Wednesday, April 20, 2011

CBR3-14: Guns, Germs & Steel - Jared Diamond

**** March Book Club Selection *****

Explaining what William McNeill called The Rise of the West has become the central problem in the study of global history. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond presents the biologist's answer: geography, demography, and ecological happenstance. Diamond evenhandedly reviews human history on every continent since the Ice Age at a rate that emphasizes only the broadest movements of peoples and ideas. Yet his survey is binocular: one eye has the rather distant vision of the evolutionary biologist, while the other eye--and his heart--belongs to the people of New Guinea, where he has done field work for more than 30 years.-
I've never read a Pulitzer Prize winning book before.  I was intimidated by the size of this book and really hesitated to get started reading it, even though I knew I needed the full month to finish it.  I was pleasantly surprised at the readability of the book.  Ultimately though the size of the book ended up being a bit of a pitfall for me.  By the time I made it 75% through, I was skimming the chapters to see if Diamond had something new to say.  It started to feel like a history textbook more than an interesting discussion of facts and situations.

This book was considered a "co-ed" book for our book club, so the boys were encouraged to read it as well.  It turns out that only 3 of us - boys or girls - made it through the whole book.  But Diamond's theories and concepts were able to be discussed even with a brief understanding of his argument.  We ended up having a lively discussion for over an hour.

If you are curious about what Diamond's theories are, but are wary about reading a 500 page book, National Geographic did a 5 part series that is available on Netflix streaming.

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