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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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A must!

You aren't a junior historian without it. The narration is clear and digestible, albeit best at 1.1x or 1.2x speed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Discover previously unknown truths about humanity

With a detailed and surgical approach, Diamond debunks notions of inherent racial/cultural superiority. Give yourself the gift of this book.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

extremely dry, impossible to get through.

I tried, I really did. I've loved other books similar to this by other authors and this book has been on my list to read for years but I just couldn't do it. I finished maybe 10% before jumping around hoping to find a more engaging part of the book. This is an extremely dry and just plain boring book, and it really shouldn't be.

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Relearning history

It's like learning history, but with actually thinking this time around. The game of civilization has evening to do with the resourcess.

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Very Descriptive and Easy to Follow

I thoroughly enjoyed this descriptive telling of human history. It is an essential book to add to the collection.
#Audible1

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Location, location, location

This is the entire thesis of this book, in a way too long format. Too many anecdote and lists, not enough substance. the first 10 or 12 chapters could've been summed up much more succintly. Interesting and ambitious topic, not exposed in the best way.

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a better read than listen

while I found the subject matter incredibly engaging, the charts are better expressed on paper

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not what I expected....too academic

Visual aids and maps are definitely needed to follow the authors timelines and storyline. Found it very classroomy and without intensity at all. Struggled to finish.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel
  • BRICK, NJ, United States
  • 2011-12-19

A story all should know, not all can endure

What a wealth of information! So amazing to think about the inevitabilities and chance occurrences that shaped our world. I wish I could recommend this book to all since it should be standard reading(listening). The down side is that its a bit of an endurance challenge to get through. There are a lot of numbers lists and .. vocally read charts. I doubt most could make it through this entire book. An abridged version might be more digestible.

Regardless, give it a try. You'll think about the world in a completely different way. But take your time, or else you'll burn out on this anvil of a book.

56 of 63 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Doug
  • St. Louis MO, USA
  • 2011-08-25

Compelling pre-history and emergent history

This is a fascinating and foundational work that takes a topic (for me) shrouded in obscurity (how and why did civilization emerge in the pattern it did around the globe), and provides a vivid, detailed, and substantially convincing explanation. Thanks to GGS, I see world and cultural history with new eyes. That is pretty much the highest praise I can think of for a book.

I have a personal policy of ignoring (or at least trying to ignore) negative narrator reviews, as I find them always overstated. This reading is on the dry/flat/dull side, but it is still professional. The book is great and one of the most stimulating I have ever listened to. It is dense, but if you don't like fact, analysis, and theory, you wouldn't seek out this sort of book. Extremely highly recommended. It will change the way you see the world.

54 of 61 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • firstrich1
  • 2015-09-22

interesting but dry

I had some difficulty staying focused on the subjects due to the fact that the narrator was a bit on the side of sleep inducing. A soothing voice but dry in the reading, often coming across as methodical and like a recitation of facts. Much of the information is interesting but it was hard to stay focused. I think I got about 50% of what the author was saying just due to the dry expression of the narrator.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jeremy
  • Shepparton, Australia
  • 2011-02-16

Informing, Interesting, and Boring all in one

His point of view is compelling, and gives definite weight to the view that all men are created equal, and 'Whites' for example aren't 'better' than anyone else, but that they had a better deck of cards than other peoples and cultures at a time when it mattered. I have heard others talk on the same issues and topics and make it much more engaging however. And while he titles the book "Guns, germs and steel", given what takes up the majority of the book it should be titled, "Grains, Vegetables and Domestic-able animals".

65 of 77 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Steven
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • 2011-11-19

So much potential, so little craft

With all the field work and research available to him Diamond stands at the brink of what could be the most fascinating and significant popular science book of the era. He brings together so many disciplines to show macro trends, chaos theory, the power of germs in fashioning human history. It could all havee been absolutely mind changing. Sadly Diamond is not Bill Bryson. He has a scientific mind and a scientific compulsion for being comprehensive. Where Bryson can spin a story out of a proton, Diamond gets mired in a repetitive catalogue of insights applied meticulously yet tediously to every possible place, time and civilisation. I would really love someone else to re-tell this - someone who has the ability to convert the linear into the prosaic. I gave up after about 50%.

