Diamond is Not This Girl’s Best Friend

Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p.-85-113; 131-156

Where did our agricultural roots begin?

Author Jared Diamond explains in part 2 of his book, the rise and spread of food production.  In these 4 chapters, he scientifically analyzes the historical relationship between humans and seeds.

So where did our agricultural roots begin?  Diamond often utilizes questions to capture the reader’s interest.  This writing technique proves imperative as the detailed history of people and seeds can feel overloading.  Though the information is plentiful, Diamond succeeds in explaining with a lack of jargon-which stretches his story to attend a general audience.  The book is factual in nature-similar to a textbook, but manages to share history more intriguingly than a textbook itself.   He emphasizes interesting points about divide.  A divide he focuses on is the shift from the hunting and gatherer lifestyle to domestication and production.  Furthermore, he often attempts cliffhanging endings to his chapters-an appeal to further delve into this historical tail.  However, despite Diamond’s best efforts, an overall compelling nature is lacking-the efforts of which I will explain in then next paragraph.

So where did the story of our agricultural roots go wrong?  First, Diamond’s interesting points are lost in a sea of long detailed sentences.  His precision of research in his writing is apparent.  There are numbers, figures, dates and people.  Yet, the overload of knowledge is overwhelming and often I found myself having forgot the initial argument he was explaining.  Though there was intention for a general audience, the lack of character and the lack of voice, create a lack of story.  I really made the attempt to read Diamond’s work with an open mind, grasping the thickly bound story and opening midway ready to learn.

I failed.
I failed multiple times.
I was falling asleep in a coffee shop failing.
I was rereading the same line multiple times failing.
I was counting the number of pages left in the chapter failing.

I think why I failed derived from an overall lack of interest for the subject itself.  I hate to admit it but I just do not think I care when or where the shift away from hunting and gathering began.  Things had to progress and I would be satisfied knowing in short what happened.  Against all my morals, I could flip to the last chapter and read the ending.  I am truly sorry I feel that way.  I lack the same passion for the historical significance Diamond spews.

Whether one can appreciate the subject or not, Diamond’s ‘big idea’ style is still impressive.  He grasps, organizes and shares an array of knowledge all interconnected to the agricultural evolution.  I respect his well rounded perspective that by nature is enlightening even if I find the subject a bit boring.

So maybe Diamond is not this girl’s best friend, but I can appreciate his brilliance nonetheless.



One thought on “Diamond is Not This Girl’s Best Friend

  1. Having also read Jared Diamond’s book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, I can completely and entirely relate to your feeling of failing. I was also finding it very difficult to make it through his long and detailed descriptions without my mind drifting off to consider my plans for the weekend or what I would eat for dinner.
    I agree when you said, “Though there was intention for a general audience, the lack of character and the lack of voice, create a lack of story.” I also found myself noting that there was a lack of character throughout his writing and thus, by consequence, a lack of intrigue on my part. Throughout the four chapters you’ve mentioned, there was only one brief personal story about himself in the wild with a tribe bickering about poisonous mushrooms. I feel we would have both been much more interested in the points he was trying to convey if he had only made his book slightly more personal.
    I also one-hundred percent agree when you said, “Diamond’s interesting points are lost in a sea of long detailed sentences. His precision of research in his writing is apparent.” The general ideas and concepts Jared Diamond was trying to convey were interesting, however, as you said, they were dulled down by the overwhelming amount of detail he describes.
    I really appreciated your ability to compliment a piece of work that you did not enjoy. “So maybe Diamond is not this girl’s best friend, but I can appreciate his brilliance nonetheless.” Having also written a response to Jared Diamond’s book, I can completely understand the difficulty in writing about something you were not interested in.
    I really enjoyed reading your response to “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and look forward to more posts in your plants and people journey!


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