To add to the original writeup:

This 1997 work of non-fiction by UCLA professor Jared Diamond won the Pulitzer Prize and was a bestseller on a number of lists, including the New York Times Bookreview's. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond is looking at history from the perspective of paleobiology or biohistory, or whatever you'd like to call it, which is a pretty recent approach to more traditional forms of history that almost sidesteps a lot of the political quagmires involved with the history of western dominance.

I won't repeat the summaries of the other writeups, but I'll add that I was pretty amazed to find out that before domestication corn actually looked like those tiny ears of cocktail corn, and it's the corn we're used to seeing that's a mutation and not the other way around.

The scope of this book is wide, and Diamond has interesting comments on all manner of things, including, for example, necessity not being the mother of invention:

"A good example is the history of Thomas Edison's phonograph, the most original invention of the greatest inventor of modern times. When Edison built his first phonograph in 1877, he published an article proposing ten uses to which his invention might be put. They included the last words of dying people, recording books for blind people to hear, announcing clock time, and teaching spelling. Reproduction of music was not high on Edison's list of priorities. A few years later Edison told his assistant that his invention had no commercial value. Within another few years he changed his mind and did enter business to sell phonographs -- but for use as dictating machines. When other entrepreneurs created jukeboxes by arranging for a phonograph to play popular music at the drop of a coin, Edison objected to this debasement, which apparently detracted from serious office use of his invention. Only after about 20 years did Edison reluctantly concede that the main use of his phonograph was to record and play music."