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Summary

Based on the series produced for the BBC World Service)

A Financial Times and Bloomberg Business Week Book of the Year)

Who thought up paper money? How did the contraceptive pill change the face of the legal profession? Why was the horse collar as important for human progress as the steam engine? How did the humble spreadsheet turn the world of finance upside down?

The world economy defies comprehension. A continuously changing system of immense complexity, it offers over 10 billion distinct products and services, doubles in size every 15 years, and links almost every one of the planet's seven billion people. It delivers astonishing luxury to hundreds of millions. It also leaves hundreds of millions behind, puts tremendous strains on the ecosystem, and has an alarming habit of stalling. Nobody is in charge of it. Indeed, no individual understands more than a fraction of what's going on.

How can we make sense of this bewildering system on which our lives depend? From the tally stick to Bitcoin, the canal lock to the jumbo jet, each invention in Tim Harford's fascinating new book has its own curious, surprising and memorable story, a vignette against a grand backdrop. Step by step, listeners will start to understand where we are, how we got here and where we might be going next.

Hidden connections will be laid bare: how the barcode undermined family corner shops; why the gramophone widened inequality; how barbed wire shaped America. We'll meet the characters who developed some of these inventions, profited from them or were ruined by them. We'll trace the economic principles that help to explain their transformative effects. And we'll ask what lessons we can learn to make wise use of future inventions in a world where the pace of innovation will only accelerate.

©2017 Tim Harford (P)2017 Little Brown

What members say

Average customer ratings

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

interesting. learnt a bit. not truly captivating

A decent concept done well and narrated by a good reader. I feel it could have been better if it was more interwoven and less of a list.

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  • RAUL
  • JONKOPING, Sweden
  • 05-01-18

Good pick

The short chapters of 50 things is a good way to learn to look at things and enjoy our world. It also is diverse enough to teach something new to most people.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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I am bored by the narrator

Would you try another book written by Tim Harford or narrated by Roger Davis?

I love Tim Harford from his More or Less programme on Radio 4 and I am very disappointed that he does not read it himself. After hearing the first story, I do not want to continue because of the narrator.

What other book might you compare Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy to, and why?

Easy comparison is QI: THE SOUND OF GENERAL IGNORANCE book. It is being read by both authors and it is SOOO good, so ALIVE. You just want to carry on. Not here.

Would you be willing to try another one of Roger Davis’s performances?

Definitely not

Was Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy worth the listening time?

I only did about 10 mins...

Any additional comments?

Very disappointed, and I would like to swap for another book

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • steveandtoni
  • 12-12-17

Loved this book

I found this book through provoking and really interesting

Great narration too

Highly r commended