Not Neanderthal in that it's raw and primi-tive screaming, but that the form and fashion of it is. When Bono gets on a roll like this there's no shutting him up. But it's worth paving attention, 'cause after Achtung Baby is released U2 is going to put all this theory into practice or flame out in the attempt. And by then he may not want to spell it all out.
Sitting on Sunset Strip outside the recording studio, working on the Rattle and Hum soundtrack in , on Friday nights, we used to watch the parade. It was an extraordinary-sight to see these cars that were fitted out as music systems. You've seen that parade of Mexican hopping trucks, and there's a sound. Now Bono's hip-hop singing sounds Arabic. And it dawned on me that a journey had happened in black music that is so extraordinary. You take from Africa people two hundred, three hundred years ago by force to cotton planta-tions. You take away from them their own music, forbid the talking drums.
It was often Irish slave drivers keeping them away from their native musical forms, as the Irish were the lowest rung on the white ladder. Through the Irish and Scottish slave drivers they picked up the three chords of Celtic folk music and a new format arrived: the blues, and eventually gospel. The technology keeps it changing. Then it goes back into Europe, and you have in Germany a group called Kraftwerk working with pure synthesized sounds, completely electronic sounds, where you remove any original signal from a musical instrument. This is kind of interesting, this starts to influence back across America, and you have people like George Clinton and Stevie Wonder getting into electronic sounds and synthe-sizers.
This goes back across to England, there is an invention, the sampling device, the Fairlight and Synclavier. Sampling goes back across, this dance going on between two continents continues with technology playing the music. And with this new sampling device you are able to grab and recombine bits from old records and from that a new format arrives-hip-hop. You have kids in the Bronx scratching records, creating a call and response, using this technology to get back to their center.
What does that say? That is so big. It's an idea that has ramifications to me beyond music. Because people listen to U2 and say, 'Well what you are doing is Irish, yet by the look of it, it's not. I started to see Kraftwerk as some sort of soul group. And all the ideas of authenticity, which we had played with in Rattle and Hum- 'Let's write acoustic songs, let's try it like other people did, and let's be fans, and discover it. But that was like going down a road and then finding out, 'No. Bono pauses to let the dowsing pole of my understanding touch the bottom of the deep pool of his insight.
Before I can say, "Let's order," he's digging another well. In fact, what I think people don't understand about the music business is that people do not buy stereos to play their records; people buy records to play their stereos' Think about it from the consumers' point of view; the purchase of the hardware is much more expensive than the purchase of the software.
If you are living in the real world, which I certainly was when I was sixteen, and you buy one of these motherfuckers, you want to buy the record that plays it well. That's why the Beatles again run parallel to technology. Pepper was a stereo album. When the success of Sgt. Pepper is written about, that's just not mentioned. But this was hardware companies putting out this new device for listening to music, and here was a way you could show off the thing. I have to admit that Bono's onto something.
In the early seventies teenagers went wild for stereo headphones, and bought albums that were mixed to swing back and forth, from right to left. Recently, new bands such as Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails have taken advantage of the wide dynamic range of CDs to make albums that jump from very soft to very loud in a way that vinyl records never could.
The bottom end has to be tight, so you can turn it up. Suddenly records that sounded great on a stereo or even on the radio-that FM rock sound-suddenly don't sound so great compared to these guys. You know, you put on a Public Enemy record, and it sounds like the end of the world! Bono first thought about this-and felt U2 was lacking-when he and Adam were hitchhiking in Tennessee during their Rattle and Hum pilgrimage to Graceland and Sun Studios.
A kid picked them up and had on his car stereo an album by the pop-metal group Def Leppard, produced by South African soundmaster Mutt Lange. Bono was knocked out by how powerful the Def Leppard music-which had never meant anything to him before-sounded on a cranked-up, bot-tom-heavy car system. The driver got wildly goosed when he recognized his passengers, yanked off the Def Lep and stuck on a U2 tape. It didn't sound half as exciting. I think we've got to make records that sonically make more use of the technology.
That's some-thing we have yet to do. A great idea is clear to everybody. And the problem with what happened in Achtung Baby was that the ideas, the concepts, were good, but the songs early on weren't good enough to convince everybody. The reward wasn't in sight. And Danny, of course, was pulling his hair out.
Brian knew what we were doing and understood the great fun we could have deconstructing-" Bono catches himself and smiles. And art terms, just because they're art terms, annoy some people. It's a hard thing to talk to a guy who is trying to get a drum sound together about recommodification or this idea that you have to 'take this sound and turn it on its head like one of those Christmas bubbles and see what happens. It's like playing the set backwards! Let's play U2 backwards and see what happens. So it was a very hard time. I'd say if the songs had come quicker-but the reason the songs didn't come quicker is that people.
All of us had lost touch. Osmosis is the way we all pick up everything. Music is another language and you become articulate in it. If you lose it by not living it, smartness can get you by to a degree, but not really. I think we were a little out of touch. I think that was part of the problem too. We got to Berlin and realized, 'Uh-oh. It's a few years now since Joshua Tree, and the rest of it has been fun; doing Rattle and Hum was a piece of piss. We hung out in Los Angeles, learned how to drink, playacted a bit, had a lot of cigarettes and songs and hung out with some interesting people.
This had been a few years! We didn't know what it was like to be in the studio and to think and it stunned everybody. We weren't as great as we figured we were. The band figures that after not having a new U2 single for a couple of years, radio will play whatever they give them-so why not give them some-thing weird.
When they go in to do a video for the track, Bono looks like a human fly in a black leather suit and big, bubble-eyed sunglasses. He decides that he should dress like this for the tour. The fly shades are almost a mask-he goes into character as soon as he puts them on. The black leather suit conjures up a pantheon of rock legends-from Jim Morrison to Iggy Pop-but is most clearly the suit Elvis Presley wore in his TV comeback special. Like Elvis, Bono dyes his brown hair black to turn himself into the personification of a rockin' cat. Bono's ideas for staging the concerts are ambitious enough to make grown accountants weep.
He still has the televised juxtapositions of the Gulf War flipping through his head. Stage designer Willie Williams sees a chance to really go to Designer Valhalla. He wants to erect the illusion of a whole futuristic city, with the big TVs flashing and towers shooting up toward the sky. Bono will be the Fly crawling up the face of this Blade Runner landscape. Larry and Adam, it is agreed, should look like cops or soldiers-the future-shock troops.
Edge has a different job. He's the guitarist, so he has to look flashy. The white shirts and black jeans he used to wear onstage have no place in future world. Fintan Fitzgerald, U2's wardrobe man, starts working out ways to tart up Edge like a. An evil-looking thin mustache and goatee complete Edge's transformation to psychedelic thug. The band and the inner circle of Principle, their management com-pany, have started referring to the proposed show as "Zoo TV.
U2 has never accepted corporate sponsorship-the dubious institu-tion whereby a big advertiser picks up a lot of the money for a tour in exchange for being allowed to run ads even on the tickets that say, "Jovan presents the Rolling Stones" or "Budweiser presents the Who.
It's like inviting some-one over to your home and then trying to sell them Tupperware. But in the spirit of irony and contradiction-kissing that they want to cook up for this tour, U2 plays with the idea of covering the whole stage with logos like the billboards on a crowded highway. One shows Bono singing, one shows a man selling beer, and the third is a close-up of Edge's guitar with a potato chip slogan nudging into it.
