One of the books I’m most excited to read this summer is called The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?. It’s partly because the subject sounds interesting, but it’s mostly because I’m a big fan of the author, Jared Diamond. There aren’t many other writers who go as broad and as deep as he does. In fact, I’m eager enough about the book that I want to try an experiment that involves getting input from you.
Like a lot of people, I was blown away by Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. I had never read anything that explained so much about human history. None of the classes I took in high school or college answered what I thought was one of the biggest and most important questions about history: Why do some societies advance so much faster and further than others? While people disagree with minor parts of Diamond’s argument, the basic idea—that the differences between societies are largely explained by geography—is very persuasive. I admire his other books like Collapse, but Guns, Germs, and Steel is almost in a class by itself.
Diamond’s latest book, The World Until Yesterday, looks at what he calls traditional societies (like various isolated tribes in New Guinea) and asks what modern societies can learn from them. It’s an intriguing question. I wonder if he will romanticize traditional groups or downplay what a tough and often violent life they offer. But even if he does, I’m sure it will be a great read because Diamond has such an interesting and wide-ranging mind.
As an experiment, I’d like to invite you to read The World Until Yesterday along with me. I’ll be reading it over the next week and will post my review the week of July 15. In the meantime, you can post your comments below. I’ll respond to a few of them in my review. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to hearing what people have to say.