what i'm re-reading

i'm re-reading guns, germs and steel: the fates of human societies - one of my favorite books ever. it tries to develop a serious account of why the people of europe, asia and north africa organized themselves in complex societies and came to have a virtual monopoly over the guns, germs and steel that europeans used to subjugate the people of the rest of the world.

i'll illustrate the breadth of coverage by listing some of the chapter titles and bylines:
  • up to the starting line: what happened on all the continents before 11,000 B.C.?
  • to farm or not to farm: causes of the spread of food production
  • from egalitarian to kleptocracy: the evolution of government and religion
  • how africa became black: the history of africa
the author, jared diamond, weaves these topics together in a grand historical/social/biological/botanical/linguistic narrative, which ultimately finds the answer to his question in the geographic size and shapes of the continents. the writing is lucid and convincing, and some of the facts and ideas are fascinating. highly recommended.

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