Title: Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Genre: Non-fiction, Science, History
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Date published: 2014
Page Count: 443
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.
I picked up Sapiens because it was recommended by a lot of my friends, and I didn’t realize how interesting the history of humans are.
This book does require a lot of time (and brain power) to read, so I recommend allocating at least an hour to get into the book each time. But once you’re fully focused, it’s hard to stop reading. Harari steers in fact after fact. Each paragraph is packed with a lot of information; enough to keep you captivated for more, but not too overwhelming.
You get so much out of it as he breaks down the history of humans into several parts: physical evolution, the culture, economy, and philosophy of humans. It’s pretty mind-blowing when he divulges into everyday elements of our lives and explains how the ability to believe in a figment of imagination (such as believing that a piece of paper holds money value or the ability to believe in the concept of god) is only special to humans.
There are some opinions that Harari mentions that I don’t technically agree to or am iffy about, but it’s still a good read to see a different perspective. Each chapter offers a different aspect of the history of Homo Sapiens, and I think depending on the reader, some chapters will be more interesting than others. For example, I really enjoyed learning about the cognitive revolution, the science revolution (Gilgamesh project and future Frankensteins), and the science of happiness.
The underlying purpose is understanding what it means to be human. In understanding the past, we have a better sense of the future.