Willie labels this design "Motorway Madness. Why not just sell the whole stage to advertisers, taking their money and mocking them at the same time? U2 plays with the notion for a while and then decides that if they ironically put up the logos, and then ironically take the money, it's not ironic anymore.
At that point they have sold out, and no semantic somersaults can justify it. So they scrap "Motorway Mad-ness. Willie has another notion that he floats to Bono and Edge separately. He thinks it would be hilarious to buy a bunch ofTrabants, those cheap little East German cars that U2 saw abandoned along roadsides after reunification, and hang them from the ceiling as spotlights. Anton Corbijn has been drawn to the Trabants in his album cover photos. Willie says, as the band chuckles, that they could hollow out the cars, put huge spotlights inside, and make it look like the Trabants' headlights are illuminating the stage.
U2 gives Willie the go-ahead. Manager Paul McGuinness volunteers to lead an expedition into darkest Deutschland where he will buy up Trabants like a carpetbagger grabbing cut-rate southern cattle after the Civil War. It's a demeaning thing to be in. It also smells like shit and it's very uncomfortable. The drive across Germany is less jolly than McGuinness and his Zoo crew had hoped. The Soviet occupation troops who had been stationed in East Germany before reunification have no home to go back to.
The Germans want them out, but the Russians are asking them to stay away -there is no housing for them, food is already scarce, and their govern-ment is on the verge of collapse. In Berlin, Soviet soldiers are selling their weapons and uniforms for whatever money they can get. The further east McGuinness and company drive, the bleaker it becomes. At one stop along the motorway they see a Russian officer in his long coat, high boots, and epaulets buying cigarettes and a bottle of booze, then slowly going back outside, sitting on the bumper of his car, and passing the bottle back and forth with his driver.
When they reach the Trabant factory in Chemnitz, on what was until recently Karl-Marx-Stadt, the place is almost deserted. No one wants to buy these cheap, partly wooden toy boxes when there is a chance of getting a Volkswagen or an Audi. The car factory had been the center of the local economy since the s, when it was the Auto Union later Audi factory. Production switched to Trabants at the dawn of the Cold War.
Now it's gone, and the people who used to work there are hungry. McGuinness takes the factory tour. With the Trabants discontinued, the mill is now serving as a warehouse for postal vans awaiting delivery to the mail-deprived East. Asked how he feels about U2's plan to make. When McGuinness gets back to Dublin, U2 owns enough Trabants to swing from the rafters, shine on the stage, and drive around the dressing rooms. They bring in Catherine Owens, an artist and old friend from the days when her all-girl punk band the Boy Scoutz used to share bills with the teenage U2, to paint designs on the little cars.
One of Owens's designs is what she calls "The Fertility Car," a Trabant covered with blown-up personal ads from dating columns and a sketch of a woman giving birth while holding two pieces of string tied to her husband's testicles, "so he can share the pain. Owens pushes her opinions to the front because, she feels, U2 has men making all the creative decisions and is slipping into completely male-centered designs.
Adam, who knows more about art and, some would say, women than the other three, pushes Owens's ideas forward and empowers her to go out and recruit visual artists to contribute to the video barrage that will be needed to fill up all those TV screens. Owens scours Europe and the U. EBN are a satirical group from Rhode Island who use computer tricks to sample images as well as sounds.
One of their proudest accomplishments is a film of President Bush, looped and edited so that the President seems to be chanting the lyrics to Queen's "We Will Rock You" while pounding his podium. U2 decide that this Bush bit will open their concerts. While Bono is running around recommodifying his imagination and cleaning out the band's bank accounts, Adam, Edge, and Larry start tour rehearsals without him.
They have a lot of grunt work to do for which Bono is not needed-learning to play with the sequencers and programs that will provide sonic beds under their own instruments, working out live arrangements and endings for the new songs. It gives. As with any group of equals, there are various ways in which the factions within U2 configure.
When Bono finds the other three aligned against him, he tends to bring in McGuinness to back him up. As in any family, the alliances shift all the time. It is important before heading out on the road together that Edge, Adam, and Larry close ranks. Then as Bono joins rehearsals he gets drawn back into a united band. The four band members and McGuinness share all business decisions equally, and the four band members without McGuinness make all creative decisions-not just regarding the music but concerning staging, photos, album jackets, and so on.
Bono maintains that this got started at the dawn of U2 because being a struggling band in Dublin, where there was no music business, they knew no other way. Paul McGuinness is just so uninterested in the details of a band's aesthetic life. It was hard to find advice. So we had to become video makers to make good videos. We had to become art directors. We made the albums, we made the album covers, we made the videos, we made the stage set. We used local Dublin people because we didn't know anybody else, and we collaborated with them and grew together. He got out of the way, which takes a lot of guts.
His instinct was to trust ours. And this developed this whole Gang of Four thing where you become the corporation. We'd meet. And I didn't think they were the enemy. I thought they were workers who had gotten into music for probably all the right reasons, and weren't as lucky as we were, weren't able to fulfill their ambition to be musicians and were now working the music. Maybe they lost their love and I felt that part of our thing was to reignite that. Then you start to see organization in a creative light. You start to say, 'Well, these are important decisions, this artwork, and these things.
As the release of Achtung Baby and rehearsals for the Zoo TV tour impend, U2 ideas are expanding faster than their bank accounts. They have drawn up a plan to build a giant doll of an Achtung Baby with a working penis that will pee on the audience. McGuinness suggests it's an expensive indulgence. Edge starts thinking, then, that maybe what they should do is create fake photos of, say, the giant baby on top of Tower Records and try to convince the press that it really happened:. That, too, gets nixed.
Plans for the staging are settling into something more stark and spooky than the Jetsons city of the initial designs. Now the band is talking about black scaffolding, like oil wells or TV towers, shooting into the air with video screens flashing across and throughout. There will be a second tier, above the band, to which Bono can ascend. There will be two wings at the front corners of the stage onto which Bono and Edge can venture.
Larry's main question at each new proposition is, "What's it going to cost? Bono's imagination is not encumbered by such fiscal concerns. He has an inspiration: how about a small second stage stuck way out in the middle of the audience and connected to the main stage by a ramp? Then, after hitting the crowd with all this high-tech hoopla, the band can stroll out to the B stage and busk with acoustic guitars. The designers aren't sure how to make that work, but they say they'll try it.
They eventually come up with a design for a long ramp departing from Edge's side of the stage. It is like a big fist at the end of a long, thin arm. Larry's question hangs in the air. What is it going to cost? One element essential to the whole enterprise is the purchase of a Vidiwall, a giant television screen.
The bad news is, it costs four to five million dollars. The good news is, the Vidiwall is built by Philips, the company that owns Polygram, the company that just bought Island, the record label to which U2 is signed! McGuinness has been wanting the band to meet Alain Levy, the head of Polygram. The band hatch a plan to invite Levy over and really butter him up. They will invite him to dinner at Adam's house and to spend the night at Bono's-and they'll hit him with the notion that it would be great for everyone if Philips gave U2 the Zoo video gear for free-as a demonstration of corporate synergy.
Here's the hardware from Philips, the album from Polygram, and the music from U2. At dinner Levy, a Frenchman, seems neither unpleasant nor overly chummy. What he clearly is is smart. Bono figures if they try to play games with the guy they'll just insult him. They must like the band. So during dinner Bono leans over and asks: How about you asking Philips to give us the video screens? Levy looks at Bono coldly and says, "You don't even wait for dessert to ask me this? Bono is taken aback. Levy continues coolly: "I'm not stupid. I know why you asked me here.
