Laura Noggle's Reviews > Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Upheaval by Jared Diamond
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bookshelves: 2019, history, nonfiction

“Those who study just one country end up understanding no country.”

While I appreciate what Diamond is attempting in Upheaval, I can't say he sticks the landing.

Overall, I felt this book was extremely underwhelming especially when compared to the Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and even Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Not to be ageist, but as an octogenarian it felt as though Diamond is letting end of life sentimentalism and nostalgia cloud the literary waters.

Upheaval relies heavily on the countries Diamond spent the most time in, resulting in a lot of: "a [insert nation] friend of mine," or, "my [insert nation] friend told me ..."

Yes, he tried something new: applying the psychology of trauma response to nations instead of people. Original enough, but consequently filled with big stretches, hypotheticals, and a plethora of potentialities.

Extrapolating anything from such a hodge podge of different nations and situations, as you can guess, gets a little messy and convoluted. Somewhere along the way, it's almost as if Diamond loses his own thread and starts to throw in everything plus the kitchen sink. I've been having trouble putting my finger on what exactly threw me off this book, and I think it's the skimming nature of it. A sweeping view of many things can be difficult to pull off, although Yuval Noah Harari did an excellent job in Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind.

You might say this book is ... all over the map.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3, because: Jared. Diamond. The legend, and I absolutely loved Guns, Germs and Steel as well as Collapse. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the high ratings on here are because of his past books and reputation more than this actual book. He gets the automatic *Diamond Pass.*

Anand Giridharadas panned the book in his review for the New York Times, calling it "sloppy" and "riddled with errors." He feels the book calls into question our decision to revere certain authors—particularly white, male ones—because they've produced respected works in the past.

Upheaval is a muddled middle of the road for me, albeit with bonus points for the optimistic tone after the rather depressing Collapse. It is also one of Bill Gates' top 5 summer reads, and "shows that there's a path through crisis and that we can choose to take it."
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Reading Progress

April 3, 2019 – Shelved
April 3, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
July 9, 2019 – Started Reading
July 14, 2019 –
31.0% "Makes me want to reread Clavell’s Gai-Jin."
July 18, 2019 –
73.0%
July 24, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019
July 24, 2019 – Shelved as: history
July 24, 2019 – Shelved as: nonfiction
July 25, 2019 – Finished Reading

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