book report: Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World by Brad Wright (2011)

As a UConn alumnus, there is much to be proud of. Multiple basketball championships in both men's and women's teams. A degree program that got me into a career related to my major. And a sociology professor who has written a second winner, Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World, by Brad Wright has proven once again that this particular field of study is not for those students who can't pick a major. I really enjoyed his first book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, which came out last year. Not only did I feel better as I read the first book but I learned a great deal. This new book does all that but allows more of Wright's voice, sardonic and self-deprecating, in the presentation of the data. This new book also presents vignettes of individuals and groups acting altruistically, as Christians, to make the world a better place. I love data, but I'm a scientist who makes and interprets graphs everyday. The only drawback for me, then, was the poor distinction between the different lines on the graphs. I'm sure Wright made large, colorful graphs but did not enjoy the shrinking of them into a third of a page in black and white with minuscule graphing points, nearly indistinguishable. But after reading this book, poor graph presentation is only one of the few things to despair over in our current world.

I couldn't put this book down. It lifted the negative clouds that the news on the radio spews out at me. There is no doubt that there are terrible things going on around the world right now, but Wright shows that in many dimensions of our lives, the terribleness is not as bad or as much as it used to be one or two generations ago. The sky hasn't fallen. More babies make it past their first birthday than ever before. Our air and water are cleaner than ever. We have more leisure time than ever. The world is more politically free than ever. Wright does not claim that we have entered Utopia, but he demonstrates that we are further away from Dystopia than ever before. If you don't believe it, read the book.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

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