Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” as Want to Read:
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  50,923 ratings  ·  2,911 reviews
In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization

Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies a
...more
Paperback, Revised, 608 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published December 29th 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Collapse, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Nanda Ramesh Not a question really....but, yes I agree. Provokes you into thinking of what were doing right now to our planet!
Aketzle I'm not sure it was within the scope of his book to offer solutions for energy reduction. Not that he couldn't have included that, but I'm not sure…moreI'm not sure it was within the scope of his book to offer solutions for energy reduction. Not that he couldn't have included that, but I'm not sure it's fair to expect that of him. He covered a LOT of material. That's arguably a problem for others to solve. He has painted the picture of what may happen if we don't, based on solid evidence.

I do agree that a portrait of what modern Western societies may look like as they decline (e.g., what tribulations we may encounter) would be fascinating, though. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Manny
Jared Diamond looks at several societies that have collapsed as a result of misusing their natural resources, plus a couple (Tokugawa period Japan is the star example) that miraculously managed to pull back from the brink. At the end, he also talks about some present-day cases where we still don't know what will happen.

The one my thoughts keep returning to is medieval Greenland, which Diamond discusses in a long and detailed chapter. Settled in the 11th century by Vikings originally from Norway
...more
Lyn
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating work by the same author who won a Pulitzer prize for Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

This exhaustive study in Malthusian economics as applied to several societies in history that have failed, such as the Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse, details the thematic traits common to each example. His chapter on Easter Island made me think of Thor Heyerdahl's work there.

Most notably is how deforestation and imprudent population control applies to modern societies in
...more
Kenghis Khan
The Pulitzer-prize winning "Guns, Germs and Steel" by this dude forever changed the way I look at history. And believe me, I am a history buff of sorts so this means a lot. Unfortunately, "Collapse" fails to measure up to that classic.

The real problem with Collapse isn't the research that goes into the thesis, or even the soundness of the thesis itself (though there are some qualms I have about how politically unstable Mongolia is or basing his analysis of cod fisheries on a single popular accun
...more
Will Byrnes
This is a major work. Diamond looks in detail at the factors at play in the demise of civilizations in human history, using a wide range of examples. He offers a framework in which to structure the analysis and looks in great detail at possible (and in many cases certain) reasons why various societies collapsed. He is not a one-note analyst. All problems do not fit the same mold. There is considerable nuance and common sense brought to bear on this examination. Foolishness plays a part, greed, c ...more
Gaff
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I considered giving this book 4 instead of 5 stars simply because it can be over-dense in its detail and the style can be rather dry - but then I figured that says more about my stamina and laziness than about the quality of the book, so the book gets 5 and I get a 4 for effort. We're all winners.

So despite the headline-grabbing title, the author Jared Diamond - a cross between an Amish garden gnome and avuncular Glastonbury festival supremo if you go by his picture - tries its darndest to avoid
...more
Michael
The halfway point review:

One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read about societal collapse and the squandering of resources by the wealthy and then the inevitable cannibalism that always seems to show up in the last act, I keep asking myself how the environment became a "political issue." There's no question that environmental resources aren't infinite, yet it seems like the majority of people…or at least the loudest
...more
فهد الفهد
الانهيار

كنت قد قرأت كتاب جاريد دايموند والذي حصل على جائزة البوليتزر (أسلحة، جراثيم وفولاذ) قبل سنوات، وأعجبت به كثيراً، كانت دراسة جريئة تحاول فهم الأسباب البيئية الكامنة وراء صعود حضارات معينة وتفوقها على حضارات أخرى.

في هذا الكتاب يعكس دايموند الوضع ويحاول دراسة كيف تتداعى حضارات معينة وتنهار بسبب تدميرها لبيئتها، وهو يعرض مجموعة متفرقة من الحضارات المعروفة أو المعزولة والتي مارست بلا وعي تدميراً واسعاً لبيئتها ووصلت في النهاية إلى انهيار سريع لحضارتها، كما يعرض في المقابل حضارات تنبهت لتدهو
...more
Ryan
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Collapse, Jared Diamond draws our attention to the following problems, which have "plagued" humanity throughout history.

