Tim O'Hearn's Reviews > Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
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's review

it was ok

The book's central argument, which is that "societies developed differently on different continents because of differences in continental environments, not in human biology," is woefully intuitive. The author's careful analysis is applied to a vast assortment of topics: animal domestication, food production, writing, political organization, population density, spread of disease, and technological advancement, but, after the first hundred or so pages, insights into ancient peoples and the environmental factors that shaped their legacies ceases to be interesting because it just makes sense.

Over and over, the same question is posed: "Why did X do Y to Z rather than Z having done Y to X?" Then, the author will pose "Well, why did X have guns and not Z?" probably adding that "the germs really f#$%ed things up, too." Unless you believe that certain races are naturally inferior to others and that that is what led to the world being the way it is today, I'm afraid you won't find any of the striking revelations that the hype surrounding this book seemingly guarantees.

The title suggests action but the interior is dense, nameless, and faceless. There are three, maybe four, compelling stories shared to illustrate concepts or to make dramatic points, but mostly you're going to be reading about geography and farming. One of the most interesting insights was that the QWERTY keyboard was designed to be inefficient. But I wonder if that's because I spend most of my life using a keyboard or because of how horribly dull that part of the book was. The depth of some research, which may establish the academic merits of this book (though the lack of footnotes doesn't bode well), is unimportant in supporting the thesis of the narrative or maintaining the average reader's enthusiasm.

As a racist-silencing narrative, I am glad this book exists. As an anthropologic condensation of the history of human societies, I can not recommend it.

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Reading Progress

January 25, 2017 – Started Reading
February 4, 2017 – Shelved
February 4, 2017 – Finished Reading

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