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

by Jared Diamond

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  • The World Until Yesterday
  • The bestselling author of Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel surveys the history of human societies to answer the
    question: What can we learn from traditional societies that can make the world a better place for all of us?

    “As he did in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond continues to make us think with his
    mesmerizing and absorbing new book." Bookpage

    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. Provocative, enlightening, and entertaining, The World Until Yesterday is an essential and fascinating
    read.

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