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
It certainly my fault for not researching this book more. I usually listen to books like this for entertainment . This book is styled to educate, not to entertain.
I'm a voracious listener of Audible books and this is the first audio book I couldn't get through. It reads too much like a textbook. Lots of data with no story.
A fascinating telling of the rise of agrarian and increasingly specialized societies. Compelling content. Although you wouldn't be interested in this if you didn't already have a deep-seated interest in relatively dry topics, it must be said that this reading is most parched.
I really wish I hadn't used up my free book on this! What a waste. I can't imagine a more boring listen. Although I'm sure some folks would like it. Would be a much better read.
Jared Diamond has written a superb and well-researched novel. But it is read so poorly that it is tedious to listen to. This is not one of those novels where the narrator must voice characters differently. It simply demands an understanding of the content material in context while being read. The feel of the listener is of someone just reading words to get through it.
This was a fascinating book on the history of civilizations. If someone holds a prejudice about certain races or people being superior based on the fact that their culture dominated the world, then this book will put a major dent into that thinking. Jared Diamond makes a compelling case that the societies which came to dominate the modern world did so by advantages in their environment.
Overall, this book helped explain why some societies came to dominate others. It was not due to an innate advantage in intelligence from one population to another. Instead, certain areas of the world were easier to civilize than others. Once a society had the means of producing excess food, civilization could advance. Some people were conquered, while others adapted to new technologies and advanced it themselves.
I would definitely recommend this book to any reader interested in how today's societies came about. It will help debating racists that claim that one race's conquering another means they are innately superior. For me, this book gave a foundation in early civilizations that is lacking when studying them independently.
This book could be summarized in a few paragraphs, however it is always interesting to learn about the world from a different perspective. I enjoyed learning why different civilizations reached the status they did and why countries are at different stages of development and/or economy.
"An excellent work slightly spoilt"
As a scientist myself I have always like Jarad Diamond as he opens up areas I have an non-professional interests. In this work Diamond deals this the differences between the various levels of development between various groups of peoples. Why is European/Asian culture so dominate? Diamond lays out his evidence and arguments well and does not fall into to the trap of push one reason for our current situation over another. However, the audio book is let down with poor narration with almost no inflection in his voice, which made it unpleasant and dry to listen to.
"Controversial and Judgemental"
I really enjoyed this audiobook, my wife, who studied anthropology did not! As with so many debates, the lack of accessible specialist literature on a subject of widespread interest leads to other specialisms filling the void, from an anthropologists view this happened here.
The mashing of the huge historical period and the geographical themes is understandable here, Diamond is a Geographer, and sees life in those terms, much as Acemoglu and Robinson in Why Nations Fail, examine life as economists. Obviously, real life is more complicated, but by simplifying the discussions and applying a consistent paradigm,I felt I understood more about development than before.
Yes, I can see why Survival International don't like some of Diamond's narrative, there is certainly less sympathy for native peoples, but so what? If you download this you'll possibly move on to others of this type.
If anthropologists would suggest something to broaden my views I would be happy to access it, otherwise my reading list includes: Ian Morris, Niall Ferguson, Charles C. Mann, and David Landes!
"The definitive Audible purchase"
I was defeteated by the text version of this listen despite finding the topic interesting and generally being happy to stick with challenging reads. I don't know whether it was Diamond's prose style or the relatively slow start but for whatever reason I just couldn't get past the first 50 pages. The audible version though was an entirely different proposition. It's well narrated; I stuck with early sections that did a good job of scene setting but gave me problems in print and by the end I was so fascinated by the combination of detailed research and sweeping vision that I listened to it again. Can't recommend this too highly for fans of non-fiction
"A Magnum Opus - in every sense."
This is a "magnum opus" in all senses of the phrase, and deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize. The question at the centre of the book is one asked by a New Guinea tribesman "How did your culture and peoples come to dominate us?", and the book opens with the defeat of several thousand Mayan warriors and their God-King, by a few hundred Spanish Conquistadors, armed with guns. Diamond rightly rejects the 19th Century explanation that white Europeans are innately superior, citing examples of the often greater inventiveness, adaptability and intelligence of "aboriginal" peoples. Dismissed too are notions of superior culture (e.g. Niall Fergason's 6 "killer apps" in his book "Civilisation"). Diamond instead looks to geography, and natural history for explanations. We conquered other continents, because we carried more lethal diseases (germs), and had better technology (guns & steel). This in turn was because the continent of Eurasia has many more animals and plants that could be domesticated, carried more diseases (to which we developed immunity) and that both of these, along with cultural advances, spread more easily East-West along similar temperate zones, leading to our earlier abandonment of hunter-gatherer lifestyles, in favour of farming, specialisation and technological advancement. Though the book paints a broad brush history, it delves very specifically into details of the development and clashes among numerous world cultures, and the evidence left to us today in language, technology, lifestyle, diseases and diet. Sometimes, the level of detail he goes into becomes almost overwhelming. The narration is very clear and concise, but the intonation is sometimes flat, and I found myself drifting off at times. It would have been great if the author had narrated it himself. In summary, this is a major and important work, but a long and sometimes difficult book. It is hard, but well worth the effort, if you, like me, seek to understand how and why we got here.
"Fascinating insights into long-term history"
The ambition of this book is immense, crisscrossing the globe, and human societies throughout history and prehistory. It's one of those rare mind expanding books that changes the way you look at the world.
"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.
"Interesting in parts, too repetitive, some bias"
I felt like the author started off by a) telling me what he thought I believed (that 'westeners' were more intelligent than non westerners) and b) then telling me how I was wrong. I didn't actually believe the thing that I felt the author was accusing me of so that was a bad start. The book was extremely repetitive. It was very much, tell them what you are going to tell them x10, tell them x10, tell them what you just told them x 10. There was no need for all the repetition. I got it the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time. Some of the analyisis seemed quite flawed when compared with other books like Chip Walters' Last Ape Standing, and Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Overall some interesting snippets of information within spoiled by a biased writer who writes as if his readrer has the memory retention of a goldfish. Disappointing!
Performance was OK
Much of the repetition
"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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