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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

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Interesting science but so-so writing.

Jared Diamond's thesis is interesting and thought-provoking, but this treatment of it is overdone and somewhat tedious.

The idea that human cultures are shaped by their environment and other non-human factors (such as animal and plant species) makes a lot of sense and Diamond does a good job of demonstrating the validity of the ideas. However, the book spends a lot of time driving home his points, and after a while, I just found it tedious to slog through the book.

The narration is good without being fantastic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book, poor narration

This is a great and thought provoking book, just what I've come to appreciate and expect from Jared Diamond.
Unfortunately, the narration is so dull it makes it incredibly difficult to keep engaged with the story. His voice is monotone and devoid of meaningful inflections, and throaty, I keep waiting for him to clear his throat, it turns this in to a very dry listen. Significantly reduces my enjoyment of this incredible book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Poor preformance

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

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.

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

Kon Tiki, Rapa Nui. Similar cultures.

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

You get the feeling he isn't hearing the words that he is saying.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tom
  • NJ, USA
  • 04-01-15

Explains How Civilization Succeeds and Why

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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great book, worth a listen

Would you listen to Guns, Germs and Steel again? Why?

Yes, it is a fascinating and convincing interpretation of evolution using contemporary, historical and archeological evidence.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have liked to, but it is too long for a one-sitting work. I was driven to get through by the power of the arguments and of the prose.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
  • 12-03-11

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..<br/>

Any additional comments?

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

11 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 11-26-12

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.<br/>

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

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  • Heckyes
  • Orangevale, ca, United States
  • 09-13-11

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.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Joseph
  • Abilene, TX, United States
  • 02-22-12

Like a spoon...long with no point

Would you try another book from Jared Diamond and/or Doug Ordunio?

This book was impossible because it had almost no direction. It jumps from subject to subject. Typical professorial rambling. (I'm a professor. I can spot it from a mile away.)

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-09-17

important read for all humans

Answered some questions I asked myself for years. Some parts are too detailed though and are boring for non-scholars

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  • Claude Schmit
  • 12-14-16

Excellent read

Jared Diamond makes compelling arguments for the role of environmental effect on the evolution of human societies in different parts of the world. This is a must read for anyone interested in what has shaped our modern societies the way we find them today.

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  • GEORGIOS G.
  • 12-08-16

interesting initially but later became repetitive

interesting initially but later became too much of the same type of arguments and examples with too much information between evidence and conclusions

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  • Danny
  • 09-21-16

Fascinating subject

Fascinating subject covered in great detail. Slightly repetitive and long winded, very pleased to have finished this book as very interesting but it took commitment!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-20-16

A comprehensive history of humanity

A well researched comprehensive history of humanity delivered in a way that is understandable to all. The best thing about this book is that it shows us how all humans are really not that different from each other and how big a part the environment plays in our development. A topic that is more relevant now to humanity than ever before

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  • Niall Q.
  • 07-29-16

I can hear him turn the page!

In the final two chapters you can hear him turn the page!

If like lists and same point repeated several times, this is the book for you.

Pros: Interesting Points throughout and alot of language history.

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  • Cosmin
  • 07-04-16

Reader was horrible

The book was good and very intresting but the reader made it almost impossible to follow.

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  • robert brookes
  • 04-21-16

Less grass, more guns germs and steel please.

Very interesting and thought provoking apart from the seemingly very long chapters on different crops.

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  • Mr. C. A. Martin
  • 03-14-16

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

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  • Artur Szczypta
  • 11-02-15

Very Interesting

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

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  • Ian
  • 09-14-16

interesting but quite dry

The narration was very dry and 'matter of fact, but the overall story and research was excellent

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  • Doug Anderson
  • 04-01-16

Great book!

Diamond delivers a wonderful book. He has a fantastic academic understanding of his subject and delivers it in an effortless style. This is anthropology tied to history, that we all should know.

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  • Vytautas
  • 02-11-16

Eye opening

Great summary of all human history. Holds keys to understanding all societies. A must for anyone interested in their own race.

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  • Alex H
  • 09-02-15

An Interesting Theory of History

This is an interesting theory of history. It is quite a compelling and convincing book. Certainly geography is a strong factor in the development of societies. The Author does a good job of exploring the evidence for this but doesn't overstate its relevance either. Only thing is that he can be a bit long-winded and droning - so while I say that I benefited from this book I feel that it was simply OK.

The Narrator was good too and didn't detract from the content.

Overall, 3 stars to the content, 4 stars for the performance and 3 stars overall.