Sunday, April 18, 2010

Guns, Germs, and Steel Review

I rarely read non-fiction, but between seeing the PBS special and teaching World Cultures my interest was peeked. My main reason for avoiding non-fiction is that it tends to read like a textbook (very dry) or is over technical and excludes people that aren't already experts in the field. Though there are spots where the book can be a bit dry, it is not terribly so, and I think it has more to do with Mr. Diamond's unassuming manner than anything else. He avoids being overly technical, but also avoids talking down to his audience. The link in the title is to the PBS website, the closest thing I could find to an official website. It includes lesson plans for teachers to use in their classroom. I used the PBS special in my class, and I found it to be quite informative and engaging for most students.

 Mr. Diamond explores the reasons that various modern societies (and ancient ones) became wealthier and have more advanced technologies than other societies. Having visited many "primitive" societies around the world, he did not accept the old idea of racial/genetic superiority. He began looking for other explanations throughout history. He looks at geography, climate, natural resources, and population. He examines how these factors interact with each other to affect growth in number, food sources, and technological advancements.

Mr. Diamond provides many examples from each continent, and cites many works from various fields of study. He also provides visuals to help put things into context. Reading over his arguments, I wondered how someone did not reach these conclusions years ago. His points are logical, and seem so self-evident when looking at them as a whole. My reading list grew by over 100 books as a result of Guns, Germs, and Steel. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in culture, economics, technology, or history.

Thank you, Mr. Diamond, for your unique mind and ability to put disparate fields of study together into a cohesive whole.