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The Boston Globe


book review

‘The World Until Yesterday’ by Jared Diamond

THERE MIGHT BE an inclination among some who pick up Jared Diamond’s new book to believe it’s one of the seemingly countless self-help books that are the residue of the heartbreakingly narcissistic society of the here-and-now, with the edges of that society beginning — already — to collapse.

The title certainly seems to lean in that direction: “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” Instead, however, I think it’s a hybrid book, both subtly and indirectly chiding while also deep and scholarly and wonkish. Any page might discuss passionately and intelligently the bison-hunting communities of the indigenous people in the Southwestern United States in one paragraph before moving on to the habits of another culture on the other side of the world. Or perhaps what I’m calling scholarliness is really just the manifestation of a curious mind, always inquiring, always hunting and gathering, and then sharing what has been found.

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