Author Vaclav Smil, professor emeritus and fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), offers his greatest hits from past books, served up in short, engaging chapters. This most accessible – by far – of his works will probably sell more than his others combined, especially given Bill Gates’s endorsement. Though it comes recommended, readers should brace for a pessimistic read that borders on the cynical. Smil’s numbers may speak the truth, but he tends to discount humankind’s endless hope and ingenuity.
Bill Gates said that Smil “takes everything that makes his writing great and boils it down into an easy-to-read format. I unabashedly recommend this book to anyone who loves learning.” Publishers Weekly wrote that the author “presents a robust array of data, at times with devastating acuity.” Kirkus found that “even when examining dire circumstances, Smil keeps readers engaged. A fascinating book to be read straight through or consulted bit by bit.”