Recent Reading17 September 2019
Photo: Andy Crouch
Over the last month or so I have read two books that are polar opposites in their content. But, they both offer a positive and hopeful view of the future. The books are:
- Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker.
- Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips.
Enlightenment Now is an explanation of human progress since the Age of Enlightenment. A data-driven, extensive defence of scientific discovery and the adoption of humanism. Over two-thirds of the book uses data to show how better everyone is as time progresses. Pinker uses data covering area’s as diverse as the environment, world peace, democracy and personal health and wealth. There is a range of statistic’s which stand out against the onslaught of misinformation the world is currently experiencing. By looking at the data around threats from Terrorism, for example, it is clear that while there are genuine threats there are also politically-driven agenda’s at work as well. The book is not light reading but you find yourself really thinking through the idea’s he puts forward. I wholly recommend reading it.
Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up is the counterpoint of view to Enlightenment Now. But, it is no way a heavy read. It is a light-hearted look at how as humans our brains allow us to make terrible decisions. It is full of funny, laugh out loud, stories from throughout history that prove his point. There are chapters on colonialism and environment damage but my favourite part was how he tells the life story of Thomas Midgley. He was the chap that was responsible for two of histories greatest bad decisions. I will not spoil the story but it will leave you speechless. This book is very much worth a read and makes you feel better about some of your own stupid mistakes in life.