Probably the longest review I’ve ever done for 10 pages worth of reading!
Guns, germs & steel by Jared Diamond
So I read a few pages of this book then decided to throw it in the bin. Not pass it on in any way. Just Dump it.
In the first paragraph - “Why did history unfold differently on different continents? In case this question immediately makes you shudder at the thought you are about to read a racist treatise, you aren’t” As Charlie Brooker pointed out on the 10 O’clock show recently someone introducing themselves as “Not a Racist” is a bit suspicious. Still that wasn’t what made me throw this book at the wall. A few pages later we have this: “New Guineans may have come to be smarter than Westerners. European and American children spend much of their time being passively entertained by TV” hmm that old saw of TV rots the brain, for which evidence is ambiguous at best and many studies actually say that moderate TV viewing actually increases intelligence. But no, Mr Diamond has obviously decided the goggle box is the Devil’s device as a few sentences on he says “irreversible mental stunting associated with reduced childhood stimulation” (the TV being an anti-stimulation device of course) and “mental abilities in New Guineans are probably genetically superior to Westerners, and they surely are superior in escaping the devastating developmental disadvantages that most children in industrialised societies now grow up” (my italics) Oh Really? Can you say sweeping generalisation without any evidence Mr Diamond? And the reason he thinks New Guineans “may have come to be smarter than Westerners”? Well apparently it’s because they live a hand to mouth style existence struggling to find food (malnutrition in children is actually a cause of mental retardation isn’t it?) and fighting tribal wars so the stupid is killed off before it can breed and in Western society we’ve apparently conquered Maslow’s hierarchy of needs beyond the find food, find shelter level or as Mr. Diamond puts it “Europeans have for thousands of years been living in densely populated societies with central governments, police, and judiciaries where murders were relatively uncommon and a state of war was the exception rather than the rule.” Oh Really? Thousands of years you say, exactly what history books have you been reading Mr Diamond?
This book gets an average of 4.15 stars on LT?!? 88 people on Amazon.co.uk gave it 5 stars?!? Most people say it is a must read (there are few thoughtful reviews (from people who actually read the book) pointing out much larger flaws than the ones I’ve highlighted above, and apparently Diamond, a non-historian, tells historians that they’ve been doing history wrong!
It was such an important book that not only is there an abridged version there is also a reading companion, a documentary series AND it won the Pulitzer? My flabber is well and truly gasted