Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (W. W. Norton, 1997).
Well now I know. After 6 months, I’m still not recovered from grad school. After reading some “art for art’s sake” books, I thought I’d try Guns, Germs, and Steel, a book on my to-read list for some time. After 100-odd pages, I finally had to give up. I’m too exhausted.
That said, it is an excellent book. Diamond writes in an exceedingly clear and accessible style. You will not find the obtuse, intentionally obfuscated prose that often plagues academic writing. His argument is very logically laid out and followed. It also has a nice dose of wit and some very interesting personal anecdotes. His goal is to answer the basic question “Why have things worked out they way they have?” Why did the Spanish conquer South America and not the other way around? Why did certain technologies arise in some cultures and not others? His is a search for ultimate causes.
It’s not a particularly long book (~400 pages). If you have any interest in anthropology or world history, I think it will be worth your while. It won a Pulitzer Prize after all!