Pocket World in Figures 2008 by The Economist
|Pocket World in Figures 2008 by The Economist|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The world reduced to figures - ranging from the geographical to the informative to the quirky. It's wonderful to dip into or use as a work of reference and is highly recommended by The Bookbag.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: September 2007|
If you've read The Tiger That Isn't by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot you'll be well aware that many of the statistics that are regularly pushed at us by the media are dubious and some are downright wrong. Some figures are deliberately meant to confuse and some are simply not understood by the people who are using them. It's a refreshing change to find a book without an axe to grind and which is the source of a great deal of statistical information presented in a clear and user-friendly way and with plenty of relevant comparisons.
The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2008 is one of those books which you're not quite certain why you pick up but then you find that you can't put it down. It's a snapshot of life, not just in the UK, but throughout the world, all presented in well-researched figures. There's no narrative with attendant political spin - the figures are left to speak for themselves.
So, what sort of figures do you get? Well, there are the ones that are largely unchanging, year after year such as the geographical area of different countries and height of mountains, but the ones which really interested me were the ones which referred to people and the way that they live. The quality of life index is based on 39 factors ranging from recreation to political stability. New York is the 'norm' at 100, but the best place to live would seem to be Zurich at 108.1, with London coming in at number 39 with 101.2. Unsurprisingly the worst place to live is Baghdad at 14.5, with Brazzaville at 29.5. What worried me was that those above the 'norm' were only slightly above it, but we allow or even force some of those at the bottom of the scale to fall shamefully short.
Some countries are heavily dependant on workers' remittances. In 2006 Mexico received $25,038,000,000 and India $23,548,000,000. Surprisingly, France comes in at number 5, receiving $12,742,000,000. But the most intriguing set of statistics is the Big Mac index which converts the cost of a Big Mac in local currency into dollars and compares the result. The cheapest place (and one might say, if pushed, the place with the most under-valued currency) is China where the cost is $1.41. The most expensive places are Iceland ($7.44), Norway ($6.63), Switzerland ($5.05), Denmark ($4.84) and Sweden ($4.59). It's almost enough to turn you to decent food, isn't it?
Along with these statistics are profiles of different countries, each given over a double page spread. I've just been looking at Sweden. Life expectancy for both men and women is slightly higher than in the UK and a larger percentage of the population is over 60. The population is just about one-sixth of ours, but the land area is almost double that of the UK. The two countries have very similar structures of employment, with about three-quarter of workers being employed in service industries, rather less than a quarter in industry itself and 1% (UK) or 2% (Sweden) working in agriculture. If you're happy with figures then it's a crisp picture of a country.
It's sold as the 'pocket' world in figures, but I think you might require quite a substantial pocket to hold the book: it would certainly be more than at home in a briefcase. I wouldn't describe it as indispensable unless you are proud to have at your finger tips a supply of reliable, unbiased information - or are content to sit for hours on end regaling people with snippets of useful information.
I'd like to thank the people at Profile Books for sending us a copy.
If you're a little wary of figures then you really should read The Tiger That Isn't by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot. It will boost your confidence no end and put you on the right track.
You can read more book reviews or buy Pocket World in Figures 2008 by The Economist at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Pocket World in Figures 2008 by The Economist at Amazon.com.
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