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Guns, Germs and Steel Audiobook

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies

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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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4.2 (3462 )
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  •  
    Joel D Offenberg 06-18-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    W. Powers 04-21-16
    W. Powers 04-21-16
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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
  •  
    Nick M. 03-27-16
    Nick M. 03-27-16 Member Since 2015
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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
  •  
    Jimmy Mak 02-02-16
    Jimmy Mak 02-02-16
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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
  •  
    Tom NJ, USA 04-01-15
    Tom NJ, USA 04-01-15 Member Since 2013

    sailor tech

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    "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
  •  
    D. Littman OH 10-03-12
    D. Littman OH 10-03-12 Member Since 2017

    history buff

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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
  •  
    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.

    11 of 17 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
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Abilene, TX, United States 02-22-12
    Joseph Abilene, TX, United States 02-22-12
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    "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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  • Jim
    London
    1/22/14
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    "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

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Samuel
    Lincoln, United Kingdom
    4/10/13
    Overall
    "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!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • EuroGamer
    HERTFORD, United Kingdom
    12/22/12
    Overall
    "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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Jim Vaughan
    Malvern, UK
    2/11/13
    Overall
    "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.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom
    12/5/15
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    "Really interesting take on World history"

    Jared Diamond approaches World History in a refreshing and entirely original way in this work. Rather than looking simply at what happened or even why it happened, he goes right back to first principles to examine why the circumstances arose that led to peoples of one part of the World essentially dominating the others. I think the macro view is a little simplistic but it is undeniably compelling and a strong counter-argument to more reductionist arguments of racial superiority or cultural differences.

    I listen to a lot of history books on Audible and few, if any, have brought to light as many new realisations about the World. Not so much telling me things I didn't already know but highlighting the importance of facts that I was already aware of.

    It has to be said that it is not a perfect work and Jared Diamond's ego does get in the way somewhat. He simply can't resist interposing his personal experience and special insights into the narrative rather than simply let the story stand on it's own. A certain number of these personal anecdotes would be fine but it feels at times like he is desperate for the reader/listener to acknowledge just how special and clever his insights are and how uniquely positioned he is to draw them.

    Overall a really interesting and engaging listen but I can see how the writer's style might really grate with some.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • T. Evans
    Wales
    8/8/15
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    "Fascinating insights into long-term history"
    What did you like most about Guns, Germs and Steel?

    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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • G
    Lincoln, United Kingdom
    2/19/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting in parts, too repetitive, some bias"
    What disappointed you about Guns, Germs and Steel?

    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!


    Has Guns, Germs and Steel put you off other books in this genre?

    No


    How could the performance have been better?

    Performance was OK


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Guns, Germs and Steel?

    Much of the repetition


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Claude Schmit
    12/14/16
    Overall
    Performance
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • GEORGIOS G.
    Athens, Attiki Greece
    12/8/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Danny
    9/21/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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