Jared Diamond. Norton, New York, 1998 (printed as a paperback in 1999).
Winner of last years Pulitzer Prize, this investigation into the biological basis of human history is both intellectually stimulating and a great deal of fun. The author, doing field work in the tropical island of New Guinea, is asked a question by a local native. “How come,” the native asks, “you Europeans have all the cargo (refrigerators, TVs, cars, etc.), while we here have so little?” A profound question, to which Diamond gives an answer of astounding scope and clarity. Diamond has written a very good account of human evolution (THE NAKED APE), but here he narrows his focus to the 13,000 years of human history. This books title, Guns, Germs, and Steel, encapsulates Diamonds answer to the question of why human societies developed differently on different continents. To reach this answer, he takes his readers on a journey through time, a masterful synthesis of biology, anthropology, epidemiology, linguistics. Few books will make you think as deeply.