The World Until Yesterday (Jared Diamond) - Viking - 2013 - 499 pages

Although not as readable as previous best-selling works (Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse), this is an important work of non-fiction and a culmination of 50 years of research that will be highly regarded in the future as a reference source.  The book has been greatly-panned by critics who have found large portions of it difficult to read, and have also been disappointed with some of  the less-than-earth-shaking conclusions.  However, there is much to appreciate here and numerous stories of the author's travels and hobbies.  Mr. Diamond is an ornithologist who found the large island of New Guinea to be the perfect site for his study of bird species in the wild.  Along the way, he also began to study the lifestyles of hunter-gatherer tribes that he calls "traditional societies."  These hunter-gatherers are rapidly disappearing because this way of life is difficult and their average life-spans are short.   The author tackles several broad topics in the book including raising children, eldercare, constructive paranoia, evolution of religion, multilingualism and the causes of modern diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.  For each topic, he relates and compares the traditional experience with that of "state government" societies.  Even though many of the conclusions are obvious, Mr. Diamond always approaches his subject without prejudice or lack of respect.  I spent several weeks reading this book a few pages at a time.  It was time well spent.  Do the same and you will be richer after the reading.  [JAM 6/17/2013]