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Material World

A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future

«An eye-opening celebration of human ingenuity»

Andrew Hill, Financial Times, Best Books of 2023 - Business
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W H Allen
24 x 17 cm


«An eye-opening celebration of human ingenuity»

Andrew Hill, Financial Times, Best Books of 2023 - Business

«Lively, rich and exciting ... full of surprises. Underlines that to understand global geopolitics, you need to understand natural resources and geology»

Peter Frankopan, author of THE SILK ROADS

«Fascinating . . . A revelation»

The Times, Best Science and Environment Books of 2023

«A compelling narrative of the human story»

Tim Marshall, author of PRISONERS OF GEOGRAPHY


Martin Wolf, Financial Times - Best Summer Books of 2023: Economics

«Fascinating, fun, and vitally important. A wonderful exploration of the world we've built yet somehow manage to ignore»

Tim Harford, bestselling author of HOW TO MAKE THE WORLD ADD UP

«Revealing and empowering»

New Statesman, Best Summer Books of 2023

«Expansive, erudite, and edifying. A stunning insight into the materials that shaped our history and built the modern world»

Prof. Lewis Dartnell, author of 'BEING HUMAN: How our Biology shaped World History'

«[An] enlightening account... he throws new light on how the world works... Not a sentence jars in Material World»

The Times

«A vivid guide to the “material world” on which we all, often unconsciously, rely – and essential background reading to understand securonomics»

Rachel Reeves, New Statesman, Books of the Year 2023

«'[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 »


«Goes straight on the 'must-read' list ... Conway is one of the most adroit commentators on economics and business of our time»

City AM

«A stunning book that will transform the way you think about economics and life. Brilliantly written»

Matthew Syed, author of REBEL IDEAS

«[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»

Will Dunn, New Statesman

«Endlessly fascinating»

Adrian Chiles

«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»

Matthew Parris

«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»

Chris Miller, author of CHIP WAR

«One of the most interesting books I have read in a really, really long time. It's absolutely brilliant [...] buy it, right now»

Merryn Somerset Webb, Merryn Talks Money

«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»

Adam Boulton, Times Radio

«A masterful exploration of how materials shape our world more than ever - economically, geopolitically and environmentally»

Diane Coyle CBE, Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge

«A highly engaging and important look at the key materials powering our modern world, and how we feed our insatiable appetite for them»

Professor Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and ex-Chief Economist of the

«Fascinating and forensic in equal measure... reveals the web of mining and manufacturing that underpins the lives of everyone on the planet»

Mark Miodownik, author of STUFF MATTERS and UCL Professor of Materials & Society

«Lucid... fascinating»

Financial Times

«Lively and impeccably written - a welcome addition to the way-the-world-works literature»

Kirkus - starred review

«Compelling - and alarming »

New Yorker

«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»

Bronwen Everill, Foreign Policy

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