As I have missed several months for my monthly book review, today you get a special two-book blog review! Neither are religious books, however, I think both are excellent reads, and very interesting. One book is a newer release, “1493,” and the other is a little older but still interesting, “Guns, Germs and Steel.”
“1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created” is a new book by Charles Mann, award-winning author who wrote the book “1491,” one I highly recommend. Meticulously researched and combining topics from all over the world, “1493” looks at the impact of the discovery of the Americas and how it created a true “global” market. Although one would think with the title “1493,” it is just about the Americas, Charles Mann takes us all over the world, from Asia to Africa to Europe to the Americas, to make his points.
In the 1500 and 1600s, China’s currency was actually Spanish silver, mined in South America. Potatoes that caused a population explosion in Europe arrived from South America, but so did the potato blight, from fertilizer ships mining guano off the coast of Chile. He makes the case, pretty convincingly, that one of the main reasons Africans were brought over as slaves is because they had better immune systems for malaria and yellow fever. Showing the good and the bad of this global market, it is an interesting look at a world barely mentioned in the history books.
“Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond won a Pulitzer Prize. It is an excellent look at the reasons why different civilizations became what they are. His common question throughout is, “Why did something happen here and not over here?” He goes back through all of human history, including taking a very in-depth look at why some civilizations developed agriculture, what they domesticated and how it changed everything.
He breaks his book down into one main sentence. “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” There were no large animals to domesticate in the Americas or Australia, and so they had no advantage for transport or pulling plows, etc. Many of the major grains we still eat today are from western Eurasia, and no small wonder that here is the advent of farming and the rise of the first civilizations. Diamond works on broad generalizations, which he backs up with specific examples; how else could one look at civilization across the world otherwise? It’s an intriguing read.
As always, if you have any ideas and comments for things I could change, please let me know. If you have any books that you have read or have read the books I mention, please leave a comment. We here at Salzmann also want to know what people are reading. Comments are always appreciated – anything I can do to make this better I will strive my best to accomplish.
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