For the past 30 years at Elon University, a group of faculty, staff and students annually choose a common reading for all incoming students to complete prior to the start of the academic year.  

The 2022-23 common reading is “Factfulness: 10 Reasons We’re Wrong About the World- and Why Things are Better Than You Think,” written by Hans Rosling and co-authored by his son, Ola Rosling, and Ola’s wife, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. Rönnlund gave a virtual presentation Sept. 27 to the community, as she is based in Sweden. 

In a prerecorded interview released shortly after 7:30 p.m. between English professor Paula Patch and Rönnlund, students were able to learn more about the philosophy behind the book, as well as its creation. President Connie Book opened the conversation by explaining how “Factfulness,” has greatly impacted the views of Elon community members.

“It's been a great way to launch the campus this year with a set of ideas and some knowledge, so I am very appreciative for the framing that ‘Factfulness’ provides,” Book said.

Patch opened the Q&A asking Rönnlund to describe the relationship between good and bad events. Rönnlund said an educated community should make connections between good and bad, attempting to work together and use new ways of communicating to solve issues.

“Since we have a population that is highly educated and that is also aware of how the problem actually looks, then that group can actually start applying some of their thinking in a constructive way trying to solve the problem,” Rönnlund, “I think that is a pretty new thing because not only do we have a much more educated general public, which is perfect, but if we’re going to solve the problems, we also have new ways of communicating.”

Patch emphasized Rönnlund message to use facts to figure out a problem rather than jumping to conclusions and asked for advice for students overwhelmed by the volume on information available to them online

“All of that feels really difficult to do in today’s cultural environment, where information is flying at us, particularly our young people like the students,” Patch said.

Grace Stetler | Elon News Network
In a prerecorded interview, Anna Rosling Rönnlund shared the philosophy behind this year’s common reading, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think."

Rönnlund addressed the students, commending them for already taking the biggest step in the process. 

“Your students here, they have come to you to get help, to improve the ways they are thinking and dealing with the information,” Rönnlund said. “You have basically opened your mind already saying that, ‘I’m here ready to improve my ways of thinking and my way of doing things,’ so that is probably the biggest step.”

Patch next referenced curiosity, which she said is one of the student learning outcomes built into Elon’s curriculum and led Rönnlund to share the history behind “Factfulness’s” creation. 

Rönnlund met her co-author and now husband, Ola, at the age of 16 and said they had no intention of creating a book. But after completion of school and studying social sciences, she was intrigued behind reasoning in history and the concept of implication. 

As Rönnlund and her husband became closer, Ola’s father, Hans, showed interest in this concept of implication and explanation. She said they would soon begin the creation of their company, Gapminder, and wanted to create further explanation, so they wrote “Factfullness.” Hans passed away halfway through the completion of the book, and the couple worked together to finish and publish it in his honor. 

Finally, Rönnlund called on students to do three things. 

“Be curious, be humble and try to follow your dreams,” Rönnlund.

Freshman Class President Selma Maric closed the presentation with takeaways for students. 

“I think it’ll help our community be more aware of surroundings because we will have a higher understanding of the information we receive from the media,” Maric said. “I also think it will allow each of us to work on understanding the facts to solve problems both inside and outside of our Elon community.”