The best books that take seriously the impact of population on everything

Who am I?

My interest in demography began when I saw rapid demographic change taking place before my eyes in London, and when I noted the different fertility choices of friends and relations and started to put the pieces together and to understand how demography shapes our changing reality. I have published three books on the subject—the first, a version of my PhD thesis, the second and third captured belowand have broadcast and written articles for the press extensively on these topics.

I wrote...

Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers

By Paul Morland,

Book cover of Tomorrow's People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers

What is my book about?

Demographythe number of births and deaths and movement of people in and out of countries and regionshas shaped world history, it is shaping the present, and it will shape the future. If you want to know what the world will look like, you need to understand how collapsing infant mortality is boosting the numbers of people in much of the globe, while elsewhere, populations are retreating in the face of sustained low fertility rates. The book shows why and where populations are aging rapidly and why it matters. An understanding of the patterns of the population will transform and enrich how you see the world.

The books I picked & why

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Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-first Century

By Eric Kaufmann,

Book cover of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-first Century

Why this book?

Eric was my PhD supervisor and was finishing the book as I began my thesis. This gave me a chance to have an insight into the thinking and the process behind the book’s creation as well as an opportunity to read the manuscript. Combining serious analysis of the data with an astute and observative reading of big global trends, this book sets out one of the most important trends underway todaythe burgeoning numbers in strict, world-denying bearing a large number of children and able to hang onto them. A decade on, as secular birth rates plummet, the thesis is more valid than ever.

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914

By Richard J. Evans,

Book cover of The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914

Why this book?

It takes real historic breadth to write a comprehensive history of the nineteenth century and only a historian of the quality of Evans could pull it off so convincingly. Like his mentor Eric Hobsbawmbut unencumbered by the Marxian straight-jacketEvans masterfully draws the links not only between decades and between countries and continents but also between the social, the economic, and the political. His book is no demographic history, but it takes demography seriously. This really matters in a century in which the Malthusian bonds were broken for some of humanity, not all of it, making it a period of European global supremacy underpinned by demographic takeoff, the effects of which we are still feeling.

Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

By Ben J. Wattemberg,

Book cover of Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future

Why this book?

There are two reasons for recommending this book by the late Ben Wattenberg. First, Wattenberg was early to recognize the huge consequences of fertility rates falling across the world, not only in the West but in East Asia and even in quite poor countries. Second, Wattenberg convinced me that it was possible to write simply and straightforwardly about the subject of demography, without the need for inaccessible terminology and making the ideas exciting and relevant. 

The Ultimate Resource 2

By Julian Lincoln Simon,

Book cover of The Ultimate Resource 2

Why this book?

Simon was something of a prophet who felt that he had a contrarian worldview that the world needed to know about. His basic idea is that the human brain is the ultimate resource and that with the right application and opportunity, humans can solve so many of the serious problems that environmentalism and the limits on resources throw at us. I cannot say that I agree with Simon on everything, nor that his optimism is apt in every situation, but his is an exciting and bracing can-do-ism that sees the best in humanity once it is freed to fulfill its potential.

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

By Lionel Shriver,

Book cover of The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047

Why this book?

Shriver is an unusual combination: a contemporary novelist who is seriously interested in the big socio-economic changes going on in the world and writes razor-sharp columns. Although not her best-known book (that title must belong to We Need to Talk about Kevin), The Mandibles is I think her best. In contrast to the optimism of Julian Simon cited above, Shriver looks into a dystopian future in which (among many other things) more Mexicans are trying to leave the US than arrive and inflation takes off again. All the while, civilisation breaks down. Taking this book and Simon’s together—an unlikely duo—you have in a nutshell technical optimism, civilisational pessimism. The Mandibles is also, like most of her work, hilarious.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in natural resources, Europe, and World War 1?

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