• Numbers Don't Lie

  • 71 Things You Need to Know About the World
  • By: Vaclav Smil
  • Narrated by: Stephen Perring
  • Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (82 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Is flying dangerous? How much do the world's cows weigh? And what makes people happy?

From earth's nations and inhabitants, through the fuels and foods that energise them, to the transportation and inventions of our modern world - and how all of this affects the planet itself - in Numbers Don't Lie, Professor Vaclav Smil takes us on a fact-finding adventure, using surprising statistics and illuminating graphs to challenge lazy thinking.

Packed with 'well-I-never-knew-that' information and with fascinating and unusual examples throughout, we find out how many people it took to build the Great Pyramid, that vaccination yields the best return on investment and why electric cars aren't as great as we think (yet). There's a wonderful mix of science, history and wit, all in bite-sized chapters on a broad range of topics.

Urgent and essential, Numbers Don't Lie inspires listeners to interrogate what they take to be true in these significant times. Smil is on a mission to make facts matter, because after all, numbers may not lie, but which truth do they convey?

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Vaclav Smil (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil." (Bill Gates)

What listeners say about Numbers Don't Lie

Average Customer Ratings
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Such an intense book is sadly not suited for audio listening!

This book is brilliant, do yourself a favour, go out and purchase a print or kindle edition as of yesterday and read it, annotate it and refer back it. It is a distillation of Dr Smil’s books and expertise. However as an audible product, the concept density per spoken line is very high and that you keep hitting rewind on audible, makes it frustrating. This book is not for casual reading, let alone listening on audible. Dr Smil is my absolute favourite thought leader. I love this book and ended up rereading, the kindle version this time.

3 people found this helpful

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Bite size chapters with fascinating information

Smil links supposedly unrelated statistical information into an interesting narative. Each chapter is short, with just enough information on a specific subject to trigger your toughts and fill your understanding.

1 person found this helpful

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Easy listen, but all topics are only covered superficially.

Easy listen, but all topics are only covered superficially, which I guess is to be expected. However it leaves room for nuance, which is lost as consequence.

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Great book, but recorded too quietly

Great book, but recorded too quietly, so it is hard to hear it when running outdooor near the road.

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Must read for Greta Thunberg

This book, as we are used to Vaclav Smil, points out the reality of the world and the environmental protections and what is possible and what plausible. Absolutely eye opening and refreshingly objective. Yes, numbers do not lie and the reader is well advised to understand orders of magnitudes and ISO units.

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Great book

Great book, puts sometimes empty numbers that we are bombarded by into real life perspective.

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A collection of fun facts superficially researched

Surprised of the recommendation by Bill Gates about this book. Is a collection of interesting facts that seems to me like a book to read to make conversation in dinner parties. Nothing really special about it, returning it.

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Awesome insight

Beautiful analysis of the facts that currently exist around us... As we are so easily duped into thinking we "know" everything and that everything is just magically going in the right direction... Vaclav finds a modern way to open your eyes to many misunderstandings that we currently have about our current world, especially the fact that we, as humans, don't entirely know what we're doing, but through constant efforts at obtaining deeper understanding, we do get somewhere eventually, and through this constant process we continually progress.

Important insight from a human that has vast amounts of knowledge.

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Interesting read, but poor audio quality

The book and the narrator were decent, but the audio quality was not very good. I had set the volume to 100% to hear it properly.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-11-21

More vaccine propaganda

Was enjoying the book until chapter 4, where the author drops a shameless promotion of vaccines and the eugenics outfit The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I immediately deleted the audiobook from my device.

Smil should be ashamed of himself. The narrator was good.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Georgios Tsikoulas
  • 07-03-22

Just random facts

Just random topics with no connection, no story, random comparisons between random countries and dates. Could have been summaries of some random Wikipedia pages. No depth, no scope. Just a collection of trivia. Terrible.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-22-22

… but they don’t tell you anything either, at least not in this book

Thus book is banal in the extreme.
A series of snippets of economic information, but precious little real analysis, prediction, or insight.
For example, we are told the US has a trade deficit in manufactured goods, China has a surplus. I know this already. These positions used to be reversed. Will they change back, asks the book? It f doors not ask would this be realistic, good, likely - nothing useful.
China has a one child policy, which it reversed, due to a pending demographic bomb. India is now at the stage where it wants to curb population growth. But these observations are not linked, or a cycle of development suggested, or is there a sweet spot of population growth explored. Nothing but non-lying numbers.

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  • Luke
  • 03-04-22

Wish it was longer!

Very interesting, well presented and easy to understand. Just wish it was longer to learn more!

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  • Aryan
  • 02-20-22

Terrible voice

Tough to stay awake with this voice. Content is rather boring. Can not recomand this book.

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  • jon
  • 02-16-22

Had some good facts but became boring

This book had some interesting facts, but lacked a narrative, instead it just fired out information. Some of this was interesting so wasn’t.

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  • Ems
  • 01-12-22

Very interesting but probably better as a book

All the numbers and statistics used in the book are really interesting. However, they all refer to graphs and charts and that's not very handy. I would have given a 4 star if the narrator wouldn't say "please refer to the pdf attachment" every chapter and if the chapters had a title to follow the story better.

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  • 🐨💗mary💗🐨
  • 09-01-21

Fascinating book

Easy to listen, well explained examples of what is happening in the world. Nothing too heavy

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  • J. Andersen
  • 08-26-21

Fascinating

I enjoyed this book. Plenty to digest, and I’m sure it’ll influence me to make better choices for my family, myself, and the environment.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Gule
  • 08-12-21

Poor audio and narration, overall good

Impossible to listen with air pods, outside - volume too low. Exacerbated by narrator’s voice - hoarse and low pitched.

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  • Salman
  • 08-09-21

Broad numbers for a complex world

great number baked insights into a complex world and our place in it. I am glad I listened

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nils Mathisen
  • 10-03-21

fascinating

section on energy particularly great, and the review of the age of innovation very well done! I will listen to it again.