Jared Diamond is best known for his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1998. He is a polymath and is well versed in subjects including anthropology, ecology, geography, and evolutionary biology.

In his latest book, Upheaval, Jared examines if we can have a better understanding of national crises by drawing from our learnings from individual crises. Crisis therapists have studied how people navigate through crises for decades and have identified a set of core success factors in determining a person’s capability in navigating through a crisis. However, when it comes to national crises, there are limited studies due to its complexity and scale. Jared then applies these individual success factors on a few selected national crises to see if we can draw any parallels and have a better understanding of past national crises to make better decisions in the future.

Jared analyzes national crises from Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, and Australia. These are the nations that he has either lived in or is more familiar with through the experience of his friends or family. By no means is this a representative sample of all nations, which Jared himself points out. The nations are not only examined based on the success factors but also contrasted against each other to further analyze how a given factor can impact a crisis’ resolution.

Jared ends the book by mentioning how nations can learn from past mistakes and from other nations as well. Nations have various degrees of success in their implementations of systems such as health care, education, and transportation. Rather than reinventing the wheel, nations like individuals can learn from each other and better improve the lives of its people.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Jared Diamond’s Upheaval. History is an area where I’ve been weak in, which is part of the reason why I love reading books with some historical context. And to be able to learn more about 6 nations through one book makes it a very worthwhile read. Jared is masterful at explaining complex matters in simple terms. To condense the analysis of 6 national crises in a book under 500 pages is beyond impressive.

Although I enjoyed the book very much and would absolutely recommend it, I did not see the point of drawing parallelism from individual crises to national crises. Some of the analysis on the success factors do help bring more clarity to the understanding of national crises, but at times the connection seems forced. The importance of the factors can be examined more and some factors seem better to be left out.

If you are into history books like I am, I’ll recommend this book to you. It by no means give a holistic view of the national crisis, however, it is a great starting point for you to get exposed to these nations’ history.

Have you read this book? And is there any book you would recommend? I’ll love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

I’m currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

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