Not nearly as good as Collapse; and Guns, Germs, and Steel. I was disappointed. I think Jared Diamond has had his day in the sun and it was yesterday. I am glad I picked this up from the library and did not purchase it. True, it was well written, however, I found it to be a HUGE let down and a real slog to get through.
A better read would be Ishmael by Daniel Quinn...
Canada’s First Nations – A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times by Olive Dickason ( see below)
in regards to the study of anthropology itself:
Dr. Michael Asch
Dr. John Burrows
Dr. James Tully
the Smithsonian Institution’s Wilcomb Washburn, an historian, anthropologist and native American.
Law and Anthropology by
René Kuppe, Richard Potz
This book is overly long for the meager comparisons and recommendations that the author suggests for modern societies ( at the same time acknowledging rural society in the Western world is close to Traditional social dynamics.) The author briefly mentions but does not pursue unequal work burdens between the sexes in traditional society nor forced marriages. Besides the section on diet there isn't much here.The author should have probably just written an autobiography.
I'm not familiar with any of the controversies as mentioned in other comments. This book reminded me of a few of my Anthropology classes in college, so it didn't contain a lot of new facts for me. I think it's an interesting subject, and I appreciate how well researched it is, but it's a bore to read. It took me a while to get through this book, and towards the end, I just gave up because I was sick of the repetitiveness. Read this book if you didn't take an Anthropology class.
At first I liked this book but due to some commenters below, I'm now questioning it. Look online for controversies about the author.
Diamond is always a good read but this one is a bit heavy. Too many details weigh down the reading. The ideas at base are sometimes fascinating but a good editor could have improved this immensely.
The writing is clear and precise and Diamond has clearly done a lot of research. The book is perhaps longer than it needs to be. Diamond knows the topic well and relates his personal experiences with New Guineans to great effect. But in the end, it's not clear how relevant his observations and suggestions are. Modern societies are structured very differently from traditional ones and it is not clear how we could adopt the good practices of traditional societies into our own society. A key point of Diamond's argument is that we evolved to live in traditional societies. What he doesn't seem to be willing to consider is that evolution doesn't stop. We have only just begun, in evolutionary terms, to live in modern societies. It may take thousands more years before humans fully adapt to this new way of living.
While this book isn't as exceptional and comprehensive as Diamond's two previous books (Collapse; and Guns, Germs, and Steel), The World Until Yesterday is still a valuable, fair comparison of traditional (hunter/gatherer) and modern (agricultural/industrial) societies. While it doesn't contain many new insights, and some of the personal annecdotes can be somewhat prolix and tedious, it's still an informative distillation of his previous books. Diamond makes a convincing argument that there are significant attributes and liabilities of both traditional and modern societies: By incorporating some traditional practices into our societies, we moderns would greatly improve our mental and physical health.
Negative rating due to lack of scholarship. (Yeah...yeah....yeah...I realize Diamond was awarded the Pulitzer, as other submediocrities from time to time are awarded it, but Diamond should stick with what he's best at, writing the introductions to hedge fund books!) One would be much better served reading the far superior social/economic anthropologist, Prof. Joseph Tainter.
Somewhat uneven, but it does provide a glimpse of some traditional societies (particularly in New Guinea) and what they have to offer "modern" people. I found the chapters on war, justice and avoiding danger the most interesting. The ones on child-rearing and diet contained less that was new to me; the one on religion was far more abstract than the rest of the book.
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