SAPIENS

by Yuval Noah Harari

How Homo sapiens became Earth’s dominant species.

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3 positive comments

1 neutral comments

1 negative comments

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What people are saying on Twitter (sample)

  • Sapiens is a pretty interesting book. I think absolutely everyone will have part of their beliefs attacked by it. https://t.co/DScdPYo8yB
  • Sapiens: 'A Brief History Of Human Kind' by Yuval Noha Harari is very interesting book. Open The Thread👇
  • @ananavarro @ChrisEvans Ana and Chris, I just finished Harari 's riveting book but won't spoil it for you by tellin… https://t.co/0f0uLwqkVA
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is also the best book I’ve ever read. Every page makes me smarter. I think it should b… https://t.co/BdRF0Kf1Cg
  • @ZacharyLevi If you're enjoying 'Sapiens', a book I read earlier this year and loved, I'd highly recommend 'A Brief… https://t.co/I6HCmul5er
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    What people are saying on Amazon (sample)

    • The history of ancient humankind (ie Homo sapiens) is fascinating and the book hums along at a breathless pace in its lively description of what has been. Around the middle of the book, Harari descends into a paean to secular humanism and the book loses steam quickly into polemics rather than sociology and history.
    • Three words come immediately to mind when trying to describe this book.Ambitious: In an eminently readable style, Hariri takes you on a fascinating ride through the 150,000-year history of Homo Sapiens. The book explores the big questions of human history.Depressing: As Hariri states, we are “the deadliest species in the annals of Planet Earth.” By a wide margin, I would add.Provocative: Hariri obviously relishes in challenging conventional understandings of history. Or, put another way, the book is rife with controversial and sometimes poorly supported theories.Even if you end up disagreeing with most of Hariri’s conclusions, this is still a lively, often-insightful, and always-thought-provoking book.I’m not surprised that the book is still sold in just about every bookstore in America, nor that President Obama read it and recommended it. “Sapiens” is one of the most interesting books of popular nonfiction to come along this decade.
    • What I LikedThe breadth of information. As I mentioned in the intro, some of my favorite nonfiction titles of all time take the same approach to history that Sapiens does. They cover a lot of ground (in this case hundreds of thousands of years), while tying different historical occurrences together through continuous threads that incorporate theories from biology, economics, sociology, psychology and politics. If you enjoyed Sapiens, you might also enjoy Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything or his At Home: A Short History Of Private Life. Harari’s Sapiens felt epochal in its span while still bringing each step in humankind’s development down to more accessible level of single tribes, civilizations, countries and individuals to provide specific examples of the themes he discusses. Harari will make you think about what has influenced the development of humans to what we are today, whether he’s discussing the myths or stories on which our societies are built (like money, corporations, religion and other social constructs), or the recent shift from nationalism to individualism (which was interesting to read about because we may be experiencing a partial reversal of this trend back to nationalism in the last decade).The details. Just as I enjoy the sweeping narrative of books like Sapiens, I also look for the author to provide contextual examples of the themes he addresses, and hopefully ones that are at least in part new to me. I love interspersed unexpected facts or vignettes of human history like the ones Harari offers in this book, from his explanation that chimps and humans are only able to organize in groups of 150 or more before organizational order breaks down to the fact that the U.S. population today actually spends more money on diets than the amount that would be needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world (ugh). Whether these hidden gems of information are thought-provoking, funny, surprising or all three combined, I found a wealth of them in this book that will keep you turning the pages.It’s broadly accessible. Even if you’ve never read a book on anthropology before or are not a huge history fan, I think that Sapiens can still be a title you would enjoy. There’s nothing more fundamentally important to us as humans than the story of our origins, after all. If you’ve wondered about how civilization has developed the structure and components with which we are familiar today, from family units to nation states, from credit to writing, Sapiens would be an excellent starting point. You don’t really need to have read much beforehand about our origins as humans or similar theoretical concepts as the ones covered in this book. Even if you have strong religious beliefs that may clash with Harari’s staunchly athiest viewpoints, Sapiens will help you explore how those beliefs can still fit within a scientific and historically accurate understanding of where we’ve come from.What I Didn’t LikeHarari’s agenda showed through his writing. Each time Harari mentions the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of early sapiens or their subsequent agricultural evolution, he ends up going on a ranting rampage about the clear superiority of the first compared to the second. To Harari, early humans traipsed through gorgeous woods a la Red Riding Hood, innocently free of societal restrictions and just enjoying the nice weather (not really), and the bounties of nature. During the agricultural revolution, on the other hand, Harari argues that humans were shackled to their farms, with longer working hours, a depleted diet, aching backs from manual labor and increasing conflicts between tribes due to their newly stationary habits. The reality is that life was also brutal for our ancestors who lived as hunter-gatherers and were subject to famine, the cruelty of nature and the not unlikely risk of being eaten by a lion. Harari seems bent on convincing all of us to go paleo, get some loin cloths and return to our ‘natural state’ in the forest, which of course is a pointless endeavor to dedicate so much ranting to, because here we are.Final VerdictAside from the attemps at paleo indoctrination that permeate some sections of the book, I found Sapiens a completely engrossing, encompassing and thought-provoking introduction to our development as humans. Just ignore the paleo-romanticism.
    • Any history of Homo Sapiens would be a colossal undertaking. Unfortunately, this book isn't it.The good news:The book started off as a captivating discussion of the development and rise of our species. It reminded me that Homo Erectus spent a million years using stone tools but went no further. That Neanderthals disappeared in Europe when Homo Sapiens arrived. And at least for me, a fresh set of insights about the Agricultural Revolution - it was an accident, we can't go back, and if it hadn't happened we'd lack anything we call civilization.Some other provocative assertions were worth pondering. Humans are nothing more than animals with ideas. Ideas are lies we tell ourselves. And that humans unite when they shared delusions - whether it's religions, nationalism, or sports teams. Also, our entire economic system - money, capitalism, et al, is another delusion that requires our faith in order to survive.The bad news:It's not a history - it's "Pop History." Superficial with lots of bold assertions without any corroborating evidence. With five minutes on Google you can discover that some of the most outlandish stories are false (i.e. the Apollo astronauts encounter with the Navajo Indