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Publisher's Summary

In this groundbreaking work, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for history's broadest patterns. It is a story that spans 13,000 years of human history, beginning when Stone Age hunter-gatherers constituted the entire human population. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a world history that really is a history of all the world's peoples, a unified narrative of human life.
©1997 Jared Diamond; (P)2001 HighBridge Company

Critic Reviews

"The scope and explanatory power of this book are astounding." (The New Yorker)
"Guns, Germs, and Steel is an artful, informative, and delightful book....There is nothing like a radically new angle of vision for bringing out unsuspected dimensions of a subject." (The New York Review of Books)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Badly Abridged

This book is actually quite excellent, his science is quite sound, and his theory is amazing.

But, some of the complaints of other reviewers stem from the extent to which this book was abridged. Not only were critical details sliced out throughout the audiobook, but the ENTIRE LAST 1/4 was just chopped off! Answers about race, trade and other issues are addresed here. I only found out, when I saw the DVD of it by PBS, and saw an entire episode of what I thought was completely new material! I like "Collapse" even more, and was upset to learn it was just as badly chopped up. Five stars for Diamond, 0 stars for the publisher for ripping us all off!

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Interesting concepts. The abridged version missed many of the detail and richness that may have made the book a best seller. It felt as if the narrator read only the first and last sentence of each paragraph.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Hopkins, MN, USA
  • 12-21-06

Where is the Unabridged?

I listened to this abridged book for a book club and I thought it was very interesting. However, I missed important concepts that the other readers in my book club picked up from the reading the entire book. When and if the unabridged is available, I want to listen to that.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Alex
  • 10-22-05

The review mentioning New Guinea is wrong.

"Then he proceeds by asserting that the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea are genetically superior to whites. This self-contradiction is not rendered any less stupid by the fact that it's done without reference to any evidence beyond the mere hunch of the author."
This reviewer says it is the "mere hunch" of the author. I disagree strongly. The author states it as a theory and gives several good reasons from his years of study. He does NOT say that they are inherently better than whites, but they are genetically superior because they have be more self-sufficient and the ones who are not self-sufficient die off much more quickly. If I had lived at another time, I may have been an invalid or died at an early age due to an accident with my poor eyesight and allergies. In this age, I am probably healthier than most. Not my favorite book, but certainly not bad.

41 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

flawed review

The author of that particular review seems to have taken issue with an imagined slight against northern Europeans.

>>He starts the book by stating that he's out to destroy the claim that genetic differences is the cause of the global disparity in civilizational achivement between different peoples and races, a claim he considers low and immoral. Then he proceeds by asserting that the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea are genetically superior to whites. This self-contradiction is not rendered any less stupid by the fact that it's done without reference to any evidence beyond the mere hunch of the author. <<

That is a mischaracterization of a key thesis. Diamond refuted the notion that genetic variation between races lead to a disparity of intelligence producing a decisive competitive advantage to Indo-europeans. Diamond noted that many of the indigenous people he'd encountered may have relied on primitive technologies, however in no way did they appear to be "slow thinking". However, he made no claims that New Guineans or any other race enjoyed "genetically superior intelligence".

He did however note that by virtue of centuries of living with domesticated animals and high population densities, the Indo-europeans and Asians enjoyed a relative resistance to diseases characteristic of those environments. This in turn led to a decisive advantage as these peoples unwittingly unleashed their germs (note the title) on unresistant populations.

>>it might very well be that once the civilizational process is begun, there emerges a feedback effect, which by making the more intelligent in each generation more fit for reproduction, gradually increases the overall cognitive ability of the peoples inhabiting the evolving civilisations. <<

The reviewer is obvioulsy offering a pet idea that lacks substantiation. I think we can forgive Diamond for not including it.

31 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Klaus
  • Princeton, NJ, USA
  • 08-22-07

a bit repetitive

In this book, the author makes a (lengthy) argument for his main thesis, namely an explanation for why the European culture at the end of the Middle Ages (and later) appeared "superior" in some ways over many other cultures such as eg the Native Americans or peoples in Africa or Australia.
I won't tell you what his explanation is though because you should read the book for that :)
The writing is easy to follow and logical and the conclusion is convincing. It is overall entertaining and at times somewhat boring.
One keeps wondering why the author needs so many pages for something that could be explained on a few.
Despite of that, it is overall worthwhile reading and it is also a famous book so good to have it in your library.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • ldv
  • san francisco
  • 02-04-10

great book

wished there was an unabridged version

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Dover NH, United States
  • 05-14-16

glad it was abridged

It was OK, a lot of it is obvious information. kind of depressing at first how most of the animal species have been forced into extinction. So is the world in which we live sad then, now and to come, except of course for the "haves"

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strong Start

It has a good setup, but focuses on the western world more than the global history. Still, somewhat worth listening to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent discussion of how civilizations evolve

I enjoyed the content very much and the reader was very good. I also went to the associated web page - in wikipedia - and got some excellent alternative points of view. The discussion about the domestication of mammals and plants was just the right depth to be interesting but not tedious.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful