The Rational Optimist book cover on the rocks.
That’s the sun coming up on my book!

“The Rational Optimist – How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley is a re-read for me. Do you re-read books? Many of my re-reads are simply because I forgot that I read them. Yep…sometimes I still wonder if there is any point to me reading anything. It’s rather frustrating.

The best kind of re-read is because the book was so good, so packed full of awesome, that I want to read it all again and savor it. If it’s been a while since I’ve read the book, I wonder if it will feel different this time around. Will it still be relevant? Will I still feel the same way about the text? Have I changed, has the world changed, so much that I’ll get something completely different from this read? THAT happens to me most with fiction. Books that I read when I was a kid, or even ten years ago, have a different effect on me. I’ve grown, but the book remains the same.

What brought me back to The Rational Optimist? A couple things. First was that I was cleaning and reorganizing my bookshelves and rediscovered it.

“Oh, yes! This book was great!”

And I was listening to an interview with Matt Ridley on the Jordan Peterson podcast recently. When I heard Matt Ridley mention “when ideas have sex,” the book came to mind, and I made a mental note to put it back on my TBR shelf. And we all know where mental notes end up.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

The final straw was the last book I started reading, “Mao – The Unknown Story.” It was so depressing, that I dropped it and went to look for an antidote. There was The Rational Optimist staring at me from the shelf calling quietly, “Pick me!” So, I did.

And here we are. I’m one hundred pages in so far and enjoying it immensely.

From the introduction chapter, “When Ideas Have Sex”

“What is it about human beings that enables them to keep changing their lives in this tumultuous way? It is not as if human nature changes. Just as the hand that held the hand axe was the same shape as the hand that holds the mouse, so people always have and always will seek food, desire sex, care for offspring, compete for status and avoid pain just like any other animal.”

“It was not something that happened within the brain. It was something that happened between brains. It was a collective phenomenon.”

“At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other animal.”

And my favorite, “This book dares the human race to embrace change, to be rationally optimistic and thereby to strive for the betterment of humankind and the world it inhabits.”

I’m excited. Are you? I believe the world in general is getting better but lately, like the past ten years, we’ve been letting fear resonate instead of hope, and letting the internet scare us into thinking it’s worse and someone should do something about it.

The Rational Optimist was written in 2010, just as social media was getting busier. I last read the book in 2015. It’s 2021 now. Have things changed for the worse? I don’t think so.

Have you read this book? Do you want to? Leave a message in the comments!

Want to read more posts about this book? Check these out!
Social status, trade, and trust, oh my!
Optimism is What Will Save Us: A Book Review