Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization” as Want to Read:
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  373 ratings  ·  24 reviews
How much further should the affluent world push its material consumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolute decline in demand for materials? These and many other questions are discussed and answered in Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization.

Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependent on unprecedented flows of materials. N
Paperback, 229 pages
Published December 16th 2013 by Wiley (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  373 ratings  ·  24 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Nick Klagge
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
This book gave support to my general approach of not giving up on books. The first half or so is extremely tedious, discussing in great numerical detail world output and consumption of a full range of materials: concrete, wood, steel, plastics, zinc, etc etc etc. I usually read during my commute, and it was often pretty difficult not to fall asleep on the evening commute home while reading the book.

However, the second half was much more interesting. The author discusses trends in "dematerializat
Sean Goh
Jan 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have got to give myself permission to stop reading and throw away books I've started reading, a la Tyler Cowen ( here and there)

Massive wall of numbers, concealing a few fun facts within. Evidently the author does not believe that graphical presentation of his data and numbers (charts, graphs, TIMELINES?) would get his message across in a far more readable way.

Enclosed below are the fun facts I picked out:
The 20th century's population growth could not have been supported without the Ha
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A short but quantitatively dense account of the material impact of human civilization, filled with astounding orders-of-magnitude observations about how much more stuff of all sorts we consume and transform now than even a couple of hundred years ago, along with rather mindboggling assessments of what it will mean if we try to bring the 5+ billion people around the world still living in relative poverty up to the levels of consumption enjoyed by the middle and upper class of the global industria ...more
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Vznik, vývoj, spotřeba materiálu - analýzy
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
4-star content in 1-star form. It tells that Smil is well researched and experienced on the topics, but no human can go through 4 numbers and remember even their magnitudes five minutes later, and that repeats on every page, with no charts, and generally the structure doesn't tell a good story either. He writes like we knew what he knows. As a result we are left with only a shallow sense of the scale of material production and recent trend of relative (not absolute) dematerialization. Inaccessib ...more
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tons of statistics brilliantly compiled and discussed. The information/page rate is out of normal. You end up entertaining yourself learning how civilization has been using materials. Amusing that this book is a good example of efficient use of words/numbers.
Max Nova
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smil’s “Making the Modern World” is a fascinating tour through the many materials and industrial processes that enable our modern, high-consumption lives. From forest products and steel to fertilizers and silicon, Smil has put together an astonishingly thorough study of our material world. One of the key questions that drives the book is “are we using more or less materials than we did in the past?” Before reading the book, I was sure that my minimalist, efficient, highly digital life had to be ...more
Eddie Chua
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
With such intense research and data collection from the author, he truly gave an in depth breakdown of the usage, trend and potential life span of our limited natural resources on planet earth. Tracing the journey of the modernization of men, the usage of wood, mental, plastic, air and energy amount has increased over the times.

Men have managed to reduce the usage of energy and waste, a so call more effective, productive way of processing these resources, with the intention of using, needing le
Rob Price
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Information dense.
Nicola Le
Sep 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
Writing was super boring. I couldn't digest it.
Mrudula Julukunta
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
An comprehensive treatise on materialization and a compelling argument for the need of Dematerialisation.
Alex Monegro
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wait the numbers out

Hard to get through the marass of numbers in the first half of the book but rewarding analysis after that.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a hard book for me to get through personally, but I did get through it, and it was worth it in the end. It was difficult to retain much of the (massive amounts of) information in this book, but it has definitely sparked an interest in materials science and I look forward to reading more about the subject.
Robert Miller
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
The author states that no earthly specimen could have evolved without the "expanding" and "increasingly intricate" complex use of materials". Consumption has changed and increased through the years as we become more adept at mining materials through modern technology (gas turbines, etc.) as opposed to earlier times when we relied upon animal and human muscle. The question becomes have we mined too much and are some societies using more than their share. The author sets out to introduce ways in w ...more
Harsha Varma
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
A fascinating account about the materials we use to run our modern society. A plethora of interesting numbers and facts help us grasp the true scale of manufacturing that goes in the background, which enables us to meet our daily needs. And we're devouring more materials than ever before. For example, "China emplaced more cement in new construction in the three years between 2008 and 2010, than what the US did during the entire twentieth century". That is quite mind-boggling!

It was more of an in
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has outstanding detailed information about global materials and consumption. I found myself skimming quite often, but a good student would read the whole book. Section 6.4 is a must: "This calls for a new society where, once basic material needs are taken care of, the sense of wellbeing and satisfaction would be derived from experiences that are not at all, or only marginally correlated with higher energy flows and expanding material possessions."However, "without exaggeration, materia ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
The concept and the Idea behind the book is really great but the text is very redundant, has a lot of jargon,and the literature is very heavy and hard on an average reader. This book is fit as a guide for thesis for a student of energy studies, public policy statistics etc, any normal person will throw away the book within the first 50 pages.

The first half of the book is nothing but a detail account of each and every metal,non-metal, energy source in terms of its discovery, usage, history etc.
deleted d
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was ok

Our modern world consumes a tremendous quantity and variety of materials; the material demands of our economy are increasing everyday. Therefore, it’s essential to use materials more efficiently while advancing recycling and waste reduction methods to ensure we can meet the demands of the future
Parvin Siva
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very informative book on the intersection between materials science, technology and economics with a sprinkle of history. However, it was a struggle to read the first half of the book, although highly interesting but filled with LOTS of numbers.
Alex Devero
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
Our modern world consumes a tremendous quantity and variety of materials; the material demands of our economy are increasing everyday. Therefore, it’s essential to use materials more efficiently while advancing recycling and waste reduction methods to ensure we can meet the demands of the future.
May 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book reads like an extremely dry and poorly written academic paper with lots of figures and rambling text. Hidden between all the words are good points, but Smil could have done a lot more to convey his views in a clearer, more concise and more accessible manner.
Drew Huang
Dec 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Because of my weak foundation of science, I have difficulties understanding the terms used in this book. Nonetheless, I think I understand the big picture and I think that is sufficient. A good read though!
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Too many numbers, hard too get into reading flow. Last chapter excellent.
Leonel Di Caprio
rated it it was amazing
Nov 21, 2016
rated it liked it
Nov 07, 2015
rated it it was amazing
Dec 03, 2016
rated it really liked it
Sep 29, 2017
Igbal Safarov
rated it really liked it
Aug 06, 2017
Austin Miller
rated it it was amazing
May 07, 2018
Rod Taylor
rated it really liked it
May 01, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
THE book club: Making the Modern World Discussion 36 2 Oct 09, 2018 12:48PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlang and His Battle to End World Hunger
  • How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region
  • Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients.
  • State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?
  • Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012
  • Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises
  • The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation
  • Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More
  • Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era
  • House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox
  • Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages
  • World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
  • The City That Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control
  • The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World
  • Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World
  • Plundered Planet: Why We Must--And How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity
  • The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor
  • How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III
See similar books…

Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy.

He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and the
“the world now consumes in one year nearly as much steel as it did during the first post-World War II decade, and (even more incredibly) more cement than it consumed during the first half of the twentieth century.” 6 likes
“we create the modern world's material wealth with no more than a quarter of all energy we use.” 1 likes
More quotes…