Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
September 2018
Fred's Rating: 
Hans Rosling
Total Pages: 
Flatiron Books

Medical doctor Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017), professor of international health and renowned public educator, was an adviser to the WHO and UNICEF. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontières in Sweden and the Gapminder Foundation. He was listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. This book was a NYT ‘instant’ bestseller.

I have the April 2018 hardcover edition, but I give here Amazon’s website for the Kindle edition:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

The Kindle edition shows much of interest – especially some key figures and the 13-question “Test Yourself quiz about your knowledge about the world.” The home page has an excellent review that leads off with quotes from three very well-informed public figures – use the ‘Read more’ option to get all of this home page review. Hans Rosling’s “two long-time collaborators," Anna and Ola, are his daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Ronnlund and his son Ola Rosling. Use the ‘Look inside’ option for the Kindle edition. In his 2-pp Author Note, Hans explains how his team for years has included Anna and Ola, who completed this book after Hans died. They honored him by making him the sole author, with this book speaking in his voice. It was published on April 3, 2018.

The Kindle ‘Look inside’ has the two ‘Author Note’ pages by Hans. This is followed by a graph (2-pp in my hardcover book) that plots Lifespans of Nations vs. (Daily) Income in 2017. Next is a key color display showing five features (Sleeping, Eating, Cooking, Transportation, and Drinking Water) for the four daily income levels – LEVEL 1: $0-2; LEVEL 2: $2-8; LEVEL 3: $8-32; LEVEL 4: >$32. Each level has a full page (pp 34-37). Each level shows 7 people images, where each image represents 1 billion people. The next figure – PEOPLE BY REGION AND (Daily) INCOME– shows how these 7 billion people occupy the four regions - the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia. The squares are for 100 million people. There are no LEVEL-1 colors in this figure for the Americas or Europe, which means that the LEVEL-1 people number is low on the scale of 100 million, but the number for the LEVEL-1 people are large on this scale in Africa and Asia in 2017. But in the 23 years between 2017 and 2040 the number of LEVEL-1 people predicted is nearly half the number in 2017. Hans Rosling’s many years working with the WHO and the UN meant that he had great access to their data and worked with many of the people during these years in the WHO and the UN.

Except for the Author’s Note, the figures you just saw in the above Kindle ‘Look inside’ comes after the Test Yourself on pp 3-5. Seeing these figures would be likely to influence you in a positive way when you actually test yourself. For those readers who avoid testing themselves, you lost an important learning experience. If you are still reading before the test, be sure to take it. Reading after it may come as a surprise to most people. For those of you who have been aware of the ignorance most people have about the status of the great majority of the 7 billion people in today’s world, you may have had access, as did I, to magazines and/or online news or e-newsletters. My curiosity is not restricted to what I know best, so I got this book (by my son’s recommendation) because I had read enough about it before I bought it. This may have pre-directed me to choose the most positive answers when I tested myself when first coming to pp 3-5. Back then I had not done a ‘Look inside’ of the Kindle edition. I only looked online at the hardback edition. Because of my trying to keep myself updated about the world, I was ready for testing myself. I got 12 of the 13 questions correct.

I missed #6 – I didn’t deduce that the correct answer for the population growth was more adults (answer B). I had incorrectly chosen C (more elderly). From page 83: “The UN experts are convinced the population will keep growing, mainly because there will be more adults.” From 2017 to 2100 the rising number of adults (ages 15+) will be the major factor leading to a world population of 11 billion in 2100. The number of children (ages 0-14) should not increase due to the “incredible, world-changing drop in the number of babies per woman” – from nearly 6 in 1800, to 5 in 1965, then the big drop down to 2.5 in 2017. This number is expected to reach 2.0 by 2100 (and not change much due to world-wide progress). Wow!

The figure of "World Population: UN Future Forecast" in billions of people vs. year is shown twice so as to include the growth due to children and to adults. There is a very simple explanation of what an unchanging number of children 0-14 causes. Every 15 years a group of 0-14 children age into adults of ages 15+. So between 2015 and 2075 the number of adults increases four times in these 60 years. Thus the adult number increases by nearly five times while the number of children remains constant from 2015 to 2100.

This figure is shown yet a third time but with three groups of average family 'balance' shown using simple icons for adults and childeren. For the mid 1800s the "Old balance" group has an adult couple and 6 children, but only 2 of the 6 children make it to age 5. The second "Out of balance" group for the early to mid 1900s has an adult couple with 5 of the 6 children making it to age 5. This is why the world population had grown too quickly, which is called "Out of balance." The "New balance" group for the present time shows an adult couple with 2 children who make it to age 5. Showing these three groups in this figure is a startling but brilliant image to show us what progress in birth rate now has nearly reached the desired "New balance" of 2 children per adult couple, but without the sad high children deaths of the "Old balance." Of greater importance, without the "Out of balance" family group with too many children surviving, an out-of-balance world population growth means too many people for a sustainable state for the world. Hans Rosling's team and the UN group now project the "New balance" in world population, based on what has been achieved recently to be very close to the crucial balance of two children per couple. This third figure (that I've just described in words) is an image that is much greater than words or numbers. This image made me exclaim "Oh yes!" For it shows us the world's population progress in a simple, beautiful way. I wish it would have been accessible from Amazon's online preview.

I was glad that Hans Rosling gave the test very early. As he states after the test, most test takers did poorly, for what they remembered was likely to have been a few decades old, leaving them unaware of the positive progress of the past few decades. The Kindle preview unfortunately ends near the bottom of page 8 of the 17-pp Introduction.

There is a figure on page 25 of Ch. 2 – The Gap Instinct – that has two groups, the Developing and the Developed in a graph of ‘Children surviving to age 5’ plotted against ‘Babies per woman’. Most people may recall some of these data. The ‘Developing Nations’ are contained in a box between 8 and 5 Babies. The ‘Developed Nations’ are contained in the small box of less than 4 babies. You can see this graph by choosing to ‘Look inside’ the hardcover edition. You just enter the word developing in the ‘Search Inside This Book’ box and then click on GO. Page 25 has the data from 1965. Page 26 gives the data from 2017. The striking change is the great improvement of baby survival in 2017 and the many nations for which their number has moved from the large box for 1965 to fill ‘the gap’ between Developing and Developed. This chapter is all about gaps that used to exist but have vanished or are about to do so.

As the Table of Contents shows, each of the first ten chapters focuses on a topic. He presents the data needed to relate each chapter’s topic to one or more facts – that is, the correct answer on a related quiz question. Chapter 11 – Factfulness in Practice – provides a summary of the ten topics. He shows it in two ways. First, on pp 248-9 as ten bullets about what we should be teaching our children. Second, a ten-topic figure entitled FACTFULNESS RULES OF THUMB on p 256. If you click on Factfulness Rules of Thumb on the Contents page you will get page 256. Having such short phrases to remember is useful, but I prefer the full sentences for each of the ten bullets on pp 248-9. Having clicked on Factfulness Rules of Thumb on the Contents page, these ten bullets are the second of the 3 results (of Amazon’s search) for Rules of Thumb.

I found this book to be spellbinding and nearly impossible to put down. I reread it much more slowly before writing this review. Besides the three short words of praise at the start of the home page’s review, the first three reviews in the home page’s 'Top customer reviews' also give it high praise and five stars. As for me, I give it five stars, but with my added comment to ‘Think six stars!’