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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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Performance

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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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shows you a big picture of how the world works

recomend for everyone as it helps give a general way of looking at such a huge system that is world history

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so boring, read Sapiens instead

narration was actually good, however the book itself reads like a textbook. this was recommended to me by some intelligent people so I thought it would be enjoyable, but it is just too granular. I realize this is a decade or two older than sapiens, but I would certainly recommend sapiens both for being more updated, and having more interesting content.

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The problem is with the performance...

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

I was so excited to listen to this book, but I found the performance to be distractingly poor. Many of the pauses seem to bisect sentences in the wrong place and, while not monotone overall, there's something disturbingly flat about the reading. The book itself is so intriguing that despite returning the audiobook, I've ordered a paper copy.

Would you be willing to try another one of Doug Ordunio’s performances?

No. I wouldn't recommend this reader.

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Dry

The info is interesting but dry. I recommend Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind over this.

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A Great Primer, a Poor Argument

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

No, I got what I wanted out of it, and then moved on to better things.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Probably the greatest arguments he made was that North and South America had few viable pack animals available to them. He lost me a bit on his reasonings for why central Asia or Africa never rose to power.

What does Doug Ordunio bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration was well done and kept me engaged to the end. I may not have enjoyed just reading the book by itself.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I've since learned that Guns, Germs, and Steel is heavily criticized. It's a great introduction to the theories he presents, but many historians found a lot of flaws in his work. If you're interested in North and South American history, I felt that 1491 did a much better job.

Any additional comments?

Check it out if you're using it to kick off a binge into history. Don't pretend that it explains everything.

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Interesting food for thought

Intriguing, detailed, and well thought out book about influences on the long term course of our history. But, don't expect it to be as immediately entertaining, attention-grabbing and catchy as the title "Guns, Germs and Steel."

I listened to it as an audiobook during my commute. It can get rather slow going just because that's just the nature of the material, but it's worth a listen. I purchased a "lighter" book on the same day as this one, and switched off between the two for a few weeks. Glad I did.

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Misleading Title

I was expecting more about warfare, infectious diseases, and metallurgy but instead I got more about food production in the Fertile Crescent, anthropology of various peoples with occasional snippets of how food production lead to the headlining topics.This book was informative it's just not what I expected from the title.

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Probably better in text

Good material, but the level of detail is better-suited for reading the text as opposed to listening to it. The narrator does a good job reading, though.

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  • Lauren L
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 07-10-17

Understanding ar last

Jared Diamond's theory of human history and how geography ultimately explains geographic or racial discrepancies in rates and levels of development is both fascinating and compelling. To have a satisfying 'ultimate' rather than 'proximate' causes explanation for inequality and the world we have inherited from our past is a gift from a profound thinker. That said, the pace is slow and the writing is dry and narration drier, so it is at times hard going as Diamond patiently mounts his case. Highly, highly recommended regardless - the fate of human societies past foretels the future too: understanding our story though can change the ending.

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  • Michael
  • Klemzig, Australia
  • 07-05-17

A should read, review of history

This book explains how guns germs and steel helped shape the empires of today. There's some really great stuff about agriculture and the importance of plant and animal domestication but how few real options there are.
e.g Zebras can't be domesticated because they don't understand a dominance hierarchy.

Unfortunately Jared Diamond misses the rather large influence that politics and extractive vs inclusive institutions have on shaping the empires we see which is why I highly recommend:
Watching the 'Rules for Rulers' CPG Grey YouTube video. It'll give you a good broad outline.
Reading Why Nations Fail, which gives great political context for a lot of the more recent (couple of thousand years) history.
Then read The Dictators handbook, which the rules for rulers video is based on. It's like a more zoomed out view.

You could skip Why Nations Fail if you've had too much history already.

Enjoy!