“The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn From Traditional Societies” by Jared Diamond (Viking Press, 2013)

The World Until Yesterday

After the bestsellerdom of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs and Steel and the popular Collapse, the talented anthropologist Jared Diamond returns with his long-awaited next book, The World Until Yesterday.  But things have to be long-awaited for Diamond, as he doesn’t just keep churning out non-fiction books, but decides on what message he wants to tell and teach to his readers. He also spends a lot of his time lecturing, giving talks, and traveling around the world, as well as most importantly, to New Guinea where he does his research and has been visiting since the 1960s.

In The World Until Yesterday, Diamond goes into detail about what a number of traditional societies from around the world do and how they act and react when it comes to things like raising a child, religion, conflict resolution, treatment of the elderly and many other important subjects we all have to deal with in our lives. The traditional groups Diamond focuses on are: New Guinean tribes, Australian tribes, Eurasian tribes, African tribes, North American tribes, and South American tribes.

As with his other books, Diamond is not looking to tell the reader what to think or believe, but merely to illustrate what these traditional societies have done for many centuries, and what they continue to do, and what we can possibly learn from this. This includes the subject of child rearing and always keeping the child close in a skin to skin contact in the early years of birth, instead of putting the child in a stroller and away from the parent; or treating the elderly in a more respected manner, than putting them away in elderly care home; or having a detailed system to deal with conflict situations so parties that have suffered harm can be correctly compensated. Again, Diamond is not saying that the first world should adopt all these measures to better their society, but to learn from these and perhaps apply some of the techniques to help improve their lives.

As with any Diamond book, The World Until Yesterday is not an easy read, and takes some long focus and concentration to read through, but at the end of it the reader is filled with a new understanding about the world and how many traditional societies live and breathe in their own lifetimes. Diamond uses a poignant framing device of his boarding a plane in Los Angeles to New Guinea and talks about the world he is about to leave, and the one he is about to enter; and then does the opposite at the end of the book, leaving this traditional society he has become a part of for some time, and returning to the modern one in California. As with any Diamond book, it is an enlightening and fascinating story that is well worth the read.

Originally written on June 12, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The World Until Yesterday from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Penny Arcade Volume 9: Passion’s Howl” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Oni Press, 2013)

Passion's Howl

The dynamic duo Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, aka Gabe and Tycho, aka Penny Arcade are back! In volume 9, Passion’s Howl, they collect all their strips from 2008, plus lots of extra goodies, and of course, Jerry’s frothy, wet commentary to each strip that just adds to the experience.

In 2008, Penny Arcade was firmly established as the gurus of video game critique and commentary. In this collection it also becomes apparent that they don’t just need to be talking about video games to be funny, but their humor works on many levels and subjects, whether it is ordinary everyday things, or the fact that these men are adults now with families and responsibilities. Penny Arcade also has the knack to comment on cutting edge Internet developments, such as the strip “Le Twittre” from April 23 about Twitter and why anyone would ever want to have a Twitter account. Now, five years later, Gabe still doesn’t have one and stands by his decision.

The comic also gets meta at some points, as the pair happily make fun of themselves and their world with “Operation Myriad” on October 31, with a host of new video game releases and a new expansion to World of Warcraft, forcing them to create an elaborate schedule to get all these new games played. Or the fact that ping pong is an important game in their lives and at their work with the rest of their staff, competing with rival staffs from other companies, and in the artistic and hilarious “Paint the Line” series, they were able to address this.

Fans will have to add this latest volume to their collection, and if you pick this up, wanting to try Penny Arcade for the first time, you will be quickly swept away on a great and long journey that is still continuing to this day.

Originally written on June 11, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Penny Arcade Volume 9: Passion’s Howl from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Book News: Unique Libraries, Most Hated Books, DRM Doom & More!

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Bookbanter Column: Diary of an Ereader, Part Four: The Ereviewer

Ebook review copies are something most people think would be the main way of reviewing books these days, but it is still pretty much a fifty-fifty split with ARCs (advanced reader copies) and finished print books.

With the development and growth of ebooks over the last few years, with the format growing in popularity each year — ebook sales are up 43% from last year — it seems logical with the world becoming more and more ecologically- and recycling-minded that reviewing books would just pretty much switch to ebook format only.

But that continues not to be the case.

Perhaps this is because just as the reading world isn’t full of ebook coverts and those fully committed to only reading books in the electronic format, the reviewing world is much the same.


“Europe Before Rome: A Site-by-Site Tour of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages” by T. Douglas Price (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Europe Before Rome

T. Douglas Price is Weinstein Professor of European Archaeology Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Honorary Professor in the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Aarhus, and is the author of Images of the Past, Europe’s First Farmers and Principles of ArchaeologyEurope Before Rome is a site by site exploration of a number of stone, bronze and iron age sites throughout Europe.

Europe Before Rome begins with a history lesson on early hominids leading up to the prehistoric period and into the stone age.  Price uses a number of sites for specific evidence, explaining some of the importance of these sites, but never going into too much detail.  After this introductory chapter, there are main chapters on “The Creative Explosion,” “The First Farmers,” “Bronze Age Warriors” and “Centers of Power, Weapons of Iron”; photos are provided, as well as diagrams where possible.

Ultimately, Europe Before Rome is more of a text book on these many different sites.  Price reveals the important discoveries of many of the sites, but not really in any detail on what affect these artifacts have had on history and their importance.

Originally written on March 14, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Europe Before Rome from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Second” by David Ely (Harper Voyager, 2013)


Originally released in 1963, and made into a movie starring Rock Hudson in 1966, David Ely’s short science fiction book has been rereleased in 2013, and feels destined to be remade into a scifi summer blockbuster.  While at times the novel feels very dated, there are many themes in the book that resonate with today’s reader and everything going on in the world.

Antiochus Wilson has the classic sixties life: a decent job which he has done well in and climbed the ranks, making a decent wage; at home he has a wonderful and dutiful wife; a daughter who has grown up and is living elsewhere now; but he is bored with his life.  He has a couple of hobbies, like painting sometimes in the garage, or taking his boat out, but otherwise he’s just fed-up with everything.  So when he gets the address and note that will change his life, he jumps at the opportunity.

Skipping out of work on lunch, he heads to the clandestine address on the other side of town.  He finds himself in a strange warehouse where a stranger tells him to put on overalls and dirty himself up a bit.  Then they head to another destination incognito and so starts the first minute of his new life.  Antiochus “Tony” Wilson is being given a second, new life.  Agreeing on an expensive package, he is killed off; a perfect cadaver left in his place, while he undergoes reconstructive surgery and comes out a new, handsomer man.  A new life is created for him: a successful artist, with a new home in California.  He is famous, people love him, especially the young models who post nude for him.  What could be better?

Except Antiochus Wilson, for some reason, can’t let go of his past; can’t let go of his wife, or his daughter whom he rarely saw.

Seconds, in some ways, feels like a modern James Bond movie, where women play minor secondary characters, serving the men, yet everything else feels current and meaningful.  The book plays around with the concept of identity and who one really is, and the true power of family.  The company that gives these men second, new lives was conceived as a brilliant breakthrough that every man would want, but that seems not to be the case.

Originally written on February 20, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Seconds from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.