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How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
by Jared Diamond

Collapse reviews
Critic Score
Metascore: 73 Metascore out of 100
User Score  
7.4 out of 10
based on 24 reviews
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based on 9 votes
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rate this book

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel examines the causes (both political and environmental) for the collapse of some of history's greatest civilizations, and what lessons those failures offer for the present day.

Viking Books, 575 pages

ISBN: 0670033375


What The Critics Said

All reviews are classified as one of five grades: Outstanding (4 points), Favorable (3), Mixed (2), Unfavorable (1) and Terrible (0). To calculate the Metascore, we divide total points achieved by the total points possible (i.e., 4 x the number of reviews), with the resulting percentage (multiplied by 100) being the Metascore. Learn more...

Christian Science Monitor David Shi
Remarkable for its ambitious sweep and interpretive panache.
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Publishers Weekly
Readers will find his book an enthralling, and disturbing, reminder of the indissoluble links that bind humans to nature. [15 Nov 2004, p.49]
Washington Post Robert D. Kaplan
He takes a lifetime of research and, in normal English (free of academic jargon), leads the reader painstakingly where the media and intellectual journals have often refused to go.
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The Onion A.V. Club Donna Bowman
Equally magisterial and sociologically compelling, yet often more entertaining and accessible than Guns, Germs, And Steel, Collapse tours the fall of human empires with a detective’s sense for telling clues and a prophet’s ear for apocalyptic phrases.
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The Spectator Jonathan Sumption
We have heard much of this before, although rarely with as much detailed information or dispassionate analysis.
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Daily Telegraph Robert Hanks
The [previous] book was remarkable for the clarity of its argument, a quite immense breadth of learning and, importantly, sheer readability. Collapse has all the same qualities.
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Daily Telegraph Noel Malcolm
This is an impressively wide-ranging and informative book, which begs some questions, but raises many more that deserve to be asked.
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Wall Street Journal Francis Fukuyama
While the individual stories are entertaining, a question remains as to how much light they shed on our current situation.
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The Economist
Since Mr Diamond is a restless traveller, a ravenous researcher and a sparky writer, the result is gripping.
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The Globe And Mail [Toronto] Ronald Wright
Collapse is a better and more fair-minded book [than Guns, Germs and Steel]: more original, accurate and responsible, if sometimes overweight and repetitious. [15 Jan 2005, p.D3]
The Guardian Jonathon Porritt
This pursuit of objectivity drives him into a depth of detail that on several occasions clearly impedes the narrative line he is seeking to develop.
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Boston Globe Joseph E. Stiglitz
Though abuse of the environment is the common theme running through "Collapse," the book is replete with other fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes.
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The Independent A C Grayling
His account is crammed with absorbing facts drawn from ecology, history and anthropology in characteristic Diamond fashion - which is to say, highly readable, highly persuasive, and richly informative.
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New York Observer Rose George
It's to Mr. Diamond's credit that while writing about a 600-year-old societal collapse in a far-off Pacific island that shouldn't matter to us, he manages to convey a potboiler dread of impending doom. [27 Dec 2004, p.23]
San Francisco Chronicle Troy Jollimore
Diamond's strategy of juxtaposition succeeds: The killings in Rwanda in the early 1990s, the desperate plight of the Haitians and the risks and challenges facing the United States in the present and near future are rendered all the more poignant and immediate against the background of various past human struggles against possible extirpation.
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The New Yorker Malcolm Gladwell
His discussions are always nuanced, and he gives political and ideological factors their due.
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Booklist Brad Hooper
A thought-provoking book containing not a single page of dense prose. [1 Nov 2004, p.442]
Houston Chronicle Fritz Lanham
Ambitious, absorbing and discomforting.... Collapse is an important book that raises profound and troubling questions.
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Los Angeles Times Alfred W. Crosby
These accounts are based on extensive readings in secondary sources, on archeological records and on the written histories of the lands and peoples concerned -- and even on some original research, a rarity in publications aimed at the general public. [2 Jan 2005]
The New York Times Michiko Kakutani
Fascinating but not always convincing.... This book remains, in the end, a messy hodgepodge of case studies, glued together with speculation and questionable analogies.
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The New York Times Book Review Gregg Easterbrook
Taken together, ''Guns, Germs, and Steel'' and ''Collapse''... are magnificent books: extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in their ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past.... All of which makes the two books exasperating, because both come to conclusions that are probably wrong.
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The Independent Toby Green
A curiously frustrating book.... Collapse is too simplistic, particularly in its view of other cultures. Its approach to history can be anachronistic; it can also be heavy going, and suffers from the impression that Diamond is trying to perform when he would really rather be addressing fellow-scientists.
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London Review Of Books Partha Dasgupta
The concluding chapters of the book are devoted to speculations on the contemporary human condition, responses to dismissals of the concerns of environmentalists by sceptics, and a meditation on our hopes and the perils we face. Which is when the book skids and becomes a mess.
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Bookslut James Campbell Martin
The concluding section's brevity and once-over-lightly feeling are too bad, because Diamond makes many intriguing points.
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What Our Users Said

Vote Now!The average user rating for this book is 7.4 (out of 10) based on 9 User Votes
Note: User votes are NOT included in the Metascore calculation.

Tom P gave it a9:
Diamond is one of my heroes as an ecologist and a scientist. He considers multiple hypotheses, to avoid the trap of a single favorite hyopothesis. He uses natural experiments, especially well with the Greenland Norse vs. Inuits and Hipaniola Haitans vs. Dominancan Republicans and so answers those who say he is an environmental determinist.

John K gave it a10:
A great yet difficult read which I am proud for finishing. Diamond makes his case well, then leaves the verdict to the jury/reader. It take great courage for an author to so heavy handily lay ou the evidence in such a subjective manner, then leave the reader nearly dangling. If Diamond's goal is to instill a sense of mystery in the reader, he suceeds hand down.

Neil N gave it an8:
Great, Eduacational, a little weak in driving home the environemntal points he was alludng to and we assume he cares about......

David S gave it a10:
well-grounded conclusions

Ryan K gave it a10:
This is an incredibly well thought out, comprehensive look at societies both in the past and present. A worthy follow-up to Diamond's masterpiece Guns, Germs and Steel.

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