Jared Diamond wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning 'Germs, Guns, and Steel'. He gave a talk encapsulating that book's thesis entitled Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years? The thesis of the talk:
The broadest pattern of history — namely, the differences between human societies on different continents — seems to me to be attributable to differences among continental environments, and not to biological differences among peoples themselves.
This was fascinating to me and very readable.
More summary work: Eurasia produced the toughest germs and the most persistent technological cultures because it's the largest land mass and it has a massive east-west axis that is most germane to the spread of domesticated plants and animals.
Then, if you like that talk, and have time, read his How to Get Rich, which develops the same themes with more specific examples and with the (somewhat misleading) intent of educating people on what history teaches us should produce the best financial ventures.