Oprah isn't the only one who gets into hot water now and then for her book club selections. Accel Partners, the venture capital firm, is getting a little static for its selection of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed as its holiday gift to investors, CEOs, and influencers. This is Jared Diamond's book mapping out how environmental calamities brought the downfall of early societies including the Mayas, Greenlanders, and Easter Islanders.

Accel has sent out books every year for the past 15 years or so. They're typically serious and thoughtful. "It's part of our philosophy about the prepared mind--being thoughtful when we make our investments. We like to be current about what's being written," says Carl Everett, an Accel partner in Texas who was formerly a Dell executive. Well, this time, for some who received Collapse, the selection was a downright downer. "It's a very dark book," admits Everett. "People asked us, 'Is there something we don't know?'"

It's nobody's--err, everybody's--fault. All of the partners from the US, Europe, and Asia picked Collapse by consensus. Past books haven't had quite the same edge on them. More typical were Titan, about Rockefeller, and The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently.

One wonders: Did the Europeans have undue influence on the selection this year?

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