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2.9 out of 5 stars24
2.9 out of 5 stars
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on 3 May 2011
I devoured this book in a few days; I found it pretty unputdownable. This might seem strange for a book which other reviewers have dismissed as a bunch of statistics. However, the statistics (and yes, there are quite a lot) are not simply there for the fun of it, but instead come together to put forward a compelling and at times impassioned argument for how we can at least start to think about how British society works, how it fails, and how it could be changed for the better. There's a lot in here that I personally liked from a socialist/left wing point of view - I can see that many (sadly) might find it too radical or difficult to swallow in that respect. But somebody needs to be saying these things: a fairer society would clearly benefit everyone. Thank you to the author for saying it so eloquently, and backed up by such wide-ranging research.

Whatever your political viewpoint or sympathies, this is worth reading if only for the way it questions received opinion on the important issues that face this country (and others). Things are not always what you think they are or what the media want you to think they are. As the book says in its conclusion, 'For this country to be changed for the better, we must all get to know it better.' I think reading this book is a great place to start.
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on 1 August 2011
Given the negative comments from some on this work, I look forward to seeing their names in print soon on this topic.
I assume they can do better, and already have as long a list of publications to their name as does Prof. Dorling.

It is a tough call making information from data. Prof Dorling sets out his stall early on - he does numbers, not prose. He would therefore benefit from a better proof-reader and sense-maker. The production of the book seems to have been hurried too - there are errors, sometimes inverting sense.

As it doesn't spoon-feed you, you have to make a bit of an effort to get at what is being said, and of course it's repetitious, people aren't just old, they also live in the north or the south; immigration is not just into one place, and being born is not restricted geographically. I thought that was the point - there are divisions and discontinuities, but (as noted in the work) there are uniting elements too.

I found it interesting, with extensive references, something useful for anybody willing to delve further. Yes, it is left-leaning, but the evidence presented (and referenced from many official sources in both UK and overseas) suggests perhaps we are leaning too far to the right, and that deregulation has not delivered trickle-down, but has made possible "suck-up" of wealth. One reviewer notes that the book helps to "reaffirm your own saloon bar prejudices courtesy of a leftwing author" but fails to note the inequalities in income distribution which have developed since the mid 1970s. This isn't left wing bias, it is merely stating the evidence from various sources.

A worthwhile read, though it needs more polish to be acceptable to a wider audience.
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on 29 December 2011
I really liked this book. It provides research to explaore some of the contemporary political pinch points. The book goes into detailed stats and trends to talk about issues in current society e.g north/south divide, immigration, population density and so on. Then using the stats, it goes on to delve deeper into each theme. This book is great for anyone who want to understand about British society beyond the populist propoganda and for social scientists. I would compare this with Freakonomics. The difference is that Freakonmics was much more lighter than this one and was written for mass market.

I have given it 4 stars because I think the author could have presented the views more concisely. He has done great work in gathering the stats but the books lacks a coherent analysis and structure for a reader to comprehend it easily. The stats are little bit sprayed all over so a reader needs to read it slowly and back reference to make a better sense out of it. I think that's one of main reasons why this will not be a best seller.

But at the end of day if you are looking to understand the British society, I would think this should be on your reading list.
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on 13 November 2011
As a Guardian-reading, left-of-centre person, I am sympathetic to Danny Dorling's cause of social justice and greater equality.

Although the book contains some fascinating data (murder method vs. social class, calculation of your own life expectancy etc.), it is convoluted at times and it becomes difficult to sort the wheat (the interesting stuff) from the chaff.

I am also a scientist and you couldn't publish the data in a journal without the accompanying stats - which in some cases may show a lack of relationship where Danny Dorling states that there is one.

It would have been better as a 5-6 page article in a weekend newspaper supplement.
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on 5 January 2015
Read another Dorling title with my book club which i enjoyed. This one is less good - and a bit repetitive. The politics are well-intentioned but this is is bit flat and uninspiring.
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on 17 August 2011
This book is greatly informative about Britain in a way that I've never witnessed before, and unlike many other books of it's genre, I found it incredibly readable and hard to put down. It sounds strange but I couldn't wait to hear what secrets the next chapter would divulge.

