On the eve of the 500th anniversary of the European arrival in the New World, Jack Weatherford attempts to celebrate the Amerindian contribution to world culture and agriculture. (Potatoes, chiles, turkey, pumpkins and chocolate are among the foods the Indians introduced to the European diet.) Given the importance of the subject, it’s regrettable that this book is so undistinguished in both style and content. Weatherford’s prose is dryly competent at best, and his research derived from secondary sources. Such pronouncements as “By 1700, Spain was reduced to a minor power of neither economic nor political importance” are simply untenable in light of modern historical scholarship.