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Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs, and Steel

Discussion in 'Non-Fiction Books' started by ions, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. ions

    ions New Member

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    I thought a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of non-fiction deserved it's own thread and hopefully my search was correct when it said there isn't currently one. Diamond has also written a few other books including 2 I plan on reading if I enjoy Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Third Chimpanzee and Collapse. I'm about 70 pages into Guns, Germs, and Steel. So far it's not too dry considering the content.
     
  2. Ronny

    Ronny Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad to hear you are liking it so far, I've heard others talk highly of it and recently purchased it for my husband :) I will probably read it too, when he's finished with it.
     
  3. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Collapse is an interesting book, and huge. Nevertheless, with a little patience one can finish it and, along the way, learn quite a bit about the importance of caring for the ecology of our planet.
    Peder
     
  4. KristoCat

    KristoCat New Member

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    I read Guns, Germs and Steel a few years ago and I was absolutely fascinated. I had recently been asking myself the same questions Diamond set out to answer in that book, so it was a perfect case of "the right book in the right hands at the right time."
     
  5. ions

    ions New Member

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    Finished a couple days ago. First non-fiction I've read since school other than some essays by Chomsky. The title is perfect for the book. Diamond contends that it's guns, germs, and steel which have driven some societies to success and others to extinction or near close to it. Guns covers technology. He expands on how technology comes to some societies and not to others. Germscome from the development of crops, animal domestication and larger populations. Steel covers both technology and environment that have been the reasons behind the way our last 13,000 years have panned out. Our path as a species been determined by where we were located. Diamond's theories all seem plausible to me, somebody with no education in archaeology or anthropology. The west isn't so smart, it's just standing on the shoulders of thousands of years of priledged location.

    For example animal domestication has had a big impact on which regions developed and which did not. Horses were domesticated in the fertile crescent and calvary armies laid waste to millions of armies lacking horses. Imagine if the Buntu warriors of Africa had managed to domesticate the rhino! Africa's history would be quite different but rhinos don't want to co-operate.

    The writing is clear and never gets too detailed for a layman. There are some humourous moments, such as the rhino idea above, that keep the mood light. Definately recommended. I will definately pick up The Third Chimpanzee and Collapse after enjoying Guns, Germs, and Steel as much as I did.
     
  6. literati_one

    literati_one New Member

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    Sounds like an interesting book-I'll have to see if I can locate it somewhere.
     
  7. cabbagescribe

    cabbagescribe New Member

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    Reading it right now, and it's great. He seems to go on about New Guinea a bit, but I don't mind - it's a change from all the Europe-did-this of pretty much everything else.

    Reminds me: I tried to read an abridgement of Toynbee's A Study of History, that was not as entertaining.
     
  8. nomadic myth

    nomadic myth New Member

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    I'm enjoying Guns, Germs, and Steel right now. It's interesting, and it makes me feel smarter because it gives me several novel ideas each page. I find it to be a highly readable book.

    The most interesting thing I learned so far is the idea of the continental axes, where that of Eurasia is east/west which allowed for easier spread of species.

    I didn't really like the part where he talks about the intelligence of New Guineans. I thought that one of the purposes of the book is to establish that there are no major differences in ability among different races, and then he starts saying New Guineans are probably smarter than Europeans because of cultural geography.
     
  9. FaranMeh

    FaranMeh New Member

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    Guns, Germs, and Steel is brilliant. It basically proves what all sensible people already knew; that the explanation for the varying degrees of success of various societies does not lie in genetics.

    Diamond's book, however, helps us understand exactly how everything occurred and therefore helps us understand the present and thus the future better :).

    It also helps us understand that humans all around the globe are pretty much the same.

    I tend to agree with Diamond; geography really does explain everything, along with vicissitudes of pure fortune. Remember that once there were not even different races.

    I would recommend to you to read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins. Apparently he has recently published a sequel as well and it is both a thumping good read and incumbently enlightening.

    I am also planning to read the classic work of philosophy, "The Philosophy of History", by G.W.F. Hegel. I'll have to see how that goes.
     
  10. silverseason

    silverseason New Member

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    I too enjoyed the book very much. If you like Diamond's style, go on to his next book Collapse. Why did once-successful societies collapse?

    I don't remember his language about the New Guineans, but I took the general point that we tend to think people with less sophisticated technology than ours are less intelligent. It may require more intelligence - and diligence - to do well without the help of our technology.
     
  11. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    This book was very good although a bit technical for those accustomed to lighter non-fiction fare. While I do not agree with everything he says, it is certainly a good place to start for such an interesting field of study. I recommend this book every chance I get.

    I started reading Collapse but it is on the sideline until I finish the new Harry Potter and Children of Hurin.
     
  12. text_maniac

    text_maniac Member

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    I've just finished reading Collapse, it's excellent. Diamond is the first commentator on the environment I've discovered who hasn't lost the plot.
     
  13. chuephödli

    chuephödli Member

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    Guns, Germs and Steel deserves a spot in that other thread: Does reading make you smarter? This book has certainly made me smarter.

    In essence, it gives an answer to the question of why some areas of the planet have been so much more successful than others ("successful" in the sense that they have managed to clobber the rest).

    You can get a lot out of the book without having to agree with Diamond's argument, just by the by.
     
  14. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    When I recommend it to people, I say that books seeks to answer why it was that the Europeans ended up conquering the world and not the Africans, or Native Americans, or any other group.
     
  15. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    I still haven't picked that book up again. I really need to do so.
     
  16. text_maniac

    text_maniac Member

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    You really should. It's tragic to read how we're making all the same mistakes they've made in the past, and learning nothing from it.
    I think even Diamond is in danger positive spinning in places. He sees grounds for optimism in the way the Chinese and the Tokugawa Shoguns implemented reforestation programs, but as they didn't actually cut their timber consumption it just amounts to exporting their ecological damage elsewhere. Diamond acknowledges this, but it seems to undermine his case for citing these examples as grounds for optimism.
    There are sobering lessons for those who think that the First World can simply pull up the drawbridge and live in glorious isolation too.
     
  17. angerball

    angerball Active Member

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    I haven't read Guns, Germs, and Steel or Collapse, but I'm hoping to get around to reading at least one of them this year. I thoroughly enjoyed The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee - and was hoping to give that one a re-read over the next month or so. :)
     
  18. thebookcrosser

    thebookcrosser New Member

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    Guns, Germs...

    I have this one sitting on my TBR shelf too. I've heard such excellent things about this book. I just have so many choices I haven't picked it up as yet. Hope to get to it this year also. :p
     
  19. Blindsided

    Blindsided Member

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    I was recommended this book by one of my philosophy instructors. I purchased it but haven't read it yet.
     
  20. lionsroar13

    lionsroar13 New Member

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    Very interesting theories! For me also, it was the right book at the right time, when wondering "Why us and not them?"
     

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