Book Nook: The World Until Yesterday

Traditional societies may possess more effective ways of raising families, resolving disputes, looking after their elders and healing their bodies.
World Until Yesterday Cover

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

by Jared Diamond
Published in 2013 by Penguin, 512 pages

This New York Times bestseller by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Jared Diamond fluently describes the many areas of modern life that could benefit from the ancient practices and viewpoints of traditional tribes and cultures. Oftentimes, their behaviors and perspectives are discounted in the modern age as being somewhat old-fashioned and out of touch, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have a lot to learn from groups like the Xingu Indians in Brazil, the !Kung tribe of Africa, the Kalahari San people and the New Guinea Highlanders.

In fact, it was just yesterday in the grand scheme of the universe that we were all living in a much different environment. Today’s humans still possess bodies and temperaments better suited to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle than to modern circumstances. Traditional societies may possess more effective ways of raising families, resolving disputes, looking after their elders and healing their bodies. As we know from our own participation in the Firefly Gathering, much can be learned from the ancient ways. Part of the Firefly experience is to learn about, preserve, and communicate this ancient wisdom among ourselves but perhaps the larger responsibility is to pass the skills and wisdom to the larger community, especially through our children for the sake of future generations. Jared Diamond’s well-researched, meticulously presented and mesmerizing tome is a good addition to any modern abo’s library. At 512 pages, it’s certainly one to keep you busy reading through the long, cold winter nights ahead.


Bari Caton
Bari Caton has been with Firefly in various roles since the early years of the gathering. Over the years, she’s been primarily responsible for email and telephone communications with folks have questions; with newcomers aren’t really sure what the gathering is all about; and with people want to be instructors, worktraders, vendors or entertainers. After 10 years, she has retired from the questions. However, she continues to be the Firefly editor, where she puts to practical use her talents as a full-time professional editor, fact-checker and proofreader. In 2018, Bari introduced our popular newsletter feature, The Book Nook, where she will continue to review books she believes will be of special interest to our community. She lives in the Asheville area, loves doing peyote beadwork and working with her braintanned deer hides, and shares her home with two rambunctious felines: Oreo Tarheel and Jesse Tyson.

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