1. Deforestation and loss of habitat
2. Overhunting
3. Overfishing
4. Soil degradation
5. Water management problems
6. Population growth
7. Increased per capita impact of people
8. Impact of non-native species

And now we face four more:

9. Human-caused climate change
10. The build up toxic waste
11. We're approaching the limits of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity
12. Energy shortages
...more
Conrad
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, anthropology
Guns, Germs and Steel occasionally felt like monday morning quarterbacking, but Collapse is superb. In GG&S, Diamond tried to explain how technologies that evolved in some places did not in others, how some communities thrived due to excess food and more advanced agriculture, while others, perpetually on the verge of starvation, had to devote all of their time to dealing with that and thus didn't have time for building the Parthenon. The argument was not airtight - his notion of what constit ...more
Sebastien
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an exhaustive and exhausting read. Should’ve been tightened up and trimmed down, not only did I get tired of the meandering but I got worn down from getting machine-gunned with an avalanche of what I considered often superfluous details. Still, I thought it was very good, the historical examples of collapse (and also the examples of societies that successfully changed to avoid disaster) were interesting. It put the contemporary analysis/problems we face in perspective.

I remember reading
...more
Felicia
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
So I was in Belize for the holiday and became fascinated with all the Mayan ruins I visited. I had been to Copan in Honduras years ago, but was reminded of the great glory of this civilization, and the controversial collapse that happened to disperse people from these great structures around 900 AD.

I love Guns Germs and Steel more than anything, it changed how I look at history and people and society, so I dug into this one, particularly the Mayan part, with great excitement. And it doesn't disa
...more
Charlie George
[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading, and recommend it emphatically if you have an interest in any of the subjects in which I have it categorized on my shelves.]

A masterwork, better even than Mr. Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Collapse bridges the gap between anthropology and environmentalism, and critically connects each with our own welfare, both collectively and a
...more
Richard
Although I only gave this book three stars, I can recommend it a little bit over that. I found it interesting, but not quite as compelling as I might have if I wasn’t already familiar with some parts of the story. I took graduate classes in International Relations, specializing in China as well as international political economy, so I didn’t find any surprises in the abstract background to Collapse.

Some very intriguing parts were the stories of collapse of vanished societies, as many have noted
...more
Helga Mohammed el-Salami
The esteemed Jared Diamond, author of one of the most insightful and profound books of the previous decade: Guns Germs and Steel, tried to break the wave of his success on Collapse, a book about the failure of societies due to a laundry-list of (mostly environmental) issues. It’s too soon to render a verdict on the bearded Professor (unlike Paul Ehrlich and Rachel Carson) since he wisely chose topics which cannot be gauged within a human lifetime but the book itself was a real steaming pile of e ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Nevisande : Jared Diamond - ISBN : 143036556 - ISBN13 : 9780143036555 - Dar 608 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2004
Gumble's Yard
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book recommended to anyone who enjoyed The Overstory and who wants a non-fictional account of many of the ideas there.

Very detailed book by author of “Guns, Germs and Steel” – enjoyable and provocative, although very detailed and easiest to read simply cover-to-cover while trying to absorb the bigger picture.

Diamond’s big theme is to look at historical environmental induced societal collapse and to identify five main reasons that cause collapse (or its opposite). These are: damage that people
...more
Ram
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
A book about environment, and how humans are exhausting the planets resources.

The author describes the following topics which were the main reason or contributed to the fall of societies in the past:

Deforestation and habitat destructions
Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
Water management problems
Overhunting
Overfishing
Effects of introduced species on native species
Overpopulation
Increased per-capita impact of people

In addition to this, the following topics did not exis
...more
Judy
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Judy by: Nathanael
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed succeeds in educating the reader about components of previous societies that led to their collapses and how those same components present themselves in today's global society. Lest anyone thinks this creates a negative, somber doomsday of a book, it doesn't. Diamond writes positively and offers much hope. I appreciated his approach to controversial subjects such as abortion used as a method to keep population down. He doesn't resort to the typica ...more
Will
Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
This would have been a better book at about half the length. Diamond is a devotee of that style that is heavily promoted for oral presentations – say what you are going to say, say it using bullets for emphasis and clarity, and say what you just said by way of summary. The dreaded PowerPoint syndrome, in other words. So, when ploughing through the admittedly interesting and illuminating chapters, I found I was waiting each time for the Five Points That Indicate Society’s Success or Failure, and ...more
Lilo Abernathy
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you care about the world and the survival of the human race, then you must read this book. Period. Buy it now.

It will teach you more than you ever thought possible in one book. You will look at the world differently. It will expand your mind.