In terms of how it is written, I can't understand some of the criticism given in the other reviews. The book is not overloaded with statistics; they are included where it is relevant and wholely support his arguments. And unlike books written in a similar vein, sources are given for all of his data and quotations. I thought that his writing style was great, both entertaining and convincing, despite the author's claims at the beginning of the book that he's 'always preferred numbers to words'. There were some points where I literally laughed out loud! Granted, it is clear that Dorling has a leftist viewpoint, but if the statistics are there to support his views then you can't criticise him for his stance. Personally, his approach appealed to me.

The content as a whole really has opened my eyes. In the media, we are often given mixed and incorrect information about the place we live, so it was very refreshing to hear the facts from someone who clearly knows his subject area well. It was nice to be able to trust what I was reading and see the data in front of me. The book covers a broad range of issues such as the North/South divide, optimum population, our aging population, immigration and urban/rural divides; my favourite chapters were 'Where have all the good men gone?' and 'The Human Mosaic', which talked about the apparent decline in adequate male partners and British neighbourhoods respectively.

Dorling often puts the issues in a context too, which made his arguments easy to follow. For example, the use of Bridget Jones' Diary in 'Where have all the good men gone?' and Camberwick Green in 'A nation ever more divided between town and country'.

The final chapter, 'The future is another place', was a perfect ending and really brought together his arguments in the previous chapters, and gave suggestions as to how Britain should look to improve by looking at the alternatives around us as opposed to the past. After finishing the book, I really wished I could make all of the MPs (that are supposed to be making this country a better place to live in) read it. In fact, I wish I could send a copy to every household in Britain, and then people would see more clearly the situation that we are in.

So all in all, a brilliant read, and as a student this has given me a much clearer insight into some of the most important problems we face in British society today.
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on 18 April 2011
He's a (human) geographer, not an economist. And I mean "human" as opposed to "physical", rather than "robot"... But he writes like an economist. A Scandinavian economist.

I bought this book because I enjoy quirky takes on social issues, and the teasers on the cover e.g. "Why more divorced people live by the sea than anywhere else" attracted me. But it is far more political and structural than that. The entertaining stuff is there, but it tends to be buried under rather preachy rhetoric.

So: I liked--

A refreshingly different angle on Britain. There's a confluence of social disciplines (they're not "sciences"), in which economists, sociologist, and now geographers comment on the same things from different angles. Dorling relies on public data for his raw material, and ingeniously and persuasively interprets it. And he is not afraid to celebrate the positives and to castigate the scare-mongering press and politicians.


There is statistical overkill. Some sections are like being beaten over the head with a statistical piledriver. Nerd that I am, I quite like teasing the implications out of stats, but not like this.

And there's a lot of repetition. Repeated with slight variation. Several times... The editor should have been much more ruthless.

And the route from observation to data to interpretation to solution is far from as linear as Dorling implies. Hence the preachiness. (I incline to agree with him, which actually makes the sermon more irritating.)
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on 20 May 2011
What a fantastic book! Danny Dorling explodes the myths put out by the Daily Mail et al by showing us really what is going on in Britain today backed up by real facts. The book looks at such issues as how the North South divide is growing, how men of working age are deserting the UK to find work abroad, and the flight away from living in cities to the country for those that can afford it.

Danny explains how genuine investment in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall ensured that the East was not to be abandoned and cut off again and that today people lead longer healthier lives there than in northern England. My favourite quote from the book: "Forty five years of communism was less damaging than thirty two years of Thatcherism and neo Thatcherism".
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on 27 December 2014
Bought for a friend who found it really interesting. Haven;t read it myself though.
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on 11 October 2012
This book had the potential to be of great interest , but it badly needed a well-read editor who could have made the author concentrate on the substance of his argument and avoid the windy rhetoric which pervades the book after the first couple of sections. The polemical aspects become repetitious in the extreme , and it becomes difficult , if not impossible, to divine just what point it was the writer wanted to make in any given context. It all smacks of a badly written first year essay , which is a shame because somewhere in the dross there is a decent argument trying to get out
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