I'll look into it. We'll see. To U2's disappointment and resentment Philips rejects Levy's pro-posal. U2 will have to fork out the money for their Vidiscreens like anybody else. Apparently the research scientists at the electronics com-pany care less about U2 than they would about a longer-burning lightbulb. Levy gets Polygram to kick in a half million bucks or so in tour support, as a gesture of goodwill.
By the time U2 starts getting a fix on just how expensive their plans are going to be to execute, Larry's not the only one swallowing hard. They agree to take it one step at a time. The album is coming out in time for Christmas of In the spring they will do a tour of indoor arenas in the USA and Europe. If the album is not well received or if the shows don't sell out as quickly as they expect them to, that may be all they do. Perhaps next summer they could do some sort of TV concert as a finale. If Achtung Baby is a hit and the ticket demand is big enough, they will return to America to play football stadiums in the second half of the summer.
But with the cost of this show, the potential profit margin is only 4 to 5 percent. If U2 commits to playing outdoors and then America has a cold, rainy summer, they could end up wiping out their savings in indulging their creative impulses. Bono is nonetheless delighted by all the possibilities the new gear- and the new idea of U2-offers. When the big TV monitors arrive they are desposited in the Factory, the building where U2 rehearses and Bono walks between them explaining how it will all work like a kid contemplating the train set he's getting for Christmas.
They are New York artists known for bold-lettered proclamations. Bono points out that the song "The Fly" is full of new truisms "A liar won't believe anyone else" and when they play that song live he wants the screens to flash all sorts of epigrams, messages, and buzz words, from Call your mother to Guilt is not of Cod. If they had samplers or sequencers or drum machines or electric guitars, photography, cinematography! I'm having a little trouble imagining it, actually. This seems like a really good way for even a wealthy band to go broke.
Another line from "The Fly" is "Ambition bites the nails of success. A chtunc baby is released just before Christmas of to good reviews and strong sales. Shortly after it hits number one on the Billboard charts, the Soviet Union collapses. Let history judge. The Factory occupies an old stone mill near the Dublin docks.
To get in you ring a buzzer in a black door in a stone wall, climb an indoor fire escape, pass through a security door and desk, go through swinging doors, and proceed down a very long corridor. As you walk down the hall the music gets louder and louder. Sort of like Get Smart. Then you turn a corner, open another door, and there's U2 blasting through "The Fly. Larry and Adam are creating a fat, funky bottom. The Edge is stretching out, filling in all the sonic colors of the album version of the song while singing the high countervocal that Bono overdubbed on the record. U2's American tour begins on March I, At this point- January Bono reckons they are one week behind schedule with one.
Bono says that the material they have worked on has been so good that he's not worried about running late. Edge, however, is. He now understands how much can go wrong on a tour this big. I thought it was easy. The band picks up their instruments again and begins "Mysterious Ways. Who loves you? Edge estab-lishes a thick post-wah-wah guitar groove that suggests what might have happened if the Isley Brothers had joined the Manchester rave scene. That it is my birthday is all the excuse these Irishmen need to begin a night-long beer and blarney session. These boys have been keeping fast company and, I think, measuring themselves against the icons they encounter.
When we get on the subject of Zoo TV and all its proposed monkey business, I ask Bono to enlighten me about how the multimedia silliness reflects, for example, the Gulf War. Let me clean out my ears, Bono, I thought you said, "It's Guernica. Blame it on the rotgut, but this starts making a lot of sense to me. I suppose, I suggest, that from "The Rape of the Sabine Women" on, every attempt to use beauty as a vehicle to describe brutality ends up glorifying the brutality, and more generations sign up for the next war.
Sounds great in theory; let's see how it works in the civic center! Edge appreciates both the honor and the irony of a guitarist who has done more than anyone to dismantle the old myth of the guitar hero inducting the three men most responsible for creating it. At the pub, what started out as one or two drinks turns into one or two barrels and Tuesday has given way to Wednesday by the time Edge goes home to catch a couple of hours.
I am flying with Edge so I get up to leave, too, but Bono and Adam remind me, "It's your birthday," and convince me to stay for another round. Adam was supposed to be coming with us, but there's trouble with U. Which means I'm the only one still in the pub who can't sleep late tomorrow. After the bar has closed and the other patrons leave, Bono goes looking for a guitar so he can sing me a country song he's written called "Slow Dancing. He sent it to Willie Nelson but never got a reply.
Walking home through a dark tunnel, Bono insists we throw our arms over each other's shoulders and sing the theme from The Monkees. He's still upset because he was shot down in his bid to get U2 to adopt the names of the Monkees as hotel pseudonyms for this tour. Bono wanted to be Davy Jones, the short, maracas-shaking singer. Edge was to be Mike Nesmith, the serious, wool-hatted guitarist. He thought Adam might object to being the troublemaking blond bimbo Peter Tork, but Adam said no problem. The whole idea sank when Larry refused to be Mickey Dolenz. Edge's version of the story is slightly different; he told me it wasn't Larry who shot down the plan; it was the fact that the Monkees names are more famous than the names of the members of U2.
Bono should have learned this lesson by now. During the Joshua Tree tour he registered in hotels as "Tony Orlando" until one night when he ended up in the same hotel with the real Tony Orlando and chaos ensued. He then switched to a name no one else was likely to have:. Harry Bullocks. Many such stupid things sound funny when you've been up all night drinking. It's even something of a knee-slapper when Bono throws himself so completely into The Monkees theme while parading through the auto tunnel that he doesn't see the car headlights bearing down on him until I yank him out of the way.
Imagine if I had not. People would be asking me Bono's last words and I'd have to say, " 'Hey, hey, we're the Monkees and people say we monkey around. All this hilarity seems a lot less funny forty-five minutes after I fall asleep, when the alarm goes off and I have to stagger to the airport to meet Edge. When the sun comes up we are on a plane from Ireland to England, where we will make a connection for a flight to New York. As I stare at the greasy sausages staring back at me I calculate that this day-which thanks to changes in time zones will include twenty-nine hours-is looking far too long to be any good.
A car picks us up at Heathrow to drive us from one terminal to another, where we sit in a smoky departure lounge for an hour and try to get some work done. You could say we helped it along a bit, but the actual myth itself is a creation of the media and people's imagination. Like all myths. There is very little resemblence to the actual personalities of the band or the intentions of the band, and Achtung Baby balances things out a bit.
Hey, at this point I'd protest "Hello. It's Bono as seen through the songs. But the character of Bono is totally different to that. Maybe over our career our ability to create music that shows the full range of the personalities of Bono and the other members of the band was very poor. But that's the truth-that guy is totally different to the way most people think of him. He's far funnier, takes himself far less seriously than most people think. He's wild, he's not reserved. None of. Everyone has this sort of caricature impression of what we are like. We just decided that we were going to find out how we could allow the other aspects of ourselves to come through.
We're exploring whole new avenues of music and it's great fun. I mean, we can do it as well, that's what's brilliant about it. That's the good news for us. It's actually something we can do! I suppose we just weren't that interested early on. I ask Edge if, because U2 was serious and focused at a very young age, the band is now going through at thirty what most young men go through at twenty.
This is actually quite an important point. Throughout our career we've been struggling and fighting for survival: to get out of Ireland in the first place, to get a deal, to just make it happen. And I think we've finally got to a stage where we realized we could relax a bit. It's still not easy, but it doesn't have to be quite so much do or die. A lot of people have read into the lyrics that it's the story of my marriage breaking down. I'm not denying that that has had an influence, but I think there's a lot of stories in there and it's not just my story.
