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Material World by Ed Conway
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Material World

A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future
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Narrator Ed Conway

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Length 15 hours 11 minutes
Language English
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Brought to you by Penguin.

Sand, salt, iron, copper, oil and lithium. They built our world, and they will transform our future.

These are the six most crucial substances in human history. They took us from the Dark Ages to the present day. They power our computers and phones, build our homes and offices, and create life-saving medicines. But most of us take them completely for granted.

In Material World, Ed Conway travels the globe - from the sweltering depths of the deepest mine in Europe, to spotless silicon chip factories in Taiwan, to the eerie green pools where lithium originates - to uncover a secret world we rarely see. Revealing the true marvel of these substances, he follows the mind-boggling journeys, miraculous processes and little-known companies that turn the raw materials we all need into products of astonishing complexity.

As we wrestle with climate change, energy crises and the threat of new global conflict, Conway shows why these substances matter more than ever before, and how the hidden battle to control them will shape our geopolitical future. This is the story of civilisation - our ambitions and glory, innovations and appetites - from a new perspective: literally from the ground up.

'A compelling narrative of the human story' TIM MARSHALL, author of Prisoners of Geography

'Lively, rich and exciting... full of surprises' PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk Roads

©2023 Ed Conway (P)2023 Penguin Audio

Ed Conway is a writer and broadcaster. He is the Economics and Data Editor of Sky News and a regular columnist for The Times and Sunday Times. He has written two critically acclaimed and bestselling books and has won numerous awards for his journalism. He lives in London.

Ed Conway is a writer and broadcaster. He is the Economics and Data Editor of Sky News and a regular columnist for The Times and Sunday Times. He has written two critically acclaimed and bestselling books and has won numerous awards for his journalism. He lives in London.

Buy one get one free

This month only!

Become a member and shop our members-only, 10th anniversary buy-one-get-one sale in support of local bookstores.

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Reviews

In Material World, Ed Conway uncovers the hidden history of the materials that structure our world. Full of colourful characters and fascinating connections, Material World shows how the seemingly simplest materials - from sand to salt to iron - require unbelievably complex refining and processing before arriving at their final form. Absorbing storytelling... Fascinating and insightful Rich in revelations . . . [Conway’s] analogies bring the scientific processes to life . . . Offers a fascinating lens on the intricacies of the modern supply chain, the underappreciated science behind everyday objects, and the ways that subtle - and not so subtle - changes in governmental policies shift the role of these materials in the global economy Brilliant Endlessly fascinating Revealing and empowering [A] masterful exploration of the materials that underpin civilisation . . . The biography of an element or material is now a familiar format . . . but what distinguishes Material World is his access . . . This is not a remote, academic analysis: he has been to the salt mines beneath the North Sea, the mineral railway of the Atacama Desert, the Chilean town being swallowed by the world's demand for copper Goes straight on the 'must-read' list ... Conway is one of the most adroit commentators on economics and business of our time '[Conway's] book deconstructs the modern world for us to see inside ... As we fret and argue about how to tackle climate change, economic development and geopolitical tensions, this book is a timely reminder of our reliance on physical stuff, and offers a challenging, practical perspective on these debates ... Enlightening [An] enlightening account... he throws new light on how the world works... Not a sentence jars in Material World Lucid... fascinating One of the most interesting books I have read in a really, really long time. It's absolutely brilliant [...] buy it, right now A compelling narrative of the human story Fascinating, fun, and vitally important. A wonderful exploration of the world we've built yet somehow manage to ignore Expansive, erudite, and edifying. A stunning insight into the materials that shaped our history and built the modern world Lively, rich and exciting ... full of surprises. Underlines that to understand global geopolitics, you need to understand natural resources and geology A stunning book that will transform the way you think about economics and life. Brilliantly written Fascinating . . . A revelation A vivid guide to the “material world” on which we all, often unconsciously, rely – and essential background reading to understand securonomics Lively and impeccably written - a welcome addition to the way-the-world-works literature Conway's gripping explanation of a world you didn't know needed explaining deserves this highest of accolades: Material World, once read, leaves us baffled that nobody ever thought of writing it before Ed Conway is a great thinker... Material World is an engrossing study of the basic substances on which we all depend. Anyone who cares about the resources which built our world and where mankind is heading must read this vital book A masterful exploration of how materials shape our world more than ever - economically, geopolitically and environmentally A highly engaging and important look at the key materials powering our modern world, and how we feed our insatiable appetite for them Fascinating and forensic in equal measure... reveals the web of mining and manufacturing that underpins the lives of everyone on the planet An eye-opening celebration of human ingenuity Compelling - and alarming Expand reviews
Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with giveaways, merch, and more! Learn more