Unless you're way into botany, but otherwise its fascinating, interesting perspective. I liked the whole book, and it really takes maybe 2 listens let it really widen your world view.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Why are some human societies more advanced than others? It's a question that, well into the 20th century, was most often answered in racist terms. Naturally, it was thought, some people developed better technology than others because they were smarter. Diamond tears into such assumptions, making a persuasive case that human technological and cultural advancement have little to do with comparative intelligence, and lot to do with local conditions that put some cultures (or at least their neighbors) on a technological pathway a lot earlier than others. Diamond traces the ultimate keys for the shift from pre-modern to modern back to the areas of agriculture and animal domestication, which, as he explains, would have unlocked a succession of other innovations in centuries to follow. For people who ended a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and settled down, the mere fact of one being in one place would have led to a host of other possibilities, such as increased tool use, the development of plant and animal husbandry, the specialization of jobs and religion, the centralization of government and the rise of an administrative class, the development of language, etc, etc.
Diamond explains in (sometimes boring) detail the many disadvantages that the continents of Africa, Australia, and the two Americas had as places for civilization to develop, such as a lack of domesticable flora and fauna, a difficulty in transferring lifestyles between north-south climate zones, and a lack of suitable geography. He points out cases in which African, American, and Australasian cultures progressed as far as was achievable for anyone in their circumstances, and observes that Europe’s disunity compared to China was actually an asset, though China had had a more advanced civilization and had given Europe a number of innovations, as did the Middle East. Then, of course, there is the all-important germs factor -- Europeans in their urban centers were exposed to a variety of pathogens, which were so instrumental in the decimation of New World Indians.
I’m aware that there are (somewhat controversial) books that seek to understand the rise of civilization in terms of genes, rather than geography, and you might consider Nicholas Wade’s Before the Dawn for that viewpoint. Grains of plausible truth there, but I found Diamond's thesis more convincing. Societies adapt more easily than genes.
I consider GGS an important work because it goes all the way back to human prehistory in establishing the chain of causes that brought about modern civilization, providing many compelling, illustrative refutations of the “genes are destiny” hypothesis. Yes, as some readers have complained, it's true that Diamond favors the distant past and glosses over a lot significant developments in more modern times. However, I don't think that really matters. GGS is a book about ultimate causes, not secondary ones. That is, it seeks to explain what the recently dominant societies of the world have in common in their long-term past, not the specific reasons that specific countries are the dominant geopolitical players at this specific instant in history. If you want insight into that question (or just want to hear someone credit all that is right in the world to your own chosen values), go read more books! But, I think that whatever those authors have to say, their arguments will be refinements to the intuitive truth of Diamond's ultimate causes. In my opinion, there’s a good reason that the phrase “guns, germs, and steel” is now part of the public consciousness.
On the audiobook experience: yes, unfortunately, the reader is really dry, even by my forgiving standards.
Unfortunately the narrator was completely unable to capture the drama of this book. I read it shortly after it came out in hardback and lent my copy one too many times so I was excited to read it again. This was not the experience I hoped for.
Kon Tiki, Rapa Nui. Similar cultures.
You get the feeling he isn't hearing the words that he is saying.
I do love this book. The ease with which the author relays his information is astounding. When on paper the pages fly by, when narrated it's like setting through a lecture. Such a shame that this book was presented by someone as disinterested as Doug Ordunio.
I think it is mainly the content and writing style- but also the boring monotone narrator (who I sweat suppressed a yawn at times while reading!)- this was painful to listen to and utterly uninteresting! It is even worse than Atlas Shrugged!
This book is extremely informative and educational. I personally learn several things from this book and plan to follow up on several of the topics. Jared Diamond arranged the book in a very great way that makes the book fun to read. And it refers back to several topics previously covered
I had some difficulty staying focused on the subjects due to the fact that the narrator was a bit on the side of sleep inducing. A soothing voice but dry in the reading, often coming across as methodical and like a recitation of facts. Much of the information is interesting but it was hard to stay focused. I think I got about 50% of what the author was saying just due to the dry expression of the narrator.
The first half of the book was interesting as it shed light on the environmental differences of each of the parts of the world and there affect on human history. But the linguistics portion about New Guinea is about as dry as you can make it.