I suggest to Edge that it would have been easy to end the album with "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World," letting the listener off the hook with an all-is-forgiven finale. But U2 makes us go back inside the house with him and face the consequences of his betrayals.
Safari : A Photicular Book
I suppose that's what we've learned. Things aren't all okay out there. But that's the way it is. Then suddenly you're in this band and there's all this fantastic music coming at you that challenges every-thing that you believed about what the electric guitar was for. Suddenly the question is, 'What are you saying with it? What is being communicated in this song? If you were in the fourth row of the Jam concert at the Top Hat Ballroom in Dunleary in , when Paul Weller hit that Rickenbacker twelve-string, it meant some-thing and it said something that everyone in that building knew.
There were other bands, other guitar players. They all sounded different, but they all had that thing in common which was that there was something behind what they did, which was communicating. It was such a challenging thing to hold up your style against this and say, 'Well, what are you saying? What is this song about? What does that note mean? Why that note? It was just a kind of big wank. There was nothing to it, it was gymnastics.
I started trying to find out what this thing around my neck could do in the context of this band. Songs were coming through and 'Well, that sort of works' and integrating the echo box, which was a means of further coloring the sound, controlling the tone of the guitar. I was not going for purity, I was going for the opposite. I was trying to fuck up the sound as much as possible, go for something that was definitely messed with, definitely tampered with, had a character that was not just the regular guitar sound. I started to see how notes actually do mean something. They have power.
I think of notes as being expensive. You don't just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that's what I use. I suppose I'm a minimalist instinctively. I don't like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of 'With or Without You. Everyone else said, 'Nah, you can't do that. I'm a musician. I'm not a gunslinger. That's the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do. Ten or twelve years into this, I remind Edge, he can look out at a lot of guitarists he's influenced.
You take what I do, bring it down to a little, short formula and try and apply it in another context, another guitar player, another song-it's going to sound terrible. So many of their strong ideas have been taken up by other guitar players in other bands and the result is some pretty awful music. Heavy metal for one. The first U2 albums were dominated by Edge's heavy use of an echo effect on his guitar. It fattened the band's sound, covering up the fact that neither the guitarist nor bassist in this band were playing very much. It also gave the early U2 songs a feeling of reverberating size and -not least-laid a coat of common personality over the material.
U2 had a sound. Edge says it started with Bono: "We had a song we were working on called 'A Day Without Me' and Bono kept saying, 'I hear this echo thing, like the chord repeating. I got one down to rehearsal and played around with it with limited success. I didn't really like it; I thought it muddied up the sound. Even Cowgirls get the Blues blew my high school mind. Second vote for Rainbow Rowell. I read those as an adult not as a teen, though I know my teenage self would have devoured them.
I read a ton of Bill Bryson books when I was a teenager, which is pretty funny to me now. Check with local libraries! They usually have summer reading lists. Beautiful book! And a book in verse title Audacity by Melanie Crowder. Sarah Dessen has so many great light summer reads. Ellen Hopkins has grwat hard hitting, tough topic books in verse. Speak and Shout both by Laurie Halse Anderson. Anything by John Green is popular with this age group. Hope these are a good starting point, enjoy! I really loved The Ghosts of Departure Point at about that age. It has always stayed with me. But I stand by it.
The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. Happy Summer reading Hailey! I teach 8th grade literature, so you definitely hit my soft spot with this request. I also have a thirteen year old daughter, so I make a lot of recommendations for her as well as students. My daughter also reads I Will Always Write Back about once every other month, so if she likes nonfiction, that would be a great option too. I would be happy to provide more information or suggestions as well! I discovered Mercedes Lackey when I was 13 or 14, and have loved her ever since. Austen, Tolkien, Shelley Percy and Mary, actually, if you want her to do some poetry as well for classics?
It still brings me to tears when I read it. Tagging on to the flowers in the attic series, My Sweet Audrina by VCAndrews was a total mind meld for me at that age. Maybe the subject matter wAs a bit grim, but it was very entertaining. The other is the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman such is to this day one of my favourite series. A compelling fantasy story with rich themes and conflicts. So, Hamlet, then follow up with rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead because you just gotta. Katherine Arden wrote a great trilogy which is steeped in Russian history ish and fairytales.
Think Baba Yaga. I absolutely loved those when I was a kid and secretly still do. It changed me. I have read it over and over. Ashleigh recently posted On Boredom. When I was in high school,these were some of my favorites. Sabriel by Garth Nix was a favorite. Anything by Tamora Pierce some of which show their age but are nonetheless worth reading and I also really liked East by Edith Pattou, which is a quieter book but cool!
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden are below her reading level but they are wonderful books to get lost in. I still read them as an adult. My high school reading lists were completely inadequate. John Green has a book club going that includes discussions, if I remember correctly. That might work really well for her. It might also be worth looking at AP reading lists.
That will give you a lot of the classics in one place. The audiobook of this, read by Sissy Spacek, is excellent. Oh also some killing. But of just bad people, mostly. The Power of One by Bryce Courtnay or April Fools Day by Bryce as well which is a true account of the authors sons life as a haemophiliac, beautifully written.
So basically disease and disaster. I also really got into Agatha Christie at that age. And every Star Wars book written at the time. Oh and Jane Austen and Michael Crichton. Flowers for Algernon was amazing to read and provided a lot of perspective that I never considered. That is a LOT of books cumulatively, but all of them are just magnificent. And I love supporting women fantasy writers. Probably A Tale of Two Cities was my favorite.
Also recommend Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. As a companion to them once and future King, The Mists of Avalon is fantastic! Any book by Leigh Bardugo.
If I think of the other books we had to read for high school, I will let you know. I know that further in high school junior year? When I was 15, I hated the former but loved the latter. Discworld series, I discovered Neil Gaiman about that age still in my top 5 fav authors , pretty much anything in the fantasy genre. I never really read YA then do now. Diana Wynne Jones — not challenging but very very good.
Author of Howls moving castle and the 2 sequels, as well as many others. These are all such good suggestions! Is she interested in a particular subject? My mind is overflowing with suggestions. This made me laugh. I would give the same look to adults who wanted the sex version books. They so needed editing still they sold big. As a former English teacher and librarian, many titles come to mind. I always devoured them in a few days.
I also really loved the Dear America series because I was already a history nerd and loved reading things from historical perspectives. Like others here, I was reading a lot of VC Andrews around that age. Funny story — My mom now works at a small town library. A patron asked her for a recommendation for her 14ish year old daughter. My mom told her that her daughter me liked the VC Andrews books at that age. My mom obviously had no idea what was going on in those books. My mom is not that cool! I also went through a gothic romance phase at that age and read a lot of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart.
Recommend a number of those. Touch Not the Cat. Great books. Tiffany Aching series by Pratchett and if she likes those then the Discworld books starting with the witches and night watch segments probably or read in order as I did. Auel around that time, too. Jen Lawson recently posted Yarn Dieting. Every time I read it, which is often, I fall in love with it again. These are not your typical characters who you root for. They do monstrous things in the name of history.
Crazy good!! The trilogy by Ferrol Sams was required reading in my ap english classes. I was engrossed. Great southern depression era literature. Run With The Horsemen is the 1st book. I was a hopeless romantic, I guess! And escapist? And my 15 year old daughter is reading and loving The Book Thief. She is not an avid reader but shes really into it. My absolute favorite book as a young teen. I reread it recently and fell in love with it all over again, only this time I understood the mother so much better than I did as a 14 year old girl.
