Other Sellers on Amazon
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Paperback – Illustrated, October 29, 2013
|New from||Used from|
Enhance your purchase
Inspire a love of reading with Amazon Book Box for Kids
Discover delightful children's books with Amazon Book Box, a subscription that delivers new books every 1, 2, or 3 months — new Amazon Book Box Prime customers receive 15% off your first box. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
“Challenging and smart…By focusing his infectious intellect and incredible experience on nine broad areas -- peace and war, young and old, danger and response, religion, language and health -- and sifting through thousands of years of customs across 39 traditional societies, Diamond shows us many features of the past that we would be wise to adopt.”
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The World Until Yesterday [is] a fascinating and valuable look at what the rest of us have to learn from – and perhaps offer to – our more traditional kin.”
--Christian Science Monitor
“Ambitious and erudite, drawing on Diamond's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of fields such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, physiology, nutrition and evolutionary biology. Diamond is a Renaissance man, a serious scholar and an audacious generalist, with a gift for synthesizing data and theories.”
--The Chicago Tribune
“As always, Diamond manages to combine a daring breadth of scope, rigorous technical detail and personal anecdotes that are often quite moving.”
--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Diamond’s investigation of a selection of traditional societies, and within them a selection of how they contend with various issues[…]is leisurely but not complacent, informed but not claiming omniscience[…]A symphonic yet unromantic portrait of traditional societies and the often stirring lessons they offer.”--Kirkus, Starred Review
“In this fascinating book, Diamond brings fresh perspective to historic and contemporary ways of life with an eye toward those that are likely to enhance our future.”—Booklist
“Lyrical and harrowing, this survey of traditional societies reveals the surprising truth that modern life is a mere snippet in the long narrative of human endeavor[…]This book provides a lifetime of distilled experience but offers no simple lessons.”—Publishers Weekly
“Jared Diamond has done it again. Surveying a great range of anthropological literature and integrating it with vivid accounts of a lifetime of visits—sometimes harrowing, more often exhilarating—to highland New Guinea, he holds up a needed mirror to our culture and civilization. The reflection is not always flattering, but it is always worth looking at with an honest, intelligent eye. Diamond does that and more.”
--Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing: and The Evolution of Childhood
“This is the most personal of Diamond's books, a natural follow-up to his brilliant Guns, Germs, and Steel. Diamond has very extensive and long-term field experience with New Guineans, and stories of these admirable people enrich his overview of how all human beings acted until very recently. Not only are his accounts fascinating, they will ring true to all who have experience with hunter-gatherer cultures. And they carry many lessons for modern societies as well on everything from child-rearing to general health. The World Until Yesterday is a triumph.”
--Paul R. Ehrlich, author of Human Natures
“The World Until Yesterday is another eye-opening and completely enchanting book by one of our major intellectual forces, as a writer, a thinker, a scientist, a human being. It's a rare treasure, both as an illuminating personal memoir and an engrossing look into the heart of traditional societies and the timely lessons they can offer us. Its unique spell is irresistible.”
--Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife
“An incredible insightful journey into the knowledge and experiences of peoples in traditional societies. Diamond’s literary adventure reflects on the problems of today in light of his exhaustive literature review and 40 plus years of living with rural New Guinean peoples.”
--Barry Hewlett, author of Intimate Fathers (with Michael Lamb)
“In the 19th century Charles Darwin's trilogy—On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals changed forever our understanding of our nature and our history. A century from now scholars will make a similar assessment of Jared Diamond's trilogy: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and now The World Until Yesterday, his magnificent concluding opus on not only our nature and our history, but our destiny as a species. Jared Diamond is the Charles Darwin of our generation, and The World Until Yesterday is an epoch-changing work that offers us hope through real-life solutions to our most pressing problems.”
--Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of The Believing Brain and Why Darwin Matters
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Illustrated edition (October 29, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143124404
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143124405
- Item Weight : 15.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.3 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #356,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The World Before Yesterday may pass as a backup read to go with a better undergraduate text in a real anthropology class or as a discussion starter for non-anthropologists but otherwise I am not sure who is the best audience for this book. Diamond makes a few good points, especially towards the end when he discusses how we in the modern or as he phases it the WIERD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) world might improve our diet to avoid modern world non-contagious diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Otherwise this is a collection of more or less well documented observations about how he thinks human society used to work before the centralized state.
