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803 of 869 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The discipline of geography is back!, January 7, 2005
This review is from: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Hardcover)
"Collapse" is a wonderful book! Prof. Diamond combines hard science, rigorous historical research, and his own personal knowledge of people from the Bitterroot Valley of Montana to the west coast of Greenland to Rwanda to the highlands of New Guineau. He pulls together clear and compelling explanations of how events unfolded (and are still unfolding) in various parts of the world.

His accounts of various human communities draw on real data from a wide variety of academic fields, including isotope analysis, pollen analysis, tree-ring analysis, seismology, agronomy, archaeology, sociology, and even the history of religion. His explanations of each of these disciplines are lucid without oversimplification. But, the strength of the book comes from the the way he combines results from all these fields to create straightforward narratives of what might have happened as various communities rose and fell.

If I were I high school "social studies" teacher I would be talking to my principal today, saying "I want to put together an honors-level geography course and I want to use this as the textbook."

I do have one criticism. The subject matter of the book is tremendously consequential to people alive today, and hopefully "policy wonks" in governments will study the book and take it seriously. But, the title is a bit inflammatory. What's more, Prof. Diamond makes sure to explain the significance for the United States of his accounts of the demise of various ancient communities. Some of these explanations extrapolate from ancient situations to modern in a way that isn't quite as solid as the rest of the book. Diamond's extrapolations are very cleary marked as such. However, I am still afraid that they, combined with the title, will provide an excuse for people to dismiss the book as a "pro-environment anti-business" ideological polemic. That would be unfortunate, because it is actually balanced and nuanced in its explanation of the human condition.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 15, 2008 10:47:30 PM PST
I broadly agree with Ellis on this work. I had not seen any of Diamond's work until I read this book and it startled me. Regardless of things that I liked or disliked about it I suggest that it is a profoundly important work that simply should be read. I am less concerned than Ellis about the book's name evoking a "pro-environment anti-business" tag as I believe that big business is now moving to secure market share in the exploding pro-environment market and the tag will soon enough become less relevant.

Posted on Jul 21, 2010 2:55:21 AM PDT
An informative and wonderful review indeed!

Posted on Oct 3, 2011 7:13:17 PM PDT
Book Reader says:
You should read The Statues that Walked. This book has totally different view on the collapse of Easter Island.

Posted on Feb 12, 2012 5:46:10 AM PST
Seven Zero says:
I wish Diamond would have left out the word "collapse" in the title. I think people have a tendency to turn away from doomsday books and this is not. There are over 500 reviews of this book which makes me happy that alot of people are reading it. On the otherhand, the message Diamond shares with us is extremely important and I fear that there will never be enough who do read it.

What made you read it? How did you decide you wanted to read this book?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2012 8:21:50 AM PST
Excellent review...it made me buy...well done!

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 3:47:11 PM PDT
This is the next book on my list. I find the subject matter to be a relevant warning to today's culture.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2013 5:26:43 PM PDT
I just Collapsed on the sofa, but that's how I read everything.
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