The World Until Yesterday

The World Until Yesterday : What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

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Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday in evolutionary time when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions. "The World Until Yesterday" provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years a past that has mostly vanished and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.This is Jared Diamond s most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn t romanticize traditional societies after all, we are shocked by some of their practices but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, "The World Until Yesterday" will be essential and delightful reading."show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 512 pages
  • 167.64 x 241.3 x 43.18mm | 861.82g
  • Penguin Putnam Inc
  • Penguin USA
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • New ed.
  • 0670024813
  • 9780670024810
  • 135,375

About Jared M Diamond

Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan s Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by The Rockefeller University. His previous books include "Why Is Sex Fun?," "The Third Chimpanzee," "Collapse," "The World Until Yesterday, " and "Guns, Germs, and Steel," winner of the Pulitzer Prize."show more

Review quote

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 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 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 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. 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 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 Praise for The World Until Yesterday "Extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in [its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the past." The New York Times Book Review "Diamond's most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that don't just educate and provoke, but entertain." The Seattle Times "Extremely persuasive...replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics." The Boston Globe "Essential reading..."Collapse" [shows] that resilient societies are nimble ones, capable of a long-term planning and of abandoning deeply entrenched but ultimately destructive core values and beliefs." Nature "There are hopeful messages in "Collapse." With Diamond's help, maybe we'll learn to see our problems a little more clearly before we chop down that last palm tree." Time "Extraordinarily panoramic...Diamond's complex historical web of how human communities either master their environment or become victims of them...takes a lifetime of research and, in normal English, leads the reader painstakingly where the media and intellectual journals have often refused to go." The Washington Post "Rendering complex history and science into entertaining prose, Diamond reminds us that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it." People (four stars) "Taken together, "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse" represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual in our generation. They are magnificent books...I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care." The New York Times "Read this book. It will challenge you and make you think." Scientific American Praise for "Collapse"A "New York Times" bestseller "A magisterial effort packed with insight and written with clarity and enthusiasm. It's also the deal of the year--the equivalent of a year's college course by an engaging, brilliant professor, all for the price of a book. BusinessWeek"show more

Rating details

6,343 ratings
3.67 out of 5 stars
5 22% (1,386)
4 38% (2,393)
3 29% (1,856)
2 9% (553)
1 2% (155)
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