"The World Until Yesterday" by Jared Diamond

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: The main idea behind "The World Until Yesterday" is simple: It is worth examining how people in "traditional" societies live, because they may have useful things to tell us in the modern world about how human beings have adapted to become who we are. And there is merit to that idea. But instead of making the case for those valuable observations in 150 pages, "The World Until Yesterday" takes more than 450 pages and countless detours down extremely narrow rabbit holes to get there. As a consequence, the very good points of the book (which are summarized surprisingly concisely and well in the 14-page epilogue) drown in a sea of minutiae about the !Kung people and birdwatching in New Guinea. The text is simply too long for the purpose it serves.

Verdict: Read the worthwhile epilogue. Skip the rest.