Numbers Don’t Lie by Vaclav Smil [7/10]

Vaclav Smil is the super nerd of energy and technology, writer of highly analytical but comprehensible tomes on the real numbers behind our world. “Numbers Don’t Lie: 71 Things You Need to Know About the World” distils a column he ran for general readers and it is a cornucopia of analytical assertions on topics grand and small. Population, tech progress, vaccination, megacities, happiness, Brexit, electric motors, data, gas turbines, batteries, inflatable tires, ammonia, Anthropocene, windows … you get the picture, or rather, it’s difficult to sum his vast interest set. Despite the book’s title, Smil can be opinionated to the point of attracting controversy, but at least his facts are numbers-based and reference-based. He is a vibrant storyteller, in his own way, and rewards rereading. Numbers Don’t Lie is a perfect book for 2020, this year of swirling misinformation.

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