Book choice for August 2012

Guns, Germs and Steel [suggested by Rob Friedlander]

front cover

Life isn't fair -- here's why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better and worse, called the tune that the world has danced to. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things worked out that way. It is an elemental question, and Diamond is certainly not the first to ask it. However, he performs a singular service by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of European genetic superiority. Diamond, a professor of physiology at UCLA, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to farming, the domestication of animals and the free flow of information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result had more complex forms of government and communication--and increased resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power of competitive innovation in ways that China did not. (For example, the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns and subjugate the New World.) Diamond's book is complex and a bit overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth--examining the "positive feedback loop" of farming, then domestication, then population density, then innovation, and on and on--makes sense. Written without bias, Guns, Germs, and Steel is good global history. [review from Amazon]

Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Wikipedia page.

 

Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month Rob's other selections were:

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

In Paradise Lost, Milton produced a poem of epic scale, conjuring up a vast, awe-inspiring cosmos and ranging across huge tracts of space and time. And yet, in putting a charismatic Satan and naked Adam and Eve at the centre of this story, he also created an intensely human tragedy on the Fall of Man. Written when Milton was in his fifties - blind, bitterly disappointed by the Restoration and briefly in danger of execution—Paradise Lost has an apparent ambivalence towards authority which has led to intense debate about whether it manages to "justify the ways of God to men", or exposes the cruelty of Christianity. [product description on Amazon]

Wikipedia page.
Dedicated website ("a simple guide to John Milton's complicated masterpiece")

About the Author

Wikipedia page.
Various resources.

The Book of Dave

The Book of Dave

"The Book of Dave" is based around the rants of Dave Rudman, a disgruntled East End taxi driver, who writes his woes down and buries them only to have them discovered 500 years later and used as the sacred text for a religion that has taken hold in the flooded remnants of London. Will Self's big bold book dares to take on the grand themes in the grand manner. It is at once a profound meditation upon the nature of received religion; a love story; a caustic satire of contemporary urban life and a historical detective story set in the far future.[product description on Amazon]

Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Wikipedia page.
Author's website. Everything he's done or is doing, but no (apparent) biog notes. Except those in progress, of course, in the form of his blog.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
November 2011
October 2011
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