This is basically the history of humanity squeezed into 400 pages. Where did we come from? Where did we go? How did we get there? And, crucially for the book’s thesis, Why did things turn out the way they did?
It’s a fascinating story: all 13,000 years of it. The author presents history as a single story starting with the rise of homo sapiens in Africa and our subsequent dispersal around the world. He describes how various geographical factors caused certain groups to get a "head start" (in technological innovations as well as developing immunities to certain epidemic diseases) over other groups and begin to displace them.
Most of the non-fiction I read tends to be on a universal scale: cosmology and quantum mechanics and such, answering the question of "Where did everything come from and how does it work?". This book examines a much smaller part of the cosmos, but it also resonates far more because it’s about us. This book provides a look of my place in my culture and society and how that culture came to be so dominant at the expense of others.
The ideas in this book are incredibly useful at placing everything into a context of geography and evolution. For anyone who wants to examine their place in the world, this is a great place to start.
It should probably be a must-read for any human being.