It was almost like reading a different book. The Outsiders by S. Hinton had a huge impact on me at It made me really see how powerful writing about what you know could be and how extraordinary average people can be. That book changed my life. Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones. His sentence is to be sent to earth as a real dog.
The book is darker, but still a great read. I wrote a YA novel and talked about it at schools this year. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. Jemisin is amazing. I agree with the above assessments of Heinlein and Stranger in the Strange Land, absolutely worth reading but context is essential. That has stayed with me all these years later. For me, age 14 was a long time ago. Help her find diversity.
I would highly recommend all five of them. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody which she began writing when she was in high school. Really I recommend anything on my Goodreads list. Feel free to friend me there and look at my shelves. Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox. I also recently reread the Anne of Green Gables series, expecting it to be kind of cheesy after having not read it in so many years, but man, I still love that Anne Shirley. My fav was her psychology textbook.
Please share the compiled summer reading list. I want to read along. We all need queer stories with happy endings The Kite Runner. Winnie the Pooh which is really about how life is never what you plan for but be kind to everyone anyway as you go. I work in a library and these are a few of my recommendations: 1.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
Case Closed? A Wrinkle in Time 5. Kavik the Wolf Dog 6. The Running Dream 7. Child of the Wolves 8. The Indian in the Cupboard 9. Blackjack: Dreaming of a Morgan Horse The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Book Thief Hey, Kiddo The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind High Sierra The phantom toolbooth This One Summer The Giver Maniac McGee Wanderers: A Novel They Called Us Enemy Breakout What Am I?
The Big Easy If I Was Your Girl The Rule of One We Are Okay Island of the Aunts. There are so many great recommendations here so I just have one more to add: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. A YA novel about a high school girl who is the creator of a very popular webcomic series that she publishes under a pseudonym. I read it as a 39 year old and loved it. Feel free to email me if you need more specific suggestions for her tastes! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
The Good Earth. Have Hailey sign up on BookRiot. Jenny, you will want to, too. That being said, N. My favorite TV show in high school. I wish I had thought of, or known of, something similar to his method when I was a teenager. His stories about his life run the gamut from hilarity particularly one childhood Thanksgiving to great sadness and loss. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. Teenage female spies in WWII and secrets, loyalty, and friendship.
Totally different track and maybe too young? Smart, well presented science and great thriller reads. Her short stories. Loved them all. One fun or weird thing I used to do was to choose a new country every month and try and read a couple of different examples of literature from each of them.
I still do it actually although not quite as obsessively , but as a teen, it would have been great to have people help me identify what to try…. Scythe by Neal Shusterman, and its sequel Thunderhead. The third installment is due out this fall and I. Some great suggestions going on here! I agree with most…. I love Ruta Sepetys — Hailey has great taste!
Little Brother is one of my favorites. Pearl S. Buck, anything she wrote. Hinton — The Outsiders. Some Steinbeck has been mentioned. My favorite of his is, Tortilla Flat. I found them very empowering as a young teen girl. A mother and daughter navigate the aftermath of a nuclear explosion alongside a wolf pack. That book destroyed me, and made me feel less alone in the world. Oh and she may find George Orwell Animal Farm and useful in the context of current world politics. Check your library to see what reading programs they have this summer and go from there. They tend to even give prizes!
From there I recommend to stay away from classics with the exception of Anne frank. Librarian with a large YA knowledge. Our friendly neighborhood high school does. They are making an effort to include more diversity in reading — branching out from the English Lit classics. I am a little disturbed by all the sad or disturbing books on many of these lists. Everything affected me profoundly then — even to things like sunsets.
I still re-read L. Montgomery books all the time to un-disturb my brain — the Anne of Green Gables stuff is just the beginning. The Emily series is a good one. I like stories of the early 20th century because they remind me how easy we have life- no baking in wood or coal stoves, etc. Those were written for adults, not children. Sherlock Holmes stories were fun when I was a kid, and give an impression of life in those times. The comedies are more fun. The more modern things that people have mentioned are good — I read many of them when my child read them in school but I find many of them depressing.
I am an escapist reader, not a reader to improve my mind. Anything by John Green or Cassandra Kass is usually a hit with our teens. Also, Every Day by David Leviathan is incredibly cool and a great book for teaching empathy and perspective. I am definitely using this thread to get reading recommendations for me. Another group is Jack London Books. White Fang, etc. At 14 I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird loved it , Fahrenheit loved it in a disconcerting way , and Flowers for Algernon broke my heart but I still consider it a very important read.
Read Beowulf, skip the pain that is Grendel. The main book I remember reading when I was exactly 14 is Gone with the Wind. I cried my eyes out. The book is much better. Best of luck to both of you as you proceed! Not sure if my comment posted, so please forgive me for any duplication. When I was 14, I discovered Jane Eyre. The hate you give, Darius the great is not ok, Dante and Aristotle discover the universe, before I fall, butter, anything by David leviathan. Anything by jacquline Woodson, Toni Morrison, John green,. Dracula — unabridged Hamlet or Macbeth.
Much Ado about Nothing or Othello are also great choices. May I also suggest GoodReads. Sounds like a Catcher int he Rye moment. Also Everything Flows by Vassily Grossman. Also, Goodreads is a great resource — book recommendations, reviews, reading groups on just about all topics, and a way to connect with people with similar interests all over the world. There are much better books to read by now! Binti trilogy. The Giver quartet. The True Confessios of Charlotte Doyle. The Westing Game. I am also abnormal in the fact that Stephen King is my favorite author.
AI agree with Ray Bradbury —anything! For more academic reading, maybe something by Pearl S. Has she read anything by Sarah Dessen? I think her books are always the perfect summer reads. Plus, I was so impressed with myself for reading a book with that many pages! Both my kids read it as young teens and loved it boy and girl. The Girl with All the Gifts M. Carey It is nice to read a book that is not so formulaic. The first one, The War of Broken Mirrors, is more serious than the second, the Arcane Ascension series, which is reminiscent of Harry Potter while being its own original thing.
I also seem to remember reading The Book Thief at that time and feeling very deeply about it. I just listened to them on audio and they help up really well the first was written in I imprinted on that series so hard at about 13, that to this day at 42, I can still recite the prophecy poems from memory. I recommend The Talisman the most. I also adored John Steinbeck. His book The Red Pony was short but amazing and meaningful.
I think it would make a great book to write down your thoughts about after. Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig was one of my favourites as a not out gay teen. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer and apparently there are more in the series. The St. Never ending Story. I saw someone mentioned Holly Black. I loved the Old Kingdom books by Garth Nix. Sabriel being the first. To this day they are my favorite series. I was super big into fantasy books too. Around that age I did get into the Dragon Lance books. But Jane Eyre is kind of a requirement first. To Kill a Mockingbird changed my life.
I was 15 for that one, I think. At 14, and still really, I was heavily into the original six Dune books. It was formative, as so much is at One of my summer reading books was Gone with the Wind. When I reported on it, I compared how our school taught the Civil War unit in history classes and asked a really awkward question about why no one talks about how heinously the wartime impacted the physical landscape and economy of the South.
I grew up in New Hampshire. But I still got an A. I also read Umberto Eco, which was wildly inappropriate age-wise but it pushed me, and revisiting it later I was able to glean so much more from it. I always read above my age group and it worked out well because my mother was an avid reader.
