I have a strange eclectic taste in literature. When you compare this book to the only other book review, at this point, on my site, you might wonder if I have a multi-personality disorder. Guns, Germs and Steel is as opposite as you can get from Kristin Lavransdatter; however, I love them both.
If you are a history buff, then you will love this book. Several years ago, my neighbor, a retired Marine and lover of history, recommended Gun, Germs, and Steel to me in passing. For some odd reason, I have usually preferred reading non-fiction books to novels, so this peaked my interest.
Here’s the premise. The main question asked in this book by Jared Diamond, a Pulitzer prize winning author, is ...
Why was it the Europeans who built ships, rallied together, crossed the wide ocean to discover new lands, and destroy the indigenous people and civilians they found there and not the other way around?
Those native American cultures were very advanced. They were huge societies with wealth, intelligence, and advancements; yet they were no match for the small group of Europeans who stepped onto their shores. How can this be?
This question completely intrigued me. I had to find out.
I tell people that Gun, Germs and Steel reads like a really interesting history text book. (Keep in mind, though, I like reading history text books) The only hang up I had was the first chapter. Having been raised in a faithful protestant home, I knew nothing about evolution. When it was taught to me in school, I just tuned out. The first chapter of this book deals entirely with evolution. I got half way through it and had to put the book down. First, I didn’t know much about the “facts” that are taught and I didn’t know what my new church, the Catholic church, taught about evolution. I walked away from the book for a couple weeks until I did more research. I won’t go into the details of what I concluded, but I will say that when I opened the book again and started over, I felt that I had resolved most of my questions.
The rest of the book was fascinating. In the end, if you love history and this question interests you, it won’t really matter what your beliefs on the early stages of evolution are to really enjoy this book.
The most refreshing aspect of Diamond’s approach was his emphases on the circumstances and environments surrounding the different groups of people as being the cause of their varied history. It has nothing to do with different evolutionary traits (bigger brains, stronger bodies, etc).
"The striking differences between the long-term histories of peoples of the different continents have been due not to innate differences in the peoples themselves but to differences in their environments."-Jared Diamond
This is a great book for stretching your brain. Even if you can’t pick it up and just plow through it, I would recommend chewing on a little of it at a time. Sometime, we adults need a chance to learn something new; rather just tuning out with a good book. Give this one a try.