The Gun is one of my favorite books of all time. C.J. Chivers, a former Marine infantry officer and now a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, traces the often obscured origin of the infamous AK-47 assault rifle. The Gun is not a technical overview of the weapon, as Chivers makes clear in the introduction, but a social history of the weapon.
The automatic Kalashnikov offers a lens for examining the miniaturization and simplification of rapid-fire firearms, a set of processes that when uncoupled from free markets and linked to mass production in the planned economies of opaque and brittle nations, enabled automatic firepower to reach uncountable hands.
You do not need to be versed in small arms or even particularly interested in weaponry to enjoy this book. Chivers illuminates not only the development of the weapon and its creator, but also its proliferation and its immense and varied symbolism.