Author Jared Diamond dissects the origins of today’s world. How did a handful of population groups (primarily European and Asian) come to spread their language, culture and people throughout the world? How did so many societies with technology, culture and traditions on par with (and in some cases superior to) these cultures flounder when this handful succeeded? In his Pulitzer Prize winning effort, Diamond attempts to provide the answer.
I actually first read this book as an archeology undergrad, when its theories had become a real hot topic in the field. It’s one of my favorites, and I recently picked it back up. Diamond has worked primarily in geography and ornithology (!), so it’s no surprise that one of the main answers in his thesis is the impact on humanity of geography and environment. I don’t know where the birds fit in, so moving on. Diamond has a knack for pulling together information from a large number of distinct fields, and creating a credible and understandable hypothesis. He also handily refutes any claims to genetic superiority. This book is everything a nonfiction Pulitzer Winner should be: grand scale, momentous ideas that will change how you view the world.
I would recommend Diamond’s follow up book, Collapse, for those that enjoyed Guns, Germs and Steel. Other anthropology tomes at LBPL that might be worth a look include The People of the Lake by Richard Leakey and The Well-Dressed Ape by Hannah Holmes. For fiction readers, W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s many ‘People of..’ books would be worth a look. Jean Auel’s series (which starts with Clan of the Cave Bear) might be another one to consider, though Auel is prone to flights of invention that (while no one can prove she’s wrong) do deviate from current anthropological thinking in significant ways.
Description: Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction work capable of shifting your view of human history and today’s world. Strongly recommended.
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