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

The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond
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M_50x66
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Mar 16, 11

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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