A review of Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life And Language In The Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett.

This was a pretty good book. One could complain that it was a bit unfocused, but for me, that relieved what could have otherwise been a bit boring. For example, the chapters on linguistics are not going to appeal to everyone that chapters on adventure travel appeal to. I like adventure travel and linguistics so it was all ok. The reason I read this book is because I am interested in the evolution of consciousness and I think this book tells an interesting story which is relevant. Sometimes I felt like the author was being a bit defensive about his academic standing. I think there are a couple of chapters that could be paraphrased as "It’s not inconceivable that I could be as smart as Noam Chomsky". I’m not even sure that Noam Chomsky is as smart as Noam Chomsky. (Recursive Chomsky reference FTW.)

But I’m not knocking Dan who seems like a cool guy. I was simply more interested in hearing interesting details from the lives and especially the thinking of the Piraha. They do seem like they’re running a very different operating system.

I’m sure that most reviews for this will have a 50/50 mix of helpful/unhelpful ratings split down party lines between those who consider Dan’s deconversion good or bad. I’m going to stay out of that. I will simply note (what the dust cover says) that the missionary position doesn’t work out. If that causes sensitivity, well, don’t read it.

My personal criticisms were that it would be great if the illustrations were labeled. Also a map showing where these people were (though lat/long were given). And if you have a group of people who "talk like chickens" it might be good to give them names English speakers could follow. Every time one of them was mentioned it could have been random letters from a good password as far as I was concerned. Also, I couldn’t read the transliteration of the Piraha language at all and I just mentally skipped every instance of it as random. The cover of the hardcover edition was pretty confusing, a wasted opportunity. That said, Dan is a pretty good writer, his adventures are pretty interesting, and the Piraha are very interesting.