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One of the worst books I’ve ever tried to read. Vaclav is no doubt incredibly knowledgeable on the topic of growth, but the book is appalling. It’s neither detailed enough to act as a reference guide nor general enough to give the reader a clear overview of growth. The language in which it is written makes it almost impenetrable and the pictures that have been included do absolutely nothing to aid understanding. Whoever edited it (or didn’t edit it as the case may be) needs to find another job. Only good for a doorstop or as a replacement for a sleeping pill.
I had high hopes for the book, based on the strong track record of book recommendation from Bill Gates. But I must admit, I found it boring - and I gave up on it after some 100+ pages. And I very rarely give up on books. If I find the energy to finish it, I will update my review. I will give Smil another chance with some of the other books he has written on energy, based on recommendations by Bill Gates.
Positives: Obviously Smil is brilliant. Growth might be one of the best wide-scope history books published. Negatives: The textbook style rambles on and on for 500+ pages to a disappointing conclusion. Smil fails to include the importance or impact of human nature. I found his solution for obesity on page 171 to be just plain wrong based on the data we have over the past 10 years, which leads me question how much of what I read is objective and how much is bias. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that we need to care for our air, water, and bodies, but how is the question. He doesn’t mention garbage or food additives as potential issues, like he does water and air. Unless, you love numbers and how they tie to history, this book will be difficult to finish, or at least you’ll question why you should finish it.