Sunday, January 07, 2007

Collapse, pt. 1

by Jared Diamond
pgs. 1-156

I'm trying really hard to get through this book - I really am. The premise - a study of collapsed societies and the factors that led to their downfall - is right up my alley. And, though it was slow going in the beginning, I loved Guns, Germs, and Steel. Granted, there were some parts that I thought were eye-crossingly boring, especially that parts in which Diamond discusses the pollinization and fertilization process of plants. It was enlightening but it wasn't the most exciting reading I've ever done. And anyway those parts were few and far in between. So I made the mistake of assuming that just because I enjoyed one Diamond book, I would enjoy another. Thus far, that just isn't so.

I keep pushing myself to make it to just one more chapter, hoping that the next one will be better than the last. I can't say it isn't interesting reading; like I said, the premise is right up my alley. I absolutely love reading about the history and collapse of Easter Island and the Pitcairn Islands. What I don't care to read about, in detail, is the scientific methods archeologists used to come to their conclusions. I don't need a two page explanation on how dendrochronology (tree ring dating) works. A short, simple, one-paragraph summary would work just fine for me. Anything longer and my eyes begin to roll into the back of my head with boredom.

There's a lot of method detail in this book which leads me to wonder if this book is really meant for a layman reader like me. I think it is, but I also think that, by including the scientific methods and terminology, Diamond is attempting to attract the experts and scientists as well. So then maybe I shouldn't feel bad about skipping the methodology parts. Then again, maybe I feel guilty because I'm not too long out of college and Collapse reads so much like a text book, I feel as if I'll be quizzed on the parts I skip. Of Collapse, "BusinessWeek" wrote, "It's [also] the deal of the year - the equivalent of a year's college course by an engaging, brilliant professor, all for the price of a book." Now it all makes sense, so that's the reason why I'm determined to finish this book - if I don't, I'll have failed my first history course. Because at this moment "BusinessWeek" and I disagree on whether Diamond is an "engaging" professor, I'll just do what I've always done with a long class and a boring professor: buckle down, stick it out, and pray for the end.