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Did you know that compared to thirty years ago:

*      family income (adjusting for inflation), has increased?

*      the cost of living (adjusted for inflation) has decreased?

*      world hunger has decreased?

*      lesiure time has increased?

*      crime has decreased dramatically, as have global wars, and 

*      air and water quality have both increased?

*      life expectancy, worldwide, has doubled?

*      extreme poverty in developing countries has been cut in half?

I didn’t either.  In fact, it turns out that we’re missing out on quite a bit of good news.  And part of the good news is that the bad news we are incessantly barraged with isn’t as bad as we have been led to believe!
All of this and more is in Bradley Wright’s book, Upside.  Wright teaches sociology at the University of Connecticut and this represents his second foray into book writing.  His first, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, as the title indicates, was more a response book to Unchristian and some of the work of George Barna.  Although it had some pleasant things to say as well, Upside is bigger and broader in its scope.  It is definitely one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year.

At the beginning of the book, Bradley addresses some of the reasons why people tend to believe the sky is falling --- the media, advocacy groups, nostalgia, anecdotal approaches, etc.  If nothing else, his work should cause us to be more discriminating in accepting such conclusions.  There is also a brief discussion of his methodology and he says, “. . . I tried to go wherever the data took me.  Ultimately I conclude that many things in the world are getting better, but I did not set out to write a ‘positive’ book.  Indeed, this book catalouges issues that are getting better as well as some that are getting worse” (p. 33). 

Since statistics are the Scripture of social science, Upside is understandably loaded with them.  Personally though, I never felt overwhelmed as they are woven together in a reader friendly fashion through discussion, humor, and several graphs and charts to complement the text. 

But Upside is more than a book that will make you feel better, it offers insight as to why things are the way they are.  For example, in his chapter on marriage and family he identifies some things statistically associated with healthy marriages --- not cohabitating, getting married at age twenty or after, not having pre-marital sex, and church participation.  In discussing the higher divorce rates in the west, he points out these countries “put the highest premium on romantic love.  This suggests that marriages based on romance struggle when the passion inevitably simmers down.”  (I would amend it to “marriages based on romance alone,” but nonetheIess, I think he’s on to something).  This same type of thing is present in all of the chapters which include finances, education, health care, personal fulfillment, crime, and the environment.

Upside is more than a good read --- it’s a tool to help you get a handle on today’s world and I need all of the help I can get. 
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