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

I saw this thing in the bookstore (yes, I still go to meat-space bookstores, independent ones, if at all possible) about two years before I ended up buying it. It’s 500-odd pages of detailed tales of how various societies went tits up, most through their own fault, some through the fault of their trading partners. I don’t know why it took me forever to read. I was at this thing for a good month, wishing it wrapped up around the two-week mark, but nevertheless glad it I made it to the end.

Is it worth your time? Hell yeah. But be warned the book is long on material and short on analysis. In fact, I would go so far as to say the author is quite self-indulgent when it comes to both his choice of material and how he delivers it. Rural Montana is not exactly high on the list of places one would expect a book on Roman Empire-scale societal collapses to concentrate on. But hey, the author lived there and you bought his book so bleah. Think of this as the Les Miserables of historical non-fiction. Sure the guy won a Pulitzer Prize and deserved it, but that doesn’t stop him boring the shit out of you. In fact, it probably encourages him.

I came away feeling like I’d been to an after-work night class on a topic I really loved and the prof had been sleeping all day and was fresh as a daisy and couldn’t stop relating everything back to his grandkids. Did I learn anything? Hell, yeah. Does Mr. Pulitzer need an editor? Hell, yeah. Life is short. We won’t call the police if you give us more meat and less potatoes.

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