Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 1998
Guns, Germs and Steel examines the rise of civilization and the issues its development has raised throughout history.
Having done field work in New Guinea for more than 30 years, Jared Diamond presents the geographical and ecological factors that have shaped the modern world. From the viewpoint of an evolutionary biologist, he highlights the broadest movements both literal and conceptual on every continent since the Ice Age, and examines societal advances such as writing, religion, government, and technology. Diamond also dissects racial theories of global history, and the resulting work—Guns, Germs and Steel—is a major contribution to our understanding the evolution of human societies.
©1997 Jared Diamond (P)2011 Random House
An awful lot of research went in to the writing of this book and equally the amount of focus to narrate. I don't think the audible version is the best for me. I've been comparing notes w/my husband who is away in Central America currently. I'm joining him in a couple weeks. He has both the hard copy & Kindle version. I'm looking forward to reviewing both to have a better grasp on the story,
I feel unqualified to answer this question. I've stepped outside my comfort zone w/this book. I'm very attracted to Historical Fictions that bring history alive & put flesh, blood & emotions to characters instead of stating & correlating facts.
I'm a newbie to Audible. I currently live on a small Caribbean island w/few resources. This is a wonderful tool for research & reading entertainment for me. Formerly, when I lived & worked in the US, I was highly addicted to audio tapes. My stepchildren in England are continuing that lifestyle, listening at home, work, driving. I feel Mr. Ordunio's performance was admirable for the continued drive & focus it must have taken to produce this narration, however, this could probably be due to the fact he enjoys relaying such books to his audience. We all strive to excel at something. I would have been miserable to ever undertake such a task, so hats off to Mr. Ordunio's talent!
It's hard to imagine anything was left out, but considering 1,000s of yrs, yes there could be a follow up. If so, I'd break the different aspects into smaller versions..
Considering the massive amount of research compiled to write this book, it was extremely well outlined.
Any joy that might have been found in the knowledge of this audiobook was completely removed by the performance. My husband and I enjoy listening to nonfiction while we take long car rides, and we had a five hour trip to New York State coming up, and nabbed this title. We barely made it an hour before he asked me to pick something else to play, since the dull monotonous performance was actually making him tired at the wheel.
It's unfortunate. The information is interesting, and though the author is perhaps a bit dry and academic in his delivery, it could have been presented much better by someone with a more engaging range of voice. It took a very long time to struggle our way through this one, in tiny bites, and I often found myself drifting away from it, completely disengaged from the uninspiring performance.
This book really gives you a good sense of the forces behind the destiny of different cultures on earth: why some have developed into powerful colonialist nations, and others never even developed agriculture. Jared Diamond is very thorough and convincing, although by three-quarters through you pretty much get the point and it kinda feels like he's bashing you over the heahead with his argument, but it's still kinda fun.
I felt like at times the reader didn't fully understand what he was reading. Occasionally the cadence of a sentence will sit in a weird spot and you kinda have to repeat it to yourself to fully understand what the author meant. This makes the engaging and otherwise fully accessible text a little hard to digest.
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.
Incredible analysis of human civilization! While it can be repetitive or dry in some areas, this could be improved with access of maps or Wikipedia as an adjunct to the audiobook.
The narration is a little off -- with sometimes jarring transitions in narration and a very annoying regional pronunciation of 'W's -- but is workable.
Strongly recommend for anyone with a curious mind.
Wow. I'm so amazed by this book. I think it will stand as the book that taught me the most. You'll walk away from this book with a much deeper understanding of the world we live in.
"great first 3/4"
diamond puts forward an interesting hypothesis with plenty of evidence to match. however the last quarter of the book is dedicated solely to evidence with no new theories presented which does tend to drag
great book overall, and worth a listen but the last few chapters can probably be skipped
"Interesting but repetitious"
Firstly, I have to say that the reader is excellent. His voice is modulated, varied and clear and he handles what at times is like a text book, very well. I'm not sure who the book is aimed at, academics or the pubic. The basic ideas about why societies in some parts of the world flourished and developed and others did not and so got taken over by the developed ones, are very interesting and well presented. The problem is that they are presented again and again - and again; the book is VERY repetitious. It reminds me of American documentaries which do a recap every 10 minutes with the apparent assumption that the audience can't retain an idea for that long. There are many long lists to illustrate a point which you would just skim your eye over if you were reading the printed book but which of course all get read in an audiobook. It is as if the writer has bent over backwards to show that his theories have excellent foundations in field work and academic studies and have to be justified. His epilogue even includes a small passage on the philosophy of history which seems to confirm his academic insecurity. Historians may need all the detail but a lay reader doesn't and the repetition of the detail is tedious. I did persevere to the end but found myself not paying attention to a lot of it and I don't think I missed much as everything got repeated so often. I could have got most of the book from the introduction and the conclusion.
It has made me think differently about mankind. This book puts a lot of data for any tenis.
"A fascinating book"
Not an easy read. A lot of dry facts to plough through. However the thesis of the book is very important and excellently argued. It helped me to understand why human society is the way it is.
"Interesting but repetitive."
Well luckily I could speed it up to 1.5x and still understand it well so that shortened it somewhat. It was still an interesting book but dull at times.
Yes it's an interesting opinion of history from a geographical point of view
The narration was a bit dull but I sped it up to 1.5x and that made it better.
It has been made into a National geographic documentary I think.
It was a good book and well worth a read but be prepared that it is repetative at times.
"An excellent overview of how society developed"
Buy this audiobook! Diamond has created a tour de force of a publication in Guns, Germs and Steel. His juxtaposition of the development rates in human societies on the different continents citing the possible reasons, unique contributory factors, etc. is a hugely informative method of educating his reader/listenership. Perhaps the only weakness is Diamond's persistent reversion to using New Guineans as the baseline comparative for many of his arguments (his contention that they may be more intellectually agile than others is a bit silly given his original idea that all are born with the same abilities, regardless of geographical location), but he is, I suppose, speaking about what he knows. The terminology used is accessible and the way in which he constructs his arguments is logical and persuasive. A great gateway book for those who may later dive into the more academic worlds of Dawkins and other gene theory biologists.
"good book, bad narration"
The content sounded good, but to be honest I'm not sure, because the narration is awful. He sounds half asleep, and his intonation and phrasing doesn't guide where you are in the structure of the book, so it's hard to follow. i gave up in the end - just couldn't stand it
"More accurate than the bible"
A brilliant foolproof guide to the history of man. Papua new Guinea probably gets a few too many mentions is the only fault.
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