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I may have spelled her name wrong, but I really loved them. Here are a few recommendations from students, the school media specialist, and from what I myself enjoyed as a teen: A Wrinkle in Time We Were Liars. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I lost her 2 years later due to leukemia. Welsh fantasy series based on Arthurian legend, this is the set of books I send to every young reader in the family. Suggest she look for books by nnedi okorafor. Really interesting sci Fi and way more contemporary. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautiful coming of age story.
The House of the Scorpion deals with many complex issues, border issues, the drug trade, cloning, the existence of an underclass, etc. Hunger Games. I have no idea if it would fit her, but I found it fascinating. The Bear and the Nightingale if she is in to fantasy, or Six of Crows. I would also recommend Every Day by David Levithan. Jane Eyre is still one of my all time favorites. Little, Big by John Crowley — magical realism, about a not-quite-normal family and their not-quite-normal lives and houses. E Hinton.
I read that when I was young and it became one of my favorite books. After I read that, I searched out and read every book I could find about that journey! Amazing story and well written. My earlier list echoed reading Bradbury and Asimov especially The Ugly Little Boy and Twilght—both are novels based on earlier short stories.
I taught high school and found that some kids loved it, while others were left cold. Might as well get in some fun reading while she can! I love the suggestions fo read Dumas—love them all! SO dramatic and engaging. It warms my English teacher heart to hear a kid wanting a summer reading list!
The genre is Young Adult Steampunk it takes place in Victorian England , and there are 4 books, following Sophronia from ages 14 to Look on the English curriculum for UT and she can start reading those books. Hearing the Nac Mac Feegles is a treat. The first one is called Every Heart a Doorway. Also I have not read the Temeraire series, but my friend who homeschooled her teenager recommended them highly; she and her kid read the books together and got a LOT of interesting learning and lesson material out of discussing the alternate history.
I read Between Shades of Gray — what a powerful account of a harrowing story — it does take a minute to explain to people. I hated reading but read it because my best friend had read it and I wanted to emulate him he was signifantly academically better than me. Then, I started reading more and more fantasy adventure books. The habit kept up for me ever after….
More of my testimony instead of a recommendation because it sounds like she has no issues reading books. It centers around a young Chinese man who is sent to Japan and his interactions with the Japanese while there is a war occurring between the Japanese and Chinese. Yours, theirs and the truth, which is always somewhere between.
When I was her age, I was a huge nerd still am. I discovered fantasy fiction around that age, too, with The Dragonriders of Pern series becoming a favorite. Except for Scruples, because that is a fantastic book. Does Hailey have a favorite genre? I have five kids and we are a family of readers. My youngest is 14 now, but his tastes are super eclectic.
The Cat Ate My Jumpsuit by Paula Danziger may be dated these days, but was so empowering for me as a young, fat, brainy, introverted kid. Following up on my testimony about Terry Brooks, Christopher Hitchen had a talk with an 8-year old girl and they created the following reading list. Some books listed are definitely old favorites and I understand that love , but some of these offer really problematic representations of [race, ability, etc.
Happy reading—there has never been a better time for YA literature! Because I read so much and so quickly I spent the cash on Kindle Unlimited. My daughters are 13 and 15 and I formally worked in a library. Ursula Le Guin! Any and all. She is especially gifted with short fiction. Start with The Birthday of the World and then decide if you want to devour the rest of her short fiction or read some of her novels.
Earthsea being the most notable for YA. Left Hand of Darkness the most notable period. My favorite at her age was the Lathe of Heaven. I also read a lot of Bradbury, Asimov, and Heinlein as noted. There is this amazing author — James Oliver Curwood. He writes books about wolves, bears, nature as he was one with nature.
His books might seem a little boring to a teenager now but maybe your daughter will find them as beautiful as I did. The best one, in my opinion, is Kazan and the next book Baree. The core of Diamond's explanation is that Europeans were essentially lucky in two respects. First, we have unusually many easily domesticable plant and animal species. Second, since Europe is oriented East-West rather than North-South, a species which is domesticated in one part of Europe has a good chance of thriving in another, so there are many opportunities to swap farming technology between different areas.
It helps that there is an easily navigable river system, and also that there are no impassible deserts or mountain ranges. These conditions are not reproduced in most other parts of the world; Diamond has a range of interesting tables, showing how few useful domesticable species there are elsewhere. Because we got efficient farming earlier than most other people, we also got cities and advanced technology earlier, and everything else followed from that initial lead we established.
One objection you could make is that it wasn't luck, but rather that Europeans were more enterprising than people in other areas about finding good species to domesticate. Diamond's answer to this is fairly convincing. Having lived extensively with pre-industrial people, he says that we city-dwellers just don't understand how well they know their flora and fauna, and how active their interest in them is. I guess a New Guinea tribesman would, conversely, be surprised at how quickly word gets around on the Internet when a cool new website appears.
Basically, what he's saying is that pre-industrial people tried everything that could be tried, and when they didn't find anything good, it's because it wasn't there. Systematic studies by modern scientists do seem to support this conclusion. Another criticism some readers have leveled at Diamond is that he makes history completely deterministic - once the geography was fixed, everything that happened after that was inevitable.
I don't actually think that's fair. Diamond is open about the fact that his theories make one embarrassingly incorrect prediction: if it was all about being first to domesticate plant and animal species and set up efficient farming, then China should be the world's preeminent civilization. Even though he makes some attempt to explain why this isn't so, there does right now seem to be a fair case for saying that it's not only geography.
Luckily, George W. Bush has been working hard to try and smooth things out. If the Western world can just arrange two or three more leaders like him, all of Diamond's data will hopefully come out the way it's supposed to, and the last few hundred years of Western history can be written off as a statistical blip. Way to go, Dubya! It is not that these countries, so rich in species, do not by a strange chance possess the aboriginal stocks of any useful plants, but that the native plants have not been improved by continued selection up to a standard of perfection comparable with that given to the plants in countries anciently civilised.
Does Diamond mention this? Unfortunately, I don't have a copy to hand. View all 33 comments. May 18, Mike rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Folks with some interest in ancient history. Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1 the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2 the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et.
Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-a Author Jared Diamond's two-part thesis is: 1 the most important theme in human history is that of civilizations beating the crap out of each other, 2 the reason the beat-ors were Europeans and the beat-ees the Aboriginees, Mayans, et. Whether societies developed gunpowder, written language, and other technological niceties, argues Diamond, is completely a function of whether they emerged amidst travel-and-trade condusive geography and easily-domesticable plants and animals.
I'm not sure I agree that why the Spanish obliterated the Mayans instead of visa versa is the most interesting question of human history. How about the evolution of ideas, or the impact of great leaders and inventors? But it is an interesting question, and worth exploring.
Diamond is a philosophical monist, neatly ascribing just about every juncture in human history to a single cause or related group of causes. Given his extensive background in botany and geology, it makes sense that he would look for the impact of those factors in the human story. Unfortunately, those factors are all he regards as important; he relegates to insignificance the contribution of ideas, innovations, and the decision-making of individuals or cultures.
His view is fatalistic, seemingly motivated by a P. A contradiction here is that fatalistic viewpoints are incompatible with moral pronouncements. If nobody can control their actions, who's to blame for anything? Diamond is condemnatory of the Spanish incursion into Mayan lands, but the logical consequence of his theory is that the Mayans would have done the same to the Spanish if they had been first to develop the musket and frigate.
