-fiction, from thriller to biography, from horror to history. After the harrowing Uninhabitable Earth, it was important to read something optimistic and hopeful, to find some good news and cause for celebration, and Han Rosling’s Factfulness is just that, it was the antidote to despair, a reason to praise humanity and have faith.

It is easy to focus on all that’s going wrong- in fact, its instinct according to Hans- and the media business model of reporting all that negativity doesn’t help cheer anyone up- also dissected by Hans- but this outstandingly clever book is a great way to think a little differently by understanding the instincts of our brains and realise that everything isn’t so bad after all. In fact, it is better than any other time in history (or it was before the coronavirus (although this is probably the best global pandemic to live through (am I allowed to put brackets inside brackets?) oops) I think I need another closer).

This book starts with a little quiz (how fun) about the current state of the world, testing the reader’s knowledge about global problems such as poverty and education. I, like most people drastically failed the quiz, the world isn’t the utter debacle we are led to believe it is. Rosling challenges those global misconceptions through identifying instincts that make us see the world through brown tinted glasses (is that a good antithesis of the rose version?) and dissects those instincts using anecdotes and evidence to make the reader assess information within its context and with greater clarity. He even provides a few tips at the end of each chapter to help us gain some perspective on global matters.

The purposeful structure of Factfulness enables the reader to tackle one illusion at a time, addressing an instinct for every chapter which is then summarised and rounded out with a few rules to avoid making incorrect assumptions in the future, and maybe to do better in the quiz. Rosling’s laid back style and amusing stories make the book easy to read, blending science and statistics with sword swallowing and if you should punch your gran so that the reading is light and the technicalities easier to understand.

After the gloom shared by The Uninhabitable Earth, this book was a refreshing, optimistic outlook of the world. Climate Change isn’t challenged in this book but the fact that we are getting better at most other things did give me hope that humanity will up its game in the battle against climate catastrophe. The tips provided are useful and easily applicable in everyday life and do come in useful in questioning the pessimism of mainstream media and out of context facts on Twitter. I think this book is essential reading for everyone. It is understandable and accessible, it is educational on global topics and eye-opening on humankind’s problems and triumphs. Above all, it is wonderfully hopeful and provides a few reasons to celebrate the successes of humanity, there are more than I realised.

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