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Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World Paperback – July 1, 2011

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. After receiving tenure, he switched his academic focus from crime to religion in order to research American Christianity. Brad received his PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, the top-ranked sociology graduate program in the United States. He has a popular blog ( based on his research. His first book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told received the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award. He's appeared on numerous national media outlets including,, Moody's Chris Fabry Live!, and the Drew Marshall Show. Brad is married with two children and lives in Storrs, Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764208365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764208362
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bradley Wright is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut where he studies American Christianity and, in general, in fascinated by the interplay between faith and data.

His first book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites... and Other Lies You've Been Told, was a modest success, winning a Christianity Today book award. His second book, Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of Our World, not so much. It supports the idea that good news doesn't sell.

His hobbies include photography, cycling, and hiking. He is married and has two children and a small dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Young on August 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
I recently heard a well-known pastor say, "The world is broken and it's getting worse." Not long ago, I would have agreed without hesitation. But after reading UPSIDE by Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD, I found myself disagreeing, and even upset that the idea is so common in our culture.

At the suggestion of his editor, Wright wrote a book that answers the question, "Is the world getting better?" As an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, he was more than qualified to examine the data and come to an objective conclusion. (And UPSIDE is not the only book he's written that examines and challenges widespread and commonly held beliefs. Wright also wrote CHRISTIANS ARE HATE-FILLED HYPOCRITES . . . AND OTHER LIES YOU'VE BEEN TOLD.)

To be honest, I chose to review this book because I didn't believe it was possible to write a book that said our world is actually improving rather than getting worse. Not to mention I was sure that even if he could write that book, it wouldn't have an ounce of credibility. Choosing this book was essentially my way of saying to Wright, "Oh yeah? Prove it." Surprisingly, he did.

Wright followed the data--he didn't exaggerate the improvements or tone down the negatives. He briefly traced the reasons people are so pessimistic about the state of our world and showed there has been significant improvement in most of the areas people worry about on a regular basis. He did an excellent job showing that, even though things have gotten worse in certain areas in recent years, it's important to look at change over time. That's what his research focused on--how is today's data different from past data? Have things improved, or gotten worse?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sally McC on August 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you enjoy reading pages of statistics and looking at charts, then this is definitely a book you'll enjoy. Wright has compiled statistics from various sources in all the areas listed above, and tells us that life in the USA has improved considerably over the past 100 years. In many ways, we know this to be true. We know the benefits of indoor plumbing and instant communication. Children are more likely to live past their first birthdays, and fewer women die in childbirth. We work fewer hours for higher pay, and we're a lot less likely to suffer severe injury or die on the job.

The problem with Upside, however, is the statistics. Wright does very little primary research of his own, choosing to use previously published data. Since most of the data was compiled prior to the financial meltdown on 2008, we are left skeptical. If the same surveys were done today, would they tell us we are still improving, or would there have developed a downward trend starting from that time? Furthermore, we don't know the benchmark for some of these results. For example, yes, we realize we receive a better education than in many countries. But how many children have graduated high school having slipped through the cracks? Are the SATs on the same level of difficulty now as they were twenty to thirty years ago? The section on war makes no mention of recent conflicts such as the first Gulf War or the Bosnian War of the early 1990s.

I was also disappointed by the small amount of qualitative data in the book. The front cover states, "Surprising GOOD NEWS About the State of Our World." Since we hear so many bad news stories in the media I had hoped for some examples of good news, the so-called 'feel good stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lstalnaker on August 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is a great combination of enjoyable reading and practical ways to view statistical evidence and apply it to our world today. So many times we focus only on the negative aspects of life and this world. We leave out related statistics that may help us to see everything in a bigger, better picture and enjoy the progress we have made over the years. Dr. Wright combines these two things to create a book that is really worth reading. We are always going to have problems in this world, but it helps to keep them in perspective and see how far we have come in finding solutions to previous problems that plagued our world and at one time seemed unsolvable. I also like the way Dr. Wright sometimes formulates and other times does not, the connection and meaning of the statistical relevance of the numbers he presents. For those of you who like numbers and facts this is a great book for you! I totally enjoyed it and will be passing it along to a coworker of mine for her to read.

I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my review no other compensation was given

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg Smith (aka sowhatfaith) on February 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Upside seeks to evaluate life as it really is and to compare that to life as people believe it to be in order to determine whether or not current perceptions are accurate about the things that most people think matter most. The upside of Upside is so incredible that it should be a must read for anyone who is discouraged by the way things are in the world today. Additionally, it should be required reading for those involved in advocacy and fundraising for nonprofits who so often intentionally paint an incomplete and overly negative picture of both the current situation and recent progress in order to solicit volunteers and funds.

Upside looks at a limited number of issues that Wright views as "important to most people" with the goal of providing "accurate perceptions of the world in both the ways that it's getting better and worse" (p.31). Chapter after chapter, the data clearly indicates that things are better than most people assume them to be currently in America and that the trends over the last several decades show we are making progress or improvement in most of the areas considered. This general conclusion is significant since chapters cover topics including finances, intelligence, health, stress, marriage and families, and the environment. While there is good news about each larger category, some subcategories that don't fare as well.

In the concluding chapter, Wright displays these findings in a chart that compares life in the United States today to what it was 30 years ago and 60 years ago for each subcategory using the following choices for each: substantially better, somewhat better, about the same, somewhat worse, and substantially worse (p. 201-204).
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