Rarely do I let a good book languish on my shelves for long, waiting to be read. I'm more than a little bit embarrassed to say that with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel that's exactly what happened. The first year Bunny and I started dating (a good five years ago) he lent me his copy of Guns, Germs and Steel and said I should read it and that it was one of the best books he'd ever read. I only picked it up a few months ago and got around to reading it, I'm sad to say.
Which is strange, because while we don't share entirely the same taste our interests do intersect. We both adore science fiction, we're both down for a good biography. I'm not so much into his outdoorsy and instructional woodworking books, he's not into my historical and philosophy. Maybe it's that I hadn't quite gotten over the fact that he claimed Absurdistan (by Gary Shteyngart) was the best book he's ever read, and that while it wasn't terrible it certainly didn't live up to "best book ever" in my mind. But I wasn't into the premise of Guns, Germs and Steel either.
There's a reason this book is a New York Times bestseller, and it's one of the most fulfilling pieces of nonfiction that I have read in ages. The style is very academic, restating the same arguments in different contexts and showing how that main premise works time and again in various different contexts. At the same time, the writing is conversational and accessible, and Diamond keeps in mind that this is a general publication and not created for subject experts.
Most of all it's fascinating. What, really, are the factors that helped decide how resources and power is divided in the modern world, and why development happens at different rates in different societies. It doesn't solve all the mysteries (does anything?) and I don't know if the same arguments will continue to affect the division of power in the next ten thousand years of human history (if we have that long) but I feel like I've learned a lot about the structure and history of our world.
I won't spoil anything, really, if I tell you that much of the world's power structure comes down to who had first access to guns, germs and steel. Diamond delves deeper, though, examining the factors that contributed to the development of those technologies and the spread of them across the world.
If you're a non fiction fan, and in the mood for socio-political writings this really should be the next book on your to read list, if you haven't read it already. My only regret? That I didn't read it sooner.