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Yuval Noah Harari attempts to succinctly retell a grand story, our own story, that spans nearly 300,000 years to the present day. How we began as a marginal, nomadic band of hunter-gatherers and foragers in the sweltering wastes of East Africa to our present preeminence as a species. From an animal of no real significance to the undisputed governing force that shaped and continues to shape the world, for better or worse. We have made leaps and bounds in our startlingly brief existence on this planet.
Harari succeeds at drawing you into his own colorful and unique perspective on our humble origins in the plains of East Africa to our transition to farmers in the Agricultural Revolution and eventually rising all the way to the top. This book should not be treated as an academic and comprehensive thesis on anthropology, to treat it as such is to miss the point in my opinion. It is instead if you go into it with an open mind and a keen interest in the topic, is a fascinating and deeply thought-provoking take on ourselves as a species and what we have achieved, but also inevitably the price paid for our newfound supremacy. It's enlightening as well as sobering, and Harari toes that delicate line of acknowledging and even exalting our obvious accomplishments as a species (of which they are many) but also tempering that with the careful and measured hindsight of someone who is under no illusions. It's a balanced and fair assessment for the most part, even if at times he does resort to sensationalizing and leaning too much on his own subjective feelings at times as opposed to the facts objectively.
I'd highly recommend this book to all my fellow sapiens. It will shock you as well as inform you.
This book is the definition of balanced. Harari gives us a quick run-through of 70,000 years of humanity; he doesn't shy away from the brutal home-truths, but he doesn't leave out the wonders of the modern world either. I found myself getting slightly depressed in certain chapters, and then being cheerful in the next. The first section has a very different feel to the later parts of the book, which is why Sapiens gets a four and not a five. The first chapters have a much more anthropological feel to them as we delve into the distant history of our species, but the majority of the rest of the book looks at humanity as a whole - culture, economy, psychology, etc. This switch didn't make it a bad book, just not the one I was expecting. One things I liked was his earlier declaration of his atheism...this book is not going to talk through the major religions gently, but give them to you straight. Harari reminds us about how much of our world, including religions, has been invented from the minds of humans - I especially liked the chapter about comparing a god to Peugeot. But he's not cruel about religion either...again, incredible balance whilst being straight-up with the reader. Sapiens is an excellent jumping-off point for so many subject. Harari discusses the good and bad of empires and conquests, analysis happiness and consumerism, and takes a brief look into the present and future of our species via technological advancements in genetics. This book reminds us that we are not special, whilst discussing the things that make us special. We track the wonders and advantages of modern science, whilst being told we were smarter, faster, and happier as hunter-gatherers. This is a wonderful book, expertly written.
Yuval Harrari is an ambiguous writer indeed - daring, precise and aesthetically aware! In reading part-one 'The cognitive revolution' one feels as though they are embarking on a biological history of our species, revealing to us the hardships and feats of our ancestors. Thereupon we reach part-two, 'The Agricultural Revolution' and suddenly we feel we are on a trip of history, viewing the foundation of static human civilisations, a truly incredible journey; and then, suddenly, during part-three 'the Unification of Humankind' we see how cultures evolve, how the great force of capitalism came into being, and how religion once upon a time was important - a truly magnificent read for anyone starting the journey of human history! The final part, 'The Scientific Revolution' looks at how Homo Sapiens rose from mere animals with subjective capabilities, to custodians of the natural world; we created medicine and efficent energy, but also the power to wipe out civilisations, Robert Oppenheimer was certainly correct in saying "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." The question which is yet unanswered - in what direction are we to go now?
I found the lack of references to the evidence backing his explanation of things evolved quite annoying. I felt like most of the book is written with a pseudo-scientific tone however little or no reference to the evidence backing his points of view is offered to the reader. I found Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel (covering a similar topic in a way) much more thorough and supported by more evidence. Not surprisingly Harari thanks him at the of the book. Harari has probably been much more successful in making Diamond's topics of investigation easier to digest to the average reader
Definitely a book for the commoner, not the History scholar. We all took (or are taking) History classes. As we progress, unfilled gaps in History's timeline will most likely come to light. We may have studied the Roman Empire, but what follows? Egypt and the Pharaohs, but what precedes it? How and when did the written word come about? And language itself as a complex means of communication? Was Homo Sapiens the only species to evolve from the “homo genus”?
Yuval's “Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind” offers answers to these questions and much more. It basically wraps prehistory and history in three revolutionary landmarks, namely the Cognitive Revolution, circa 70 000 years ago, the Agricultural Revolution, circa 12 000 years ago and, last but not least, the Scientific Revolution, circa 500 years ago and still with us, though in a much faster pace than back then. Sapiens' story throughout these millenia fit in those three revolutions! Interested? Pick up the book. I gather you'll hardly put it down.
Going into further detail is tantamount to being a spoiler.
As the first part of a sequel, - “Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow” -, I trust much more is yet to be “discovered” when one ventures into the future! Therefore, for “Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind”, undoubtedly four stars!
This is one of those rare non-fiction books that give you a lot of interesting information using clear and unpretentious language so you're not straining your brain to understand it. Definitely doesn't feel like you're reading a school textbook.
This book gives you little moments of revelation, sentences that make you pause and reflect, and even a few chuckles. The author doesn't take himself too seriously and it makes for a fun, interesting read.
Only docked a star due to the state of the book. Bit bent out of shape.
I came back to review this book as it was gift, but reading through the other, most rated reviews it’s just staggering.
First of all I wish that everyone who discredit this author so badly were so “genuine” and introduce themselves as with their educational background/ field of expertise. The internet is full of nameless “experts”, and I can’t resonate with them.
Secondly there is so much rage among most of them purely because they fell in any way in regards with some of the strong opinions. Yes indeed, there are so many of them; but they are opinions, I haven’t seen anywhere stating that this book holds the absolute truth. And many of these reviewers try to use this as a mean to discredit the book and the author. There is one word to describe it - denial at its finest.
Looking at the world today, it’s not a coincidence that we’re such a destructive and bad species, and these people are a splendid example of why - we always have a “good” reason for everything we do.
As with my opinion about the book, it really doesn’t matter at all - it should be reflected somehow in the number of stars
Stunning in scope and a wonderful read. Sees things from a very new angle but compulsive reading, especially in its earlier stages. I felt the sense of the development of human kind blurred somewhat once the computer age was reached. Probably an unavoidable re-focus. Really invigorating reading.