Taking Diamond's theory seriously means we'd have to view imperialism as natural and unavoidable, like the predation of animals, and be unable to criticize any culture's actions whatever. All that said There's no doubt that the factors Diamond identified had some role in human progress, however, and if you can put aside the author's predisposition towards his own field and somewhat sketchy philosophical foundation, the book is a compelling and vivid account of what life was like for the earliest civilizations. Diamond describes the evolution of agriculture, written language, and other indispensable facets of human history, giving us a crash tour through the earliest days of human history.
The specialized expertise that ultimately derails Diamond's overview at the same time offers a compelling and detailed view of the rise of mankind. View all 17 comments. It took me a while to complete Diamond's book and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The central thesis that it is not racial biology that determines the victors in history but rather a complex combination of agriculture, geography, population density, and continental orientation is a fascinating and compelling one.
The style is not academic and did admittedly put me off by using sen It took me a while to complete Diamond's book and admittedly I also distracted myself with a few Roth novels in the meantime because of the density of the text and the variety of ideas presented. The style is not academic and did admittedly put me off by using sentences with "! I can understand why Mr. Diamond received accolades and a Pulitzer for this complex work written at the level that the layman, non-scientist can still grasp.
The funniest story that struck me was the QWERTY keyboard one which apparently is the least ergonomic design but due to its rapid adoption by typists due to capitalist competition and afterwards its ubiquity once computers became important, it is impossible to dislodge. The one thing that struck me - and here I warn readers that I climb on my soapbox near the Marble Arch for a moment - is the abundance of corroborating evidence for human evolution and development that has solid artefacts and proof going back years and more by the most precise dating methods available by today's scientists.
For anyone with a shred of intelligence to try and say the world is only years old and created in-state as it were is pure insanity and blindness. And yet, we now have high-placed individuals in the US holding these beliefs and poised to poison American youth with medieval and ignorant ideas such as young-earth creationism. If one is to take reality at face value rather than with massive filters eliminating reason and coherence from it, then one cannot possibly justify believing that all humans came from Adam and Eve and that they were white as snow and racially superior to their offspring.
It is critical that works like this get wide diffusion in order to debunk racial superiority theories that gave rise to the horrors on Hitler and continue to inform white supremacists and Islamic radicals and all other religious or racial bigots because their underlying fundamentals are based on patently false principles. OK, down from soapbox now. The book was well-written if a bit repetitive at times and presents eye-opening and inventive analysis that will help me see the world I live in differently.
Highly recommended. Especially in view of the rise of revisionist, white supremacist bullshit. Nov 22, Jason Koivu rated it liked it Shelves: history. The actual title should be Germs, More Germs and a bit about Steel And Guns, but not very much on those last two really I mean, we want to put Guns first because it's more attention-grabbing than Germs, but let's face it, this book is mostly about Germs. Why has no publishing house knocked down my door trying to obtain my book titling services yet?!
View all 13 comments. Feb 29, Nate rated it did not like it. This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. The point he is making is that we in Western Civilazation haven't built skyscrapers, made moon landings, mass produced automobiles, eradicated polio or for that matter lived indoors with running water while aborigines in certain remote outposts still hunt and gather in isolated tribes because we are inherently any smarter or more industrious than those individuals.
Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is t This may be the most over-rated book in the history of book rating. Of course he is mostly right, but why in the 21st century is this considered such a novel idea, and why does he have to be so BORING about it? Don't believe the hype. View all 35 comments. Jan 31, Joshua Parkinson rated it really liked it. In , Francisco Pizarro and a band of Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Why didn't the Incas sail to Europe, capture Charles V, kill his subjects, and loot his castles and cathedrals?
Why have Europeans tended to dominate other peoples on other continents? Does it have somethi In , Francisco Pizarro and a band of Spaniards punctured the heart of the Inca Empire and proceeded to capture its emperor, decimate its citizens, and plunder its gold. Does it have something to do with race? Were Europeans cleverer than other races? Diamond says no. It wasn't racial characteristics that tipped the scales of fortune for the Europeans; it was their geography.
Their geography gave them access to the best domestic grains and animals, which led to specialization and advanced technologies like steel and guns. Their domestic animals also helped them develop potent germs, and the antibodies for those germs. The importance Diamond lays at the hoofs and paws of domesticated animals is, in fact, one of the fascinating themes of the book.
Diamond's point is that people living in areas with more domesticable animals sheep, cattle, pigs, horses, etc. For example, Native Americans had only three domesticated animals before llamas, turkeys, and dogs. Why only three? Actually, fossil records show huge populations of horses, oxen, and millions of other large mammals in the Americas until about 11, BC. What happened around 11, BC? You guessed it: man showed up via the Bering Strait. The American horses, oxen and other large mammals, having never experienced a human predator, approached the new arrivals like slobbering puppy dogs, and were consequently turned into steaks.
Now this is fascinating enough, but then consider that because the Native Americans didn't have any horses, oxen, pigs, etc. Yes, germs. Because the Native Americans didn't live in close proximity to a plethora of "farm animals" like their counterparts in Eurasia, they lacked the "petri dish" wherein deadly germs could grow and proliferate. If that doesn't blow your mind, your mind is blowproof. Every other large mammal that remained including moose and bison lacked the qualities that allow for domestication.
In all of human history only 14 large mammals have ever been domesticated: sheep, goat, cattle, pigs, horses, camels Arabian and Bactrian , llamas, donkeys, reindeer, water buffalo, yaks, and two minor relatives of cattle in southeast Asia called Bali cattle and mithrans. Outside of these, no other large mammals have been transformed from wild animals into something useful to humans.
Why were Eurasia's horses domesticated and not Africa's zebras? Why were Eurasia's wild boar domesticated and not America's peccaries or Africa's wild pigs? Why were Eurasia's five species of wild cattle aurochs, water buffalo, yaks, bantengs, and gaurs domesticated and not Africa's water buffalo or America's bison?
Why the Asian mouflon sheep the ancestor of our sheep and not the American bighorn sheep? The answer is simple: we tried and it didn't work. Since BC not one new large mammal out of the worldwide candidates has been domesticated, and not for lack of trying. In fact, in the last years, at least six large mammals have been subject to well-organized domestication projects: the eland, elk, moose, musk ox, zebra, and American bison. All six failed.
Diet: Why don't we eat lion burgers? Because raising lions, or any other carnivore, is uneconomical. You need 10, lbs of feed to grow a 1, lb cow. You would likewise need 10, lbs of cow to grow 1, pounds of lion. Growth rate: Why don't we eat rhino burgers? Simple, it takes years for a rhino to reach adult size while it only takes cows a couple. Nasty disposition: Here's where we eliminate zebra burgers, hippo burgers, grizzly burgers and bison burgers. These animals retain their nasty and dangerous tempers even after several generations of captive breeding.
Did you know zebras injure more zookeepers per year than do lions and tigers? Tendency to panic: No deer or gazelle burgers either. Because they take flight at the first sign of danger and will literally kill themselves running into a fence over and over to escape the threat. Captive breeding problems: Many animals have elaborate breeding rituals that can't happen in captivity. Social structure: This may be the most important requirement for domesticates. The best candidates for domestication live in herds, maintain a clear herd hierarchy, and overlap ranges with other herds rather than having exclusive ranges.
Here humans just take over the top of the hierarchy. Diamond contends that if there had been any horses left in the Americas, or any of the other 13 candidates for domestication, the Native Americans surely would have domesticated them, and reaped all the attendant benefits. But alas, their great-great-grandpas had already killed, grilled and digested them all. Diamond's book is a great read. The way I see it, the story of man and the story of all things, for that matter is the story of varied states of disequilibrium moving violently and inexorably toward equilibrium.