37 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • ricky
  • 2016-07-30

not the biggest fan

such a dry read. It was pretty difficult for me to finish. Im used to history themed books but this was hard to ge through

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Nick M.
  • 2016-03-27

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • 'Nathan
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 2014-09-01

Dreadful presentation

Any joy that might have been found in the knowledge of this audiobook was completely removed by the performance. My husband and I enjoy listening to nonfiction while we take long car rides, and we had a five hour trip to New York State coming up, and nabbed this title. We barely made it an hour before he asked me to pick something else to play, since the dull monotonous performance was actually making him tired at the wheel.

It's unfortunate. The information is interesting, and though the author is perhaps a bit dry and academic in his delivery, it could have been presented much better by someone with a more engaging range of voice. It took a very long time to struggle our way through this one, in tiny bites, and I often found myself drifting away from it, completely disengaged from the uninspiring performance.

16 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 2015-09-01

Location, location, location...

“In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.”
- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel

This is one of those books that once you finish, you sit back and say "yeah, um, duh". Since I'm reading this about 18 years after it was first published and probably 14 years since I bought and first perused it, it never seemed very shocking to me. Look, certain civilizations came to dominate based on a couple random, accidental, and nonracially based situations that combined to give the Eurasian people a slight advantage once these civilizations came into contact with each other.

First, the domesticated food and animals of Eurasiaa contained more protein and more varieties of domesticated animals (pigs, cows, goats, etc) that allowed the people on the Eurasian continent to achieve a certain population density that allowed them to move from band > tribe > chiefdom > state > empire first. This density also allowed for more technological advances, more exposure and protection against herd diseases, so that when cultures collided, the more advanced societies were able to dominate. End of book. Q.E.D.

Is it still worth reading? Certainly. Just because you get the basic premise of Natural Selection does not mean you shouldn't read Darwin's classics. I'm to going to compare Jared Diamond to Charles Darwin. This book isn't that good, but the apparent simplicity of the book's premise only appears simple. The argument that Diamond delivers is tight and simple but hides a lot of work.

** Just a note. This audiobook does NOT include the newer edition's chapter on Japan or the 2003 author's Afterword.

32 of 43 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Neil Chisholm
  • Buninyong, Australia
  • 2013-03-26

Anthropology? Compelling? This book is!

The Fates of Human Societies is the subheading of this book and it grabbed me. I've recently listened to histories of several societies and I thought this might be interesting in doing some comparisons. What I wasn't ready for was a gallop through the history of man from our first bands of hunter gatherers wandering out of Africa to detailed explanations of why Eurasia was by its geography destined to be more successful than either the Americas and Africa.

If you had told me I was going to be left gaping by linguistic analysis, natural experiments or the result of reviews by evolutionary biologists I wouldn't have believed you but I am agog as what I've heard and the implications it has meant for all the histories of different societies.

I am still digesting what I've heard and I know I shall be back to listen to parts if not all of it again. This book is highly recommended if you want to know why Eurasia came to dominate the world and to understand early civilisations destinies from their geography and biology. It really is compelling listening.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Pierre Gauthier
  • 2017-10-29

Momentous!

In a nutshell, in this fascinating work, the author Jared Diamond sets out to explain why, in the 16th century, the Spaniards conquered Mexico and the Aztecs did not invade Spain.

He is adamant that any potential racial differences have nothing to do with it and explains that geography and the distribution of domesticable plants and animals are the key to understanding the unequal speed of development in various parts of the world throughout history.

Despite a few repetitions and an insistence on Papua-New Guinea that is only justified with his long personal presence there, his style is engaging and crystal clear.

This very enlightening offering is not at all dated and highly advisable to all interested in long term historical trends.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful