In this seventeenth episode I make a new friend, we grab some beer, and sit down to discuss Jared Diamond’s deconstruction of 13,000 years of human history, the spread of colonialism, and racial exceptionalism in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1997). This ambitious work of non-fiction quickly became an international bestseller and picked up the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science in 1997 and the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1998. Our conversation covers the components of Diamond’s argument, the pleasures and rewards of reading non-fiction, and the importance of lifelong learning.
“A lot of people don’t like history because it’s just dates, names, and places. And that seems really dull. But it’s been said about this book, and I’ll repeat it, is that if you only read one history book it should be this one because it explains why things happened the way they did. The ‘why’ is so often missing in history, and this book has the ‘why’. That alone I think justifies its success. But it is certainly more than just that.”
H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald