Jared Diamond

AbeBooks Exclusive Interview With Jared Diamond

AbeBooks own Richard Davies spoke with Jared Diamond about Guns, Chimpanzees and Why Sex is Fun.

When Jared Diamond is not writing best-sellers, he is Professor of Geography at UCLA. His books have attempted the monumental task of trying to explain human history for the past 13,000 years.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1998 with Guns, Germs and Steel, while his most recent work, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, has been a fixture in the best-seller lists since being published last year.

Formerly Professor of Physiology at UCLA School of Medicine, Jared speaks 12 languages, has conducted research around the globe, including 17 expeditions to New Guinea, and won numerous awards for his books. He has even a developed a separate career in studying the evolution of birds.

His other books include Why Sex Is Fun: The Evolution of Human Sexuality and The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.

"Winning the Pulitzer Prize was a big stimulus, because it attracted a lot of public attention to my writing," said Jared, who lists Thucydides, Thoreau's Walden, and Ernst Mayr's Animal Species and Evolution as the key infuences on his career.

"I am most proud of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse because they have found the largest resonance with the public. All collapsed societies fascinate me. But I have seen that the public is most fascinated by the events in places like Easter Island, Greenland, Rwanda, and Haiti."

Geography is the key aspect in Jared’s writing as he explains the difference between success and failure over the centuries.

"Today, geography is more vital than ever in deciding who succeeds and who fails," he explained. "Geographic factors operating today, plus their legacies from the past, provide most of the explanations for why some countries are rich while others are poor. New Guinea has particularly shaped my outlook by plunging me into a range of societies far more diverse than can be encountered in the First World."

His devotion to studying birds has provided an extra strand to his diverse career and something fundamentally different to work examining human history. "Birds are easier to study and manipulate, more diverse, and less controversial than humans," admitted Jared.

And what does a prolific writer, university professor and master linguist do to relax? "I like reading modern Italian authors," he said. "I've been learning Italian for the last six years, and virtually all of my reading for pure pleasure is in Italian."