Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

This may have been a bad choice to read in the year 2020, or maybe the perfect read? The point of this book is that we are fucked, but maybe not if we wake up.

The book goes over the history of some past societies that collapsed, some well known (Easter Island) and others more obscure (Anasazi). Before he even gets into that, he talks about Montana for 50 pages. At times, Diamond rambles. He is talking about interesting stuff, but it is far too long. Sometimes it feels you are reading a lecture transcript, which some may like, but I don’t like it that much.

Then the book describes modern societies: Rwanda, Dominican Republic vs. Haiti, China, and Australia. The section on China was the worst, closely followed by the section on Rwanda. In the China section, he seems to imply that China’s one child policy was a positive thing for the country (!). He also doesn’t seem very knowledgeable about China at all. The section on Australia was very informative and even makes me want to read more about Australia’s history. Jared Diamond is great when he’s writing about places he’s visited (New Zealand, Australia, USA, and Papa New Guinea). The weak chapters are all about places he has never visited. Living in Taiwan, and knowing so much about China, it’s obvious he has never visited China.

In his last few chapters, he tries to give some suggestions of what modern societies can do to avoid collapse. This section of the book is about 100 pages, but most of the suggestions he makes are sort of obvious. He does have an excellent section in there about mining though, which makes me rethink the next phone I want to buy to minimize my impact on buying ‘dirty’ metals.

Was this book good? Yes. Was Diamond long-winded at times? YES! It is still a worthy read, but it’s almost too light. For me, I have already read books about Rwanda so I feel more informed about Rwanda than he does. This book seems geared to the ‘average’ reader who cares about things like if a book is a ““New York Times Bestseller””. I am definitely not the target audience of this book.

I really wanted to love this book. I did lots of very cool things about the Vikings, Greenland, and Easter Island. It was filled with lots of other OK content. This is a let down for me after really loving Guns, Germs, and Steel. This book either needed to be way longer, with more research, charts, and maps, or separate books. The book felt like it lacked a clear direction at times. This is not the Jared Diamond of Guns, Germs, and Steel. You have been forewarned.

Rating: ★★★

Book #126 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

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