The World Until Yesterday

ImageThis title is pretty instantly recognizable, as it [obviously intentionally] echoes the covers of Diamond’s earlier books—most notably the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gun, Germs, and Steel and the 2004’s Collapse.

In this tome [seriously, I was reading the digital copy, and it went on FOREVER], Diamond analyzes the different characteristics of traditional societies & then compares them to our general modern [WEIRD—Western, Educated, Industrial, & Rich Democracies] societies, emphasizing where traditional societies suck more & where our current culture could learn a thing or two.

It’s divided into a number of thematic sections—friends & strangers, children, war, old people, constructive paranoia [AKA why it’s good to walk around thinking about all the things that could go wrong in life], religion, linguistic diversity, and diet [hint: don’t eat like Americans ‘cause you’ll get fat & get diabetes and stroke and heart failure etc].  He tried to talk about EVERYTHING. Noticeably did not include a chapter on women & their roles. That was a pretty obvious gap.

I felt like some chapters were way better than others. Some [diet, old people, war] were filled with some pretty obvious conclusions. Like shocker, traditional societies [aka tribal societies] fight a lot of wars and die at a much higher rate than we do in modern societies. I know you’re all surprised. Also starving to death occasionally is apparently very good for your overall health [unless you actually die] & not being obese.

Maybe it’s just that I’m in my mid-twenties, but the section on child-rearing was probably the most interesting—talking about allo-parenting [community parenting, takes-a-village style], carrying children facing frontward and vertically [papoose style], attending to a child when it cries vs. letting it cry, and then the not-so-good things like abandoning disabled children and/or neglecting them so that they die. Hey, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is tough. Not that I would know, but apparently Jared does.

Now all I can think about is Subway.

ANYWAY, other than the fact that some of the chapters are insultingly obvious [don’t eat too much salt & sugar, guys] and he tends to repeat himself a lot to get his point across, this was interesting & overall worth reading in all the spare time that I’m sure that ya’ll have. 3.5 stars.

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2 thoughts on “The World Until Yesterday

  1. I have Collapse by this author on my shelf so I’ll probably try to read that first, but this does sound interesting! Even if it is a bit “duh” and it kind of sucks that he left out a chapter on women… but maybe that’s just too broad of a topic to compare ancient times to now times? And the roles of women vary a whole lot per what society they were/are a part of. Hmm.

    • That’s very true, but all the other topics he covers–treatment of the elderly–vary a lot too. Probably just being picky 🙂 If you’ve liked his other works, this will prob be up your alley. I still have to read Guns, Germs, and Steel–it’s been on my list for EVER.

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