According to many metrics of health and well-being, 2017 is the best year to be alive in the history of humanity.

Spend some time on social media or watch cable news programs and it's easy to think that we're living in the worst of times, when the opposite is true. Recently, billionaire Warren Buffett was asked to give young people his best advice: "Bet on America," he said without hesitation. "I bought my first stock when America was losing the war in the Pacific 75 years ago. Always bet on America and don't listen to the jabbering."

If you need more convincing, consider reading these five books with a combined 2,700 pages of evidence.

Progress by Johan Norberg

"Fear and worry are survival tools," Swedish historian Johan Norberg said when I talked to him about his book. He says it's natural to look for problems and to have a 'negative bias,' but if that's all you see, then you become blind to the opportunities.

"We've made more progress over the last 100 years than in the first 100,000," writes Norberg. Each chapter of Norberg's book tackles a different subject and provides statistics and stories to show how the world has made unprecedented progress in each area. The data is stunning. For example, "285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the last 25 years" or "In the last 50 years, world poverty has fallen more than it did in the preceding 500."

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

Bill Gates recently gave this book a fresh boost when he tweeted about it in May. Gates called it the most inspiring book he's ever read.

According to Gates, "Pinker makes a persuasive argument that the world is getting better--that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. This can be a hard case to make, especially now...But it's true. And once you understand it, you start to see the world differently."

Gates says that if you know the world is getting better, you want to keep working on it and accelerate the progress we've made. "This is the core of my worldview. It sustains me in tough times."

Age of Discovery by Ian Goldin

In this book, Ian Goldin, a professor of globalization at Oxford University, calls the time we're living in today a "New Renaissance." Just as the printing press provided a new medium for communicating ideas, Goldin argues that today's digital technology and social platforms such as Facebook have given us the capacity to share ideas, judge ideas, and spark better ones.

According to Goldin, as ideas build upon one another we all reap the benefit: "Human health, wealth and education have reached new heights...This is the best moment, ever, to be alive."

Bourgeois Equality by Deirdre McCloskey

Deirdre McCloske, a distinguished professor of economics, history, English and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the most optimistic writers I've ever met. I learned something new on nearly every page of her 800-page book.

McCloskey calls the spread of ideas--beginning around the year 1800 and continuing to today-- the period of "The Great Enrichment." Ideas led to automobiles and more efficient ways of building them for the masses. Ideas led to voting rights and civil rights. Ideas led to indoor plumbing, antibiotics, iPhones and computers.

This stunning level of progress has never happened before, argues McCloskey. Although progress isn't perfect and many people still live in "an economic hell," McCloskey says, "Until 1800, such a hell was for everyone except a handful of nobles and merchants."

McCloskey believes that an entrepreneur with an idea has the best opportunity ever--in all of civilization--to turn that idea into a benefit for masses of people. "The Great Enrichment is the most important secular event since the invention of agriculture. It has restarted history."

Thank You For Being Late by Thomas Friedman

New York Times columnist and globalization expert, Thomas Friedman, has written a book that he calls "an optimist's guide to thriving in the age of acceleration."

Friedman's book traces the exponential growth of technology to show how it is reshaping every aspect of our lives. It also shows us how each and every person with an idea has the power to do the reshaping. "We have never seen a time when more people could make history, record history, publicize history, and amplify history all at the same time," writes Friedman. "One person can now help so many more people. One person can educate millions with an Internet learning platform; one person can entertain or inspire millions; one person can now communicate a new idea, a new vaccine, or a new application to the whole world at once."

Most entrepreneurs are optimists, but all too often they're surrounded by pessimists or by people who simply don't know how good they've got it. These five books will give you a different perspective, and inspire you to keep accelerating the astonishing advancements entrepreneurs have already made.

Published on: Jul 12, 2017
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of