Book Review: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

GGunsGermsSteelGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond fits at the top of the list of must reads.  When my friend Yoav Shapira first mentioned this book it sounded exactly like something right in the middle of this sweet spot.  Afterall, this book is the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction!

Guns, Germs, and Steel tells the story of mankind over the last 11,000 years.  This is the story of the domestication of man.  If you have ever wondered why the ancient people of the Fertile Cresent ultimately ended up taking over the world instead of the Native Americans, Africans or anyone else, you will learn that here.  The fundamental differences in the society have more to do with the hands that they are dealt than you would think.  Professor Diamond goes into great detail to explain some of the greatest mysteries of human evolution and makes it all seem like common sense.

I could continue writing and explain all the reasons the Mayans were doomed to fail when the Spanish arrived or why Africa to this day still remains something difficult for western society to penetrate, but that would take all the fun out of this book’s journey.  For centuries the Chinese lead the world in technology but ultimately failed to spread west in the same fashion that societies built out of the Fertile Crescent spread east… but why?  When did people first settle different parts of the world?   Why were horses domesticated but not zebras?  The answers to all these questions and so many more are given in this amazing 500 page book.

So how much do I recommend this book?  Well as far as books that I credit to my understanding of the world I live in, this one now fills out a nice trilogy with Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  Yes, it’s that important!

Also, if you don’t have the time to read this book there is a great three part National Geographic Series on the subject of the book.  If you want to make it really easy and you have Netflix you can watch the series through their Watch Instantly functionality although I still recommend reading the book.  If you are a history buff or simply love understanding why things are the way they are then you have to look into Jared Diamond’s work.

Actually it looks like the whole series has been broken up and turned into 18 videos on YouTube.  I’ll get you started by sharing the first one here.

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