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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Paul Morland Why did I love 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.

By Eric Kaufmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-first Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dawkins and Hitchens have convinced many western intellectuals that secularism is the way forward. But most people don't read their books before deciding whether to be religious. Instead, they inherit their faith from their parents, who often innoculate them against the elegant arguments of secularists. And what no one has noticed is that far from declining, the religious are expanding their share of the population: in fact, the more religious people are, the more children they have. The cumulative effect of immigration from religious countries, and religious fertility will be to reverse the secularisation process in the West. Not only…


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

Paul Morland Why did I love 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.

By Richard J. Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pursuit of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Economist Best Book of the Year

"Sweeping . . . an ambitious synthesis . . . [Evans] writes with admirable narrative power and possesses a wonderful eye for local color . . . Fascinating."-Stephen Schuker, The Wall Street Journal

From the bestselling author of The Third Reich at War, a masterly account of Europe in the age of its global hegemony; the latest volume in the Penguin History of Europe series

Richard J. Evans, bestselling historian of Nazi Germany, returns with a monumental new addition to the acclaimed Penguin History of Europe series, covering the period from the fall…


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

Paul Morland Why did I love 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. 

By Ben J. Wattemberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fewer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Never before have birth and fertility rates fallen so far, so fast, so low, for so long, in so many places, so surprisingly. In Fewer, Ben Wattenberg shows how and why this has occurred, and explains what it means for the future. These stark demographic changes will affect commerce, the environment, public financing, and geo-politics. In Wattenberg's world of The New Demography readers get a look at a topic often chattered about, but rarely understood.


Book cover of The Ultimate Resource 2

Paul Morland Why did I love 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.

By Julian Lincoln Simon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ultimate Resource 2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Arguing that the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit, Julian Simon led a vigorous challenge to conventional beliefs about scarcity of energy and natural resources, pollution of the environment, the effects of immigration, and the "perils of overpopulation." The comprehensive data, careful quantitative research, and economic logic contained in the first edition of The Ultimate Resource questioned widely held professional judgments about the threat of overpopulation, and Simon's celebrated bet with Paul Ehrlich about resource prices in the 1980s enhanced the public attention--both pro and con--that greeted this controversial book. Now Princeton University Press presents…


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

Paul Morland Why did I love 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.

By Lionel Shriver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mandibles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Distinctly chilling' Independent

'Unsettling as it is entertaining' Financial Times

'It's scaring the hell out of me' Tracy Chevalier

THE BRILLIANT NEW NOVEL FROM THE ORANGE PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR OF WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.

It is 2029.

The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet America's soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid. Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.

Their inheritance turned to ash,…


You might also like...

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


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