Picks and Pans Review: The Progress Paradox

updated 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/26/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

NONFICTION

by Gregg Easterbrook

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This important book lays out exactly why we should all quit whining. Polls show that most Americans think they're worse off than their parents, but consider: According to Easterbrook, we enjoy on average twice the buying power of our forebears of 1960, there are more deer than when the Mayflower arrived, cars emit 2 percent of the pollution they did in 1970, and life expectancy has jumped from 41 to 77 in the last century. You're also half as likely to be sued as an 1850 American.

Journalist Easterbrook spends most of the book tracing the various evolutionary, psychological and spiritual roots of our discontent, and though some may find his conclusions—count your blessings and think positive—to be unsatisfying, his scientifically backed optimism is a rare and eye-opening treat.

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