Book review: Guns, Germs and Steel

If you like to ask "why" questions, this book is for you.  Jared Diamond answers why some societies succeeded and why some, like the Mayans or Aztecs, didn’t.  I don’t want to give away the book, but here are some examples that he uses:

  • Agricultural societies could store food.  Storing food enabled them to have people who specialized in something besides food gathering, like writing or medicine or fighting.
  • Storing food allowed them to conquer other societies because they could take their food along and so they didn’t need to stop fighting to gather food.
  • Keeping animals brought a lot of diseases.  The people that kept the animals eventually became immune to most of the diseases but they would bring those diseases (like smallpox) to other societies and it would wipe them out.

Jared Diamond also spends time explaining that he doesn’t think industrialized societies are necessarily any better than hunter-gather societies – hunter-gatherers might have actually been healthier, taller, stronger – but he is just explaining why some succeed and others die out.

It’s a very interesting book and worth reading if you like knowing why things happened the way they did.