What was Pizarro's vanquishing of Atahualpa's empire if not an example of such violent re-balancing? The beauty of Diamond's book is that it seems to pinpoint, with surprising simplicity, the original source of disequilibrium among men: geography. Skin color had nothing to do with it. Race has always been nothing more than an arbitrary mark to show the geographical birthplace of one's ancestors'.
By the way, if you do read this book, take note of the way we humans first discovered agriculture.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
According to Diamond, it happened at the latrine. We'd go out gathering seeds, eating some along the way, and then come back to camp and defecate, all in the same spot. Guess what started growing in that spot? Yes, my friends, as crude as it may sound, we humans shat are way to civilization. Thank your ass when you get a chance. View all 4 comments. This is one of those books which seems at face value as if it has an interesting and persuasive thesis, and indeed there are a couple of reasonable points in here, but by and large Guns, Germs, and Steel is a poorly written book, shoddily argued and riddled with factual errors.
Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variet Terrible. Jared Diamond's thesis is that the differences which one can observe in technological and economic development around the world do not result from racial differences but rather from geographical ones: the variety and nutritional value of available crops, the number of animals which could be domesticated, the geographical axes of the various continents.
Diamond claims that this is an anti-racist theory because it points out that white people were just lucky, not inherently more deserving or more talented or more resourceful than people anywhere else in the world. However, Diamond's intention to write an anti-racist book doesn't mean that he succeeded in doing so. There are layers of problematic assumptions and unconscious Eurocentrism underlying his writing, layers which make Guns, Germs, and Steel an uneasy read: you for the reader whom Diamond seems to hypothesise in the book is a white Westerner--there's no sense that a PoC from, say, Malaysia or Egypt might have picked it up should not feel a sense of accountability or responsibility or guilt for colonialism or imperialism or the ongoing exploitation of most of the world's population by those living in the developed world.
It's no one's fault --it's just geography! When it comes to assessing the reliability of Diamond's arguments, the fact that there are no footnotes and no full bibliography make that a somewhat difficult task--but I know enough about sub-Saharan African history to know that he characterises several key things incorrectly, and just enough about the history of the Americas to be very suspicious about things that Diamond claims. There are numerous minor factual errors, like saying that "oi" means "sheep" in Irish p.
This is admittedly minor, but if you indulge in repeated bouts of carelessness like that, you're going to make me suspicious about the factual foundations of the rest of your arguments. And indeed, while I can't assess the validity of some of Diamond's scientific claims--though the continent axis theory falls apart the more you start to think about it, as does his failure to consider the impact of human alteration of the environment--I do know that I'd expect better historical argumentation from an undergraduate history major.
For instance, when about to describe the meeting of the conquistador Pizarro with the Incan emperor Atahuallpa, he says: What unfolded that day at Cajamarca is well known, because it was recorded in writing by many of the Spanish participants [ What we have is a record of what six individual Spanish men--and no Incans--wanted the Spanish king to think had happened on that day. A moment's thought would tell you that there are multiple problems with using their writings as a straightforward means of assessing anything about Incan culture and society.
Rookie errors like that made me roll my eyes extra hard at the epilogue in which Diamond explains to historians what our discipline should look like and how we should think of it. How about no, sir--if you've repeatedly demonstrated a lack of ability to think historically, you don't get to decide what historians should do. Just because a society is more technologically or economically complex than its neighbour doesn't mean that it automatically sets out to conquer it--that's a question you can't answer with "geography.
View all 24 comments. Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. What makes the book particularly good is the intimate hands-on experience that Jared has on the wide variety of fields required to attempt a book like this.
The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13, years Jared sticks to the basic premise and plugs every hole in his argument so well to construct a magnificent explanation of the evolution of societies. The last four or five chapters start to get very repetitive, but except for that Diamond has taken a stunningly large scale view of history that keeps you enthralled throughout the 13, years we cover in this book.
View all 27 comments. Mar 29, carol. Stopped on page 88 for the time being, because, man, do people ever suck. We historically sucked.
But since humans used to invade other humans' territory and do a lot of killing, at least things have changed now. Oh, wait. View all 34 comments. Camped on a tropic riverside, One day he missed his loving bride. She had, the guide informed him later, Been eaten by an alligator. Professor Twist could not but smile. Diamond, unlike Professor Twist, is seeking answers to real world problems. In this case, he seeks to understand the plight of indigenous peoples and their subordination to European and Asian cultures in light of evolutionary pressures.
Even so, Diamond seems awkward in his attempts to justify the ways of the Blind Watchmaker to men as so. One false note comes early in the book, when he departs from his evenhandedness to assure us that not only should we not hold New Guineans to be less intellectually endowed than Europeans a reasonable enough assumption , but that they are probably intellectually superior. He admits that he can't demonstrate that superiority empirically, so that assertion strikes the reader as an attempt to curry favor by a politically correct reverse bias.
On the other hand, there's a lot of really stimulating and interesting stuff in this book. Diamond talks about: what kinds of foodstuffs are necessary to support civilization; why disease almost always flowed from native Europeans to native Americans and not vice-versa , whereas Europeans encounter many new diseases when they attempted to enter Africa; why those previous two topics are related; how innovation happens; etc.
It seems like there's an interesting fact or point of view whenever you turn the page. The book seeks a complete explanation for the course of human history. It has that sort of broad, sweeping intellectual appeal that a hefty work of philosophy or science has. For example, after someone learns Newtonian mechanics, he tends to see the entire universe as the interplay between physical forces that are expressed in terms of differential equations. A similar dynamic happens here, where the reader suddenly sees commonplaces in a new light. As with most grand theories, it's important to see that there are some important limits to the analysis.
While we can see why, in broad strokes, European and Asian peoples might have overwhelming advantages in human history in purely biological and geographical terms, Diamond's analysis is of no help in answering historical questions that still might strike us as large, but come within the realm of European or Asian culture, instead of at the border with other peoples.
For example, it's hard to see how his analysis adds anything to our understand of conflicts such as the Greco-Persian wars, the rise and decline of Rome, the Napoleonic Wars, or the American Civil War. Certainly these questions are important, and we rightly inquire into agricultural, military, political, and culture causes for these events. In these cases Diamond's analysis is largely impossible, since we are dealing with peoples that share genetics, foodstuffs, climates, terrains, etc. Perhaps I'm nit-picking.
It's an excellent, thought-provoking book. I'd just like to temper the inevitable temptation to view all history through this lens. Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13, years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. There is a mind-boggling amount of information presented: some of it is fascinating, some of it seems repetitive, and overly long.
I listened to this on audio, al Diamond attempts to "provide a short history of everybody for the last 13, years," AND answer the question of why some cultures thrive while others perish or are conquered by others. I listened to this on audio, all thirteen discs! Did Jared Diamond, writing in the late 's, just describe the United States today? And will we become like one of the more primitive societies, sitting and watching while the rest of the world makes strides in science, technology, and the development of clean energy sources?
Yes, our agriculture is mighty nice, and, yes, we have plenty of steel and tons of guns, but with our scientific community both muzzled, and strapped for cash, will we be able to fight off new diseases, epidemics, or attacks by biological weapons? Will we become one of those once great cultures Diamond discusses that once flew high, then crashed and burned? The choice is up to us, and I'm not feeling too optimistic. View all 6 comments.