- Lilo
Author of The Light Who Shines

And just to be technically correct, this is not a review. It is a recommendation.
Buck
From now on, every fledgling civilization should be issued with a little pamphlet outlining the dangers of deforestation. On the cover, there'd be a picture of a toppled Easter Island statue, with the caption, "Learn from our mistakes: if you chop down all your trees, your society will expire in an orgy of cannibalism. Also, you might want to go easy on the monoliths."

Collapse is a sobering book, but I'm just jaded enough that after about the tenth analysis of pollen readings from core samples,
...more
Radiantflux
13th book for 2018.

This is a big, detailed book that covers a lot of ground. To get a couple of things out of the way: it's not a repeat of Diamond's earlier book Guns, Germs, Steel; and it's not Diamond arguing for some sort of environmental determinism. Diamond believes that societal outcomes are related to three main factors:

Environment + Social Structures + Technology = Societal Outcome

This equation is misleading, as the factors interact (e..g, environment may limit trade, which then limits
...more
Brian
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to give one rating to. Some parts of it deserve four or five stars, some parts deserve one or two. Generally, Collapse lacks the consistency of Diamond's most well known book, Guns, Germs and Steel. Where Guns, Germs and Steel is nearly intuitive in the simpleness but universal applicability of its principles, Collapse is episodic and fractured. Diamond's basic thesis is that societies in ecologically fragile environments "choose" to succeed or fail based on how willing ...more
dead letter office
Extremely repetitive, inadequately researched, highly speculative, and overly assertive. Jared Diamond clearly knows a lot about some things, but he seems to think he knows a lot about everything. And he gets a lot wrong, at least on the things I know something about (Easter Island, for example, where his Collapse hypothesis is generally regarded by people who actually study the island's history and prehistory as wildly off-base and unsupported by evidence).

This book was clearly written by some
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I listened to the abridged audio version of this book. Some of the discs were damaged, and I have no idea what I missed, so I won't rate the book. I wanted to listen to the full-length audio version, but I can't stand that reader's style. You'd have to put a firecracker up his nose to get him to put any inflection in his voice. (Don't forget to light the firecracker. An unlit one would just make him sound even more nasally challenged.)

A lot of what was in this book I already knew from my degree
...more
Jessica
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fatalists
I did read at least half of this book. The section on Easter Island is one of the most memorable things I've read in the past few years, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

This book goes on my guilt shelf because shortly after he got to China, I got too depressed to continue. It's also a bit heavy (literally) for subway reading, and returning to New York from California with it combined with the prospect of learning about China's impact on the environment was just too much for this reader.... So Col
...more
Amari
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary in scope. Makes the news far more interesting even than it already was. However, I withhold star 5 because someone should have run the manuscript by me. Many awkward sentences. Too many sentences that aren't, quite. Or that aren't by a long shot. Penguin? Editors? Anyone? Such a noble and otherwise impressive undertaking deserves better care before reaching the public. But yes. A grand and very fine book indeed.
Cheri
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at how different societies have failed, I read this many years ago, but just noticed that Jared Diamond has a new book coming out which reminded me. Years later and I still think of some of the examples from time to time. While this is not a quick or easy read, it was so compelling I never put it down for very long.
Clif
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've just completed a second reading of this exemplary book of science writing. It's no joke to say I am doubly impressed.

Jared Diamond shows how careful reasoning can bring understanding while his love of the scientific investigative process pulls the reader into intimate contact with distant places and times that offer lessons for today. While his Guns, Germs and Steel is written in the same close analytical style, Collapse is the book Diamond was born to write.

His method investigates both fai
...more
Quo
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers interested in how people & countries relate to ecological decline
Jared Diamond's non-fiction work Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail & Succeed quite definitely has an exceedingly broad scope, attempting to discern the variables that cause a country or a specific geographic landscape to survive or to encounter a gradual or a precipitous decline. The areas examined initially may not appear to have much in common but the author focuses on the ways in which various stresses occur within a group of people and their responses to whatever imperils their cont ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A Green History of the World: The Environment & the Collapse of Great Civilizations
  • Collapse of Complex Societies
  • Cannibals and Kings: Origins of Cultures
  • Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
  • A Short History of Progress
  • The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
  • The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
  • Plagues and Peoples
  • The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself
  • Natural Capitalism
  • The Mismeasure of Man
  • Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
  • Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
  • After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000-5000 BC
  • Civilization: A New History of the Western World
  • The Revenge of Gaia
3,229 followers
Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.
“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.” 47 likes
“The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island isolated in the Pacific Ocean — once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own [world], we won't be able to get help.” 32 likes
More quotes…