History would seem to favor pessimists. In COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond shows how past cultures toppled, sometimes with little warning. Supplementing historical records with discoveries in archaeology and climatology, he offers a guided tour of crashes and narrow escapes, ranging from Viking Greenland and the Yucatan Mayans to the Anasazi peoples of America's southwest. Then, globe-hopping from Australia and China to Montana and Southern California, Diamond surveys how modern societies are adapting to even greater perils.
The lesson in a nutshell: learn from history, or risk repeating it.