The Invention of Yesterday

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

The Invention of Yesterday by Tamim Ansary is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-September.

The connectivity of events occurring in different parts of the world, though told with a jutted, sometimes halting narration, sort of like being in careful conversation with someone who’s had a drug or alcohol-based epiphany (i.e. “Dude, I’m telling you, it’s all connected!). However, this makes for much more cohesive reading, since it clears away any kind of academic stuffiness and/or annotations. You just have to read about larger topics, like world religions, civilization-building, the spread of disease, economy, and industry with an occasional “No, hear me out!”
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I received an ARC of this work. The book was fantastic! Thought-provoking would be an understatement. This work covered the history of humanity. Ambitious topic but well-covered. This will stay with you for a long time. Pick a copy up and go on the journey.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Tamim Ansary has successfully woven a thread from  the dawn of civilization to the present day and portrayed humankind’s role in it. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in how we got here!
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In The Invention of Yesterday: A 50, 000 Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection, Tamim Ansary has written an immensely readable and concise (not short mind you, but concise) survey of humanity. Beginning at, well, the beginning, he quickly (and I mean quickly) moves through early life, primates on the savannah, tool-usage, the rise and ensuant spark of language, and then slows down once he hits the early river valley civilizations.

From there it’s a steady march through time, history, and culture as Anasary moves around the world showing how various regions developed in different or sometimes similar fashion, offering up reasons for either case, often involving geography or environment.  If you read much history, there isn’t going to be a lot new here (though some), and even if you’re just casually aware of history or remember some high school/college courses, chunks will sound quite familiar (Columbus’ voyage, the Crusades, etc.).  Several aspects make the book well worth the time however, despite this.

One is simply the efficiency of the survey, to cover so much history in so concise a fashion.  Sure, the content doesn’t leave a  lot of room for depth or nuanced complications, exploration of possible other views, etc. , but what you do get is a highly informative survey of world history from its earliest days to the present time that, thanks to covering its entirety, gives you a sense of context, both social and geographic, that many histories lack.  And strength is just how smooth Ansary’s delivery is, allowing the reading to move gracefully and easily from time to time and region to region with no sense of confusion or dislocation.

Finally, the strongest aspect, and again something often lacking in such surveys, is how Ansary makes clear that these histories are all interconnected. That there isn’t a “China” history and a “Europe” history, but that events in China (say, the building of a wall to keep out steppe raiders) have consequences in China that ripple outward to affect the rest of Asia, Europe, Africa, and yes, even America.  

I can’t say I learned a lot new in terms of specifics, but I still quite enjoyed reading The Invention of Yesterday and found that it both reminded me of what I’d learned elsewhere but also let me see it as a whole rather than as piecemeal bits of information/history. Well written, thorough, and recommended.
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This is an almighty book and a fascinating journey through thousands of years - looking back at how yesterday was formed geographically, politically, economically, culturally, and socially. How what all occurred through the ages was in many ways interconnected just as things are today, but for many reasons we still remain apart - in different worlds - “we” and “others.” Tamim Ansary has done an amazing job weaving boatloads of information from around the world throughout the ages in a digestible and interesting format. This is definitely a book to read and re-read again and again to absorb and retain the myriad pieces of fascinating history, culture, and trivia (but not trivial) interspersed throughout the book. While the book is in essence, the history of the world, it doesn’t feel so with its informal and conversational style (may not be to others’ liking). It almost feels like having a discussion in the coziness of one’s den or living room with a group of friends discussing... the invention of yesterday. A definite five-star plus book. This is my third Ansary book and it’s right up there with the others. A highly recommended read. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this must-read treasure.
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This is a sweeping and comprehensive look at history and our place in it. It was a LOT of information but I felt that it was presented in a way that made it understandable. I would recommend the book to friends
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Thank you to NetGalley for my ARC to review. 
I absolutely love this book. Well, it's less a book than an extended essay. It deals with absolutely everything to do with human history and how we relate to one another. I learned quite a bit from this book and it held my interest well. The thoughts and metaphors were incredibly thought  provoking and it was well researched. The only true criticism I have for it was the shift in the wording and language choice. Much of the book has very proper and easy read educational language, but the book lapses into common vernacular such as "naw". I found the shifts to be jarring and to lessen the impact of the work and its value. Some editing and a few choices about the intended audience and impact the book is meant to have can clear that problem up. It's still most definitely a five star and fun read.
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The publisher's description: 
"A sweeping global human history that describes the separate beginnings of the world's major cultural movements--Confucianism, Islam, Judeo-Christianity and Nomadism--and the dramatic, sometimes ruinous, sometimes transformative effects of their ever closer intertwinement that is the defining feature of our world today."  And not just the movements listed in the description, but all the massive cultural movements and other variables that altered the connections between groups and therefore the sweep of human history: tools, language, geography, money, the Crusades, inventions, machines, empires and nation-states, world wars, and, finally, technology, which is moving us towards a singularity of existence.

This is not a lengthy book, but the connections it makes between distant events which effected each other (for example, the Great Wall and the pressure it put on nomadic tribes to find new targets, such as Rome) are fascinating. I was especially interested in the descriptions of how culture and geography defined the types of religions which developed and how these in turn defined the reactions to immigration/invasion.

This is not a traditional history book but an idea book, and I found something on each page to intrigue me. Very highly recommended.
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