Jared Diamond got a lot of flak for Collapse, and I got a Dale Carnegie pen for it. That’s the way the world works.
For Guns, Germs, and Steel, he got a Pulitzer.
So, the basics of the book: mankind spreads outwards from Africa. One wave goes east, along the coasts of India, up the long Russian coast, over the Bering Strait and spilling over the Americas (like Sherwin Williams covers the earth). The other wave moves north and west, settling Europe (as if religious wars, strife and a crushing feudal system can be termed “settling”). In the process, we actually evolve different appearances, our color and features changing. And then, in Central America with the Spanish landings, the waves crash together.
So why did the Spanish have the guns, the germs, and the steel? Why did their Toledo blades and smallpox and crude firearms sweep away the natives with seemingly God-granted grace (and they received nothing save syphilis (probably through rapine) in return)? How come one side came to the proverbial gunfight with guns?
Diamond does a good job dispelling any racial superiority claims, looking closer at the spread of grains, the scattering of domesticatable animals, the climate, and even the positioning and layout of the continents. And in doing so, the reader hits a number of points where they are forced to nod, true I see moments.
Granted, the book is slow in a number of places where he stretches a point to seemingly fill pages. However, overall, the reader should come away from this with a better understanding of how our world was formed, in terms of its people and histories.
And, truthfully, when you’re standing at the watercooler and someone (who doesn’t read and can hardly follow Friends) makes a slightly simplistic statement about race, well, this book will allow you to be forewarned and forearmed. Worth a read for those history buffs out there, as well as anyone else who wants to know the ‘why’ of things.