Tribe Book Summary - Tribe Book explained in key points
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Tribe summary

Sebastian Junger

On Homecoming and Belonging

4.6 (80 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Tribe by Sebastian Junger is a thought-provoking book that explores why humans have an innate desire to belong to small, close-knit communities. It argues that modern society has weakened this sense of community, leading to feelings of isolation and unhappiness.

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    Many early European colonial settlers decided to live with Native American tribes.

    When the first English settlers arrived in America in the seventeenth century, they found a land utterly different from the country they’d left behind. Their new home was a vast wilderness populated by tribes whose lifestyles resembled that of an earlier age.

    But that didn’t put them off. On the contrary, plenty of these early settlers were absolutely enthralled by their new home. They were especially taken by the tribal way of life – so much so that many of them chose to live among Native American communities.

    The contrast between the way these locals lived and the modern Western world from which the settlers had come was dramatic.

    By the nineteenth century, it was even starker. Cities like New York and Chicago had grown into dense metropolises full of factories and slums. Native Americans, by contrast, were still fighting with spears and tomahawks.

    Many Americans preferred the latter lifestyle. They emulated Native American traditions and married into their tribes. Sometimes they even fought alongside their adopted communities.

    Movement in the other direction was rare. Contemporaries were perplexed that so few Native Americans left their tribes and took up European customs.

    Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was among those baffled by this phenomenon. Native American children, he wrote, raised by Europeans rarely showed any great attachment to modern culture. In most cases, they decided to return to their tribes.

    Americans who’d been captured by Native Americans, Franklin added, were a different case altogether. Many of them wanted nothing more than to continue living with the tribe that had taken them prisoner!

    This was underlined in 1763 when a Swiss general named Henri Bouquet led an English sortie into Native American territory. The raid was a response to the frequent attacks mounted by various tribes on the rapidly expanding European settlements.

    Bouquet’s mission was a military success. His first demand was that the defeated Native Americans return all European prisoners to the colonies.

    But the news of their “liberation” wasn’t gladly received by the “captives.” They were sullen and confused. They had no interest in rejoining their old families.

    The Native Americans were heartbroken at the loss of these recently adopted tribe members. They followed them on horseback as they were reluctantly led back to the Europeans’ settlements.

    But a reunion wasn’t long in coming in many cases. Missing the tribal lifestyle, former prisoners often left the colonies behind and went back to their Native American families.

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    What is Tribe about?

    Tribe (2016) scans the historical horizon and plumbs psychological depths to ask what it takes for us to feel at home in the world. Drawing on a wealth of evidence from multiple disciplines, author Sebastian Junger has an unsettling answer: it’s often in the midst of chaos and war that we develop our deepest sense of belonging. From the Blitz to American soldiers serving in Afghanistan, extreme danger welds groups together and highlights the sense of community so sorely missing in everyday life.

    Tribe Review

    Tribe (2016) explores the human need for community and belonging, shedding light on the powerful effects of shared suffering and camaraderie. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • Junger offers insightful observations on how modern society and its emphasis on individualism have affected our well-being and sense of purpose.
    • Through compelling stories and historical examples, the book explores the ways in which humanity has thrived in tight-knit communities.
    • The book challenges conventional thinking and encourages readers to reconsider the importance of community in their own lives, leaving a lasting impact.

    Best quote from Tribe

    Rather than buffering people from clinical depression, increased wealth in a society seems to foster it.

    —Sebastian Junger
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    Who should read Tribe?

    • Soldiers, veterans and their families
    • Anyone fascinated by the life of the mind
    • History buffs

    About the Author

    Sebastian Junger is a bestselling author who has written about everything from war to shipping and global politics. His previous books include War, The Perfect Storm and Fire. Junger lives in New York and is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.

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    Tribe FAQs 

    What is the main message of Tribe?

    The main message of Tribe is that humans are happier and more fulfilled when they live in close-knit communities.

    How long does it take to read Tribe?

    The reading time for Tribe varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Tribe a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Tribe is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the importance of belonging and human connection. It's definitely worth reading!

    Who is the author of Tribe?

    The author of Tribe is Sebastian Junger.

    What to read after Tribe?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Tribe, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Olivia Telford
    • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Age of AI by Henry Kissinger
    • Cosmos by Carl Sagan
    • In an Unspoken Voice by Peter A. Levine
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck