Upheaval: Book summary and reviews of Upheaval by Jared Diamond

Upheaval

Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond

Upheaval by Jared Diamond X
Upheaval by Jared Diamond
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Book Summary

A "riveting and illuminating" (Yuval Noah Harari) new theory of how and why some nations recover from trauma and others don't, by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of the landmark bestsellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse.

In his international bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, Jared Diamond transformed our understanding of what makes civilizations rise and fall. Now, in his third book in this monumental trilogy, he reveals how successful nations recover from crises while adopting selective changes -- a coping mechanism more commonly associated with individuals recovering from personal crises.

Diamond compares how six countries have survived recent upheavals - ranging from the forced opening of Japan by U.S. Commodore Perry's fleet, to the Soviet Union's attack on Finland, to a murderous coup or countercoup in Chile and Indonesia, to the transformations of Germany and Austria after World War Two. Because Diamond has lived and spoken the language in five of these six countries, he can present gut-wrenching histories experienced firsthand. These nations coped, to varying degrees, through mechanisms such as acknowledgment of responsibility, painfully honest self-appraisal, and learning from models of other nations. Looking to the future, Diamond examines whether the United States, Japan, and the whole world are successfully coping with the grave crises they currently face. Can we learn from lessons of the past?

Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
"The basic premise of Upheaval is intriguing: Can an individual's experience recovering from total collapse be applied to how nations recover from devastating crises? He believes that several modern societies are on the brink of major, self-induced calamities for which they are unprepared, and he goes on to speculate on how these disasters can be avoided or, if not avoided, how societies can recover once the worst happens.

The sections in which the author addresses historical precedent are fascinating and his prose is captivating as always. However, as he starts to address current-day issues, the book becomes too speculative. It feels less like an authoritative, fact-based work and more like an opinion piece as it progresses, and this digression led me to have a negative opinion of the book. While politically I agree with the author's positions, I felt his arguments lacked weight and thus authority – that is, he's preaching to the choir here.

I thoroughly enjoyed Diamond's earlier work, Guns, Germs and Steel and would love to have recommended this one as well. It left me quite underwhelmed, however, and so I'd give this one a three-star rating at best." - Kim Kovacs

Other Reviews
"Diamond offers far-ranging, erudite, lucid accounts of historical cruxes, spiced by sharp-eyed personal observations—he seems to have been everywhere—of national characters and quirks. Unfortunately, his social-psychological framework lacks the concise explanatory power of his books on geographical and environmental influences on history; his factors often seem like squishy truisms that fit any happenstance without proving much beyond the importance of realism and adaptability. The result is a suite of notable historical retrospectives that point in no singular direction." - Publishers Weekly

"Vintage Diamond; of a piece with Collapse (2004) and likely to appeal to the same broad audience." - Kirkus Reviews

"Jared Diamond does it again: another rich, original, and fascinating chapter in the human saga, this one on how societies have extricated themselves from wicked crises—with vital lessons for our difficult times." - Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now

"Upheaval is a brilliant, gripping, personal account of nations in crisis, informed by how people respond to crisis. It's an especially timely read today, when nations are stressed and have much to learn about how to survive big challenges. I urge you to read it." - Paul Ehrlich, author of Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic

"A new book by Jared Diamond is always a rare and welcome gift. I read them all as part of a single mosaic that, could it ever be fully completed, would finally reveal us to ourselves with haunting insight and clarity, as well as the planet we have the privilege to inhabit. Each book adds more interlocking pieces to that fascinating mosaic. In Upheaval, I find eye-opening lessons about the political and psychological forces that lead to crisis and then resilience, how individuals and nations experience trauma in similar ways, and what that suggests about our future and the world's. Fortunately for us, Diamond's remarkable gift for learning languages has allowed him to live under the surface of various cultures throughout his life, traveling extensively, both mentally and physically, while witnessing many dramatic personal and national upheavals firsthand. His ability to weigh them all with a compassionate heart, a keen eye and an eloquent pen have made him the masterful observer of the human pageant and the important man of conscience that he is. I'm deeply grateful for this wise and beautiful book." - Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife

"Jared Diamond is one of the deepest thinkers and most authoritative writers of our time—arguably of all time—and Upheaval proves his prescience in analyzing historical crises within nations at a time when national crises have erupted around the world. It is also his most personal work, sharing with readers his own crises, along with his intimate familiarity with many countries that have experienced upheavals, and then drawing out lessons of crisis management for nations today and in the future. No scientist has ever won the Nobel Prize for literature. Jared Diamond should be the first." - Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Heavens on Earth

The information about Upheaval shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Jared Diamond Author Biography

Jared Diamond, a noted polymath, is Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. Among his many awards are the U.S. National Medal of Science, Japan's Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of the international best-selling books Guns, Germs, and SteelCollapseWhy Is Sex Fun?The World until Yesterday, and The Third Chimpanzee, and is the presenter of TV documentary series based on three of those books.

Author Interview

Other books by Jared Diamond at BookBrowse
  • The World Until Yesterday jacket
  • Guns, Germs & Steel jacket
  • Collapse jacket
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