A Brief History of Humankind
As the subtitle states, the book is a brief history of the human race. The Israeli author has a Ph.D. in history and lectures at the Hewbrew University in Jerusalem. He tells the story of humanity from a scientific and cultural viewpoint. The material was originally published in 2011 and updated in 2014. Some of the references to current events, like global warming for instance, are therefore already quite outdated, but the impact of that is very minor.
Unlike what we think of history books, Sapiens is a page-turner. The author’s viewpoint sometimes shocks and surprises us. Humans are apes that managed to become the apex predator of the planet.
Being scientifically oriented myself, and keenly interested in history to boot, there was not much material in Sapiens that I didn’t already know in a broad sense, but the level of detail and the sharp, keen observations that the author supplies made it very valuable.
I learned a lot about our history, and there are many subjects the author addressed that resulted in my taking notes for further study and reading. For me, it all makes sense, but I can see that for a Christian or a Muslim, or a technologist, some of the conclusions of the author may be surprising or even disturbing and shocking.
Many sapiens eat pork:
Pigs are among the most intelligent and inquisitive of mammals, second perhaps only to the great apes. Yet industrialised pig farms routinely confine nursing sows inside such small crates that they are literally unable to turn around (not to mention walk or forage). The sows are kept in these crates day and night for four weeks after giving birth. Their offspring are then taken away to be fattened up and the sows are impregnated with the next litter of piglets.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens (p. 342). Harper. Kindle Edition.
I read the book cover to cover, and I learned – mostly that I know very little. My rating key for books states: “Must read. Inspiring. Classic. Want to read again. I learned profound lessons. Just beautiful. I cried.” Obviously, I rate a book with four stars when it changes me in some way.
After reading Sapiens, I will never think about many topics quite the same again. I can’t “unread” this book. I read it, and now:
- Christianity, Islam and all the other religions will never quite look the same to me.
- I always believed animals are not different in kind from humans in any way. Animals feel, hope, love, lust, fear and mourn, just like we do.
- We are destroying ourselves and our planet, and all the creatures on it (or most of them).
- Our current Republican government is corrupt, criminal and repugnant.
- Our species does not appear fit to survive.
- We are at the cusp of turning into something quite different entirely. I call it the ultra-sapiens, in great contrast to divine. The ultra-sapiens will look at us sapiens like we sapiens look at ants. Get out the Raid and wipe them off the countertop.
- We could do so much good, be so much better, but we don’t have the maturity to pull it off.
Sapiens changed the way I think, and I suspect it would change your way of thinking, too.
6 thoughts on “Book Review: Sapiens – by Yuval Noah Harari”
I am already so cynical and depressed about “humankind” that I don’t think I could take it, but I have requested it at my local library.
I felt the irrevocably changed after reading Julian Jaynes, “The Origin of the Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.” (Can’t unread it…)
Sounds like I need to read Origin…. And yes, you can take it. Read Sapiens. It’s a good book.
A very good review. Sapiens sounds like a very interesting book. In the original Star Trek I vaguely recall a couple of episodes where the Enterprise encounters vastly superior civilizations that are considering wiping out the human race before it gets too powerful essentially as a service to the universe. Kirk, of course, somehow convinces them that in spite of our history and our flaws, humans are actually noble beings. At present, I think that would be an extremely hard if not impossible sell to an objective observer. If I get the drift of your review, the author might agree. In any event, Sapiens is now on my reading list.
Yep, you will not regret it. It’s very educational and it will change the way you think about some topics.
I’ve also heard a few people tell me this book makes them think differently. I’m going to definitely read this one!
You will learn a lot. It’s about your grandchildren.