John's Reviews > The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution & Future of the Human Animal

The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond
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's review
Mar 16, 2011

really liked it
Read in March, 2011

Jared Diamond should be required reading. He has influenced my view of humanity and history more than probably anyone except maybe a history professor in college, where I was a history minor. No, I think I Diamond has influenced me more.

I stumbled across a 3 part series on PBS based on Guns, Germs and Steel a couple of years ago and was floored. I bought and read the book immediately and was even more blown away. Since then I have read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and Why is Sex Fun. Both of them were also mind-blowing and insightful.

The Third Chimpanzee was Diamond’s first book and it really lays the groundwork for his three following. In fact 3C read a bit like an abridged version of the other three books combined. But that is not to say it did not contain things the other books didn’t….or at least that I don’t remember. The next time I recommend Diamond to a friend, I think I will recommend 3C because it is a great overview of his works.

I was particularly struck by the chapters on language, both animal languages that are only beginning to be unraveled, as well as the information on human languages.

The book also contains a striking chapter about genocide. It was a tough chapter to read and teetered on the edge of being overwhelmingly depressing to me. But it is something that can’t be ignored. Humans have a long history of killing each other on a massive scale. If humanity is going to change how we act in the future, we can’t gloss over the past because it demonstrates human tendencies.

Besides his incredible insight, I appreciate Diamond for a number of other reasons. First off I find his writing reachable. Although he often talks about some very complex and specific things, he does a brilliant job of making it understandable to a layperson. He also pulls no punches; he seems to have a very realistic view of humanity, good and bad. He is quick to point out inconsistencies, discrimination and arrogance, including his own. He preaches without ever feeling preachy. He also has a fun sense of humor and appreciates irony as it regularly occurs in life.

I would be dumber and my life less full if I had not discovered Jared Diamond. And much to my joy he has a new book coming out in mere weeks!
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03/03/2016 marked as: read

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