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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

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  •  
    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Marc Burgat 06-19-17
    Marc Burgat 06-19-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Reads like a textbook"

    The information is interesting but unlike non-fiction masters- David Grann and Erik Larson - this is written like a textbook and the narrator offers no additional charisma. I got less than half-way and just couldn't go on. I wish I could get this whole book without feeling like I'm in a fight against sleep.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve A 06-18-17
    Steve A 06-18-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Great information but very dry"

    I loved the information shared in this book, but it was quite difficult to get through because it is all presented in a very dry barrage of facts. Still, I'm happy to have gotten through it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Garrett Tuggle 06-15-17 Member Since 2017
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    "A bunch of farfetched assumptions and conclusions"
    Any additional comments?

    Jared Diamond has some interesting ideas and makes good points, but overall this book is a lot of farfetched assumptions and bits of history connected by far reaching assumptions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-10-17
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    "ggjcc hcnif tv by ggjldri and unmnxbhkn guilty him"

    The gggg uu hhh hhh hhh hhhh hhhh hhhu uuuu uhh hhhh uuuu uuu hhh vbhbbfv

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandon 06-08-17
    Brandon 06-08-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Fantastic Analysis of History"

    I highly recommend this text, which dives Into the history of the peoples of the world at large and their relation to one another. A critical text for all historians or buffs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    05-31-17
    05-31-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Fascinating (for the right audience)"

    The "science textbook" nature of the book may turn some off, but for those with a genuine interest in the subject, the book is perfect. Jared Diamond centers his book around one central question: "why did human socioeconomic history unfold as it did?". In other words, why did the Europeans show up with guns, gems and steel in the Americas (and many other parts of the world) and not the other way around? One might simply claim this is ordinary happenstance. A racist might say whites are superior to other races. Diamond wipes the floor with such ideas, making an extremely well grounded scientific argument for why peoples and civilisations evolved as they did. He examines every aspect of our common history, from the origins of farming and animal domestication to the effects of climate, using not just very clear and logical theories but also looking at historical examples of the movement of peoples and ideas to explain and underscore them.
    Whether the listener will enjoy this book depends highly on what they are looking for. If they want entertainment, a gripping story, or a fast read, they will be disappointed. The book is long and methodical, a science textbook rather than a novel. However, I did not for a moment find it dull or slow. In fact, those with an interest in the subject will undoubtedly love the clear, methodical way in which this book introduces the listener to the broad range of subjects discussed, mixing blast logic with wonderful and often little known examples from the worlds of anthology, history and biology.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dylan Becker 05-29-17
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    "The first few chapters tell all you need to know"

    Although the rest of the book is long and drug out, the first few chapters are extremely interesting! very worth a listen for anyone who is curious.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan D. Leslie salem,nh usa 05-25-17
    Jan D. Leslie salem,nh usa 05-25-17 Member Since 2017
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    "interesting perspective"

    very well researched and thought out story of world history. The story of how small changes millennial ago created major changes in the modern world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric S. 05-23-17
    Eric S. 05-23-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Everyone should listen to this"

    I absolutely loved this, I'm going to listen to it again so that I can get details that I may have missed the first time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • 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
  • SwissTony
    6/5/17
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    Performance
    Story
    "a tedious journey through cultural relativism"

    A tortured defense of pc including such gems as new Guinean tribesman are the most intelligent people on planet earth, all historical judgements by tribal cultures to eschew agriculture were rational and based on local fauna and flora and in the words of those 80s adverts ... many many more...
    The constant Caucasian bashing quickly becomes tedious and unnecessary to anyone with a cursory understanding of how history can turn on a few rolls of the dice.
    Overall the prose is dull and the book unnecessarily long. Like so many of these types of books you suspect that many of the people who eulogise about them have never read them.

    0 of 1 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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