It was a rainy afternoon I gazed sadly into the bookshelves of Waterstone’s for hours and hours. My ex-girlfriend was a few meters away, reminding me of how tough love can be. I just wanted to go home and drink as much Cherry Coke as I could (I don’t have drinking habits, sorry for that). But then I saw her. All in red, left by the counter by some heartless book worm. I couldn’t take my eyes off. At first I knew she would be mine. I knew our relationship would last. At least for one year, it will. Her name is “The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2013 Edition”.
I know my British friends probably don’t find this any special. You must be sick of these just as much as you are sick of Christmas pudding. But it has been a week I can’t read anything else. It has been a week I suggest stories to my Brazilian colleagues thanks to these figures. It has been a week she sleeps with me (on the table next to my bed). It is split into two parts: world rankings and country profiles. Thanks to this data guide we can not only take a look at figures, but also cross them and get a new sense of things. For me it seems handier than looking it up on Google.
There are various surprises in the data list, with figures compiled between 2009 and 2011. I had always thought Americans hated being married. It turns out they are number 24 in the list for highest marriage rates in the world – 6.8 per 1,000 population. Yet they are number seven in the highest divorce rate list, with 3.2 per 1,000 population. My impression was correct, but there is more to it than I had thought.
It was a shock to see my fellow Brazilians as top 20 tourism spenders and our country not even among the 40 most visited on Earth – between 2000 and 2010 there were more people going to Taiwan than to Brazil. Neither could I believe that the United Kingdom is not among the top 20 beer drinking countries of the planet. According to the pocket book, Estonia tops them all, if you consider retail sales and litres per head of population.
Of course it is a bad idea to take all the lists for granted. There are shades of grey in the way these data were compiled. Argentina lies so much about their figures that The Economist stopped publishing their GDP numbers. Yet it appears in front of Brazil when it comes down to mobile cell phones – I just know there is something wrong. But love is just like that: the flaws matter much less than everything else you get. These were the best 12 pounds I have ever spent on a book. Can anyone ship me some new love in 2014 when I am back home?