It is good to know that in the WEIRD world we are less likely to kill each other, no matter how industrialized and deadly modern warfare has become. Then again he was writing without considering the new cycles of killing in modern killing growing from the asymmetric warfare based on revenge killing motivated by religious hatreds. A failing in this regard is a failing to redo some of his observations by cross tabbing analysis between societies given to ancient cycles of warfare and ancient attitudes towards strangers and traders.
A personal measure of my reaction to Yesterday is the fact that I had originally read it when it was first published about 5 years ago. I hat entirely forgotten reading it and was well into re reading it when I remembered anything from the first read. That is it is mostly a forgettable book.
His advice about adopting the Paleolithic diet or the Mediterranean diet or at least the Italian habit of eating slowly may still have the support of qualified medical opinion, but as a taint of food fad about it. Certainly it is no long out of the box thinking that in the modern diet we eat too much sugar and too much processed food. Though in the case of processed food, we may just need a better set of definitions. In the case of so called organic food, a term Diamond wisely avoids, one cannot be certain what it means other than expensive.
Against the criticism from the world of anthropology that Diamond gives too much weight to differences in climate. Diamond’s argument reads like the same economics argued by the folks behind Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything . Look at the win loss analysis for a given type of cultural response and that is how that culture will develop, Diamond argues the math behind the cultivation of widely separate plots of land against eh obvious efficiency of working one large plot. The inefficient scattered plots pay off better in the case of crop failure and so that strategy wins.
I do not dislike The World Before Yesterday, much of Diamonds thoughts are well argued. Mostly it lacks the clarity of purpose in the two earlier works. For all of its deliberate organization and systematic class room lecture style, it rambles and seems to be at cross purposes. Pre-state subsistence societies do have something to teach modern societies. Humans can learn from predator animals and flowering plants and the stars in the sky and from almost anything. I am not sure I can recommend all of those implied books or get too excited about this one.
Top reviews from other countries
We too often mistake past cultures based on flawed information and unconscious assumptions. Jared Diamond has actually done the research, and has the breadth of knowledge to make interesting, provocative, and informative assertions on the nature of humanity and human society.
As a result, The World Until Yesterday is a great book. Jared Diamond is an absolute master of his field, as readers of his other books can attest, and his breadth of examples and insights is exhaustive. In past books though, he has tended to take a single thesis, and argue for it based on case studies. Here, Diamond examines 9 broad themes, discussing how we treat them in the modern world, and how they were treated then. In some ways, we are clearly better off: in other ways we are perhaps not. Those nine themes are dividing space, peace/dispute resolution, war, raising children, treatment of elderly, danger response, religion, language, and diet/lifestyle.
Perhaps the most fundamental takeaway is that there are many possible ways of organizing a society, and that the narrow field of possibilities we experience for ourselves is just that: narrow. Some of these alternatives are probably undesirable from the modern standpoint: among the Kaulong people, when a man died, his brothers would strangle his widow, or in their absence, one of her sons. If they failed to do so fast enough, the widow would mock and humiliate them in order to pressure them to fulfill their obligation. Others, though, have a definite appeal, as with care for children and elderly, or our diets.
Exactly what we should learn from traditional societies is up for debate, and Diamond does not attempt to reach a consensus. His point is more profound: that we should at the very least think about other possible ways of organizing our societies, and that traditional cultures provide a way to see other possibilities in action. As they shrink and disappear, we lose a cultural laboratory of untold richness.
If you’re interested in how human society works (and if you ask me, you should be), then you should read this book, no questions asked.
well worth reading, lots of discussion emerges from this.
I can thoroughly recommend it as he clearly cares and has given much thought to his subject. Indeed if we applied some of the lessons that he draws out in his book, the world of today would probably be more pleasant and attractive than a lot of us find it.