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Guns, Germs and Steel Audiobook

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

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Performance
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  •  
    Kathleen Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands 12-03-11
    Kathleen Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands 12-03-11
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    "Thousands of years to digest in 8 hours"
    Would you try another book from Jared Diamond and/or Doug Ordunio?

    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,


    What other book might you compare Guns, Germs and Steel to and why?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Doug Ordunio’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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!


    Do you think Guns, Germs and Steel needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    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..


    Any additional comments?

    Considering the massive amount of research compiled to write this book, it was extremely well outlined.

    10 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    'Nathan Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-01-14
    'Nathan Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 09-01-14 Member Since 2004
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    "Dreadful presentation"

    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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Montreal, QC, Canada 11-26-12
    Paul Montreal, QC, Canada 11-26-12
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    "Great book, not the best reading"
    If you could sum up Guns, Germs and Steel in three words, what would they be?

    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.


    What didn’t you like about Doug Ordunio’s performance?

    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.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heckyes Orangevale, ca, United States 09-13-11
    Heckyes Orangevale, ca, United States 09-13-11 Member Since 2011
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    "First part is hard to get through"

    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.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 03-07-12
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 03-07-12 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "An important account of civilization’s rise"

    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.

    7 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john a coil 05-25-16
    john a coil 05-25-16 Member Since 2016
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    "my book soon to follow"
    Would you listen to Guns, Germs and Steel again? Why?

    yep, cuz i distracted easliy


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Guns, Germs and Steel?

    genetics based of cultural diffusion.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    mr plum in the library with the toothpick


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    when I realized that i was talking like reader.


    Any additional comments?

    send me free stuff

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter 05-01-16
    Peter 05-01-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Off sound."

    The mixing seemed a but off. You could easily tell when there were different recording sessions. otherwise great book and very informative.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Palmer British Columbia, Canada 04-23-16
    Palmer British Columbia, Canada 04-23-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Seems odd but I was sad when it ended"

    I loved every second of this book. It is very detail oriented and Diamond explains thousands of years in a very short amount of time. There's no hyperbole, embellishment and only evidence based conclusions. The performance is perfectly fine. I feel others having trouble with the work (it's boring, not performed well, etc) are due to the book was written to be read, not listened to. Also, if you've rabidly lived your life believing as a white European (or descendant) you are superior to everyone else on the planet, this book will succinctly challenge that assumption. Jared Diamond is brilliant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    afireinside1988 04-22-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Very interesting, in depth, and insightful look into social science."

    This was a great story giving detailed information about human society and evolution throughout the world. Jared Diamond goes into great depth about geographical locations and food production giving rise to complex and powerful societies. His thesis revolves around why white Europeans came to conquer and control most of the modern world and how it happened. While I do not agree with everything he says, and I feel that some of his research is a bit out of date at this point, he does spend a lot of time and effort rigorously vetting his theories. If you like this empirical approach of analyzing human history and social sciences from antiquity to the modern era I would highly recommend purchasing Before the Dawn by Nicolas Wade. Wade references a lot of Diamond's work in his book while offering new and improved genetic data to help paint a clearer picture of human history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Powers CA 04-21-16
    W. Powers CA 04-21-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Persuasive argument but poor narration"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Diamond supports his core argument with a wealth of information, but devoting so many pages to the same argument dilutes the potency.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The recording quality of the narrator was poor and Ordunio has little color in his voice.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Artur Szczypta
    11/2/15
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    "Very Interesting"

    It has made me think differently about mankind. This book puts a lot of data for any tenis.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    9/5/15
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alex
    3/23/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Interesting but repetitive."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    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.


    Would you recommend Guns, Germs and Steel to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes it's an interesting opinion of history from a geographical point of view


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration was a bit dull but I sped it up to 1.5x and that made it better.


    Could you see Guns, Germs and Steel being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

    It has been made into a National geographic documentary I think.


    Any additional comments?

    It was a good book and well worth a read but be prepared that it is repetative at times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Balor of the Evil Eye
    Éire
    8/19/13
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    "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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Glenn
    Dorking, United Kingdom
    3/18/13
    Overall
    "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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rory
    York, United Kingdom
    4/4/13
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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