Better than the web: The Economist Pocket World in Figures, 2016 edition

Books are still booming. With 2,875 new book titles published per million people in the UK (2013), the greatest of any country in the world, it is fitting that this twenty-fifth edition of The Economist Pocket World in Figures should outshine any electronic imitation.

If you know what you are looking for, Google, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha can usually deliver the numbers and information that you require. What they cannot do is answer a question that is ill-formed or absent. A few minutes browsing this book – and it is really tough to keep it to just a few minutes – and you will have worked out the question and found the answer.

The Economist Pocket World in Figures is the distillate of far bulkier encyclopaedias, and as up to date as possible. I was amazed that Osaka in Japan now has almost exactly twice the population of London, that Finland and France have the highest government spending (as a percentage of their GDP), and that Vodafone’s net profit in 2014 was the largest of any non-financial company in the world, and almost twice that of Apple.

Selected and compiled by the team at The Economist, these figures are not just financial and economic. The highest death rate of any country is that of the Ukraine, which is almost double that of the UK, and slightly more than double that of the US. More than a quarter of the adult population (15-49) of Swaziland has HIV/AIDS, and 40% of the adult population of Qatar is obese (BMI ≥ 30). In Latvia there are only 84.1 men for every 100 women, and in Qatar there are more than 3 men for every woman.

After half a dozen introductory pages, the first half of this pocket-sized hardback book gives an absorbing series of tables of world rankings, following which each country is covered individually in a two-page spread. These are concluded with spreads covering the EU and the whole world, a glossary, list of countries, and sources.

For £10.99 (around $11), I cannot think of a good reason not to buy it. It is not available for Kindle, nor in the iBooks Store. Its ISBN is 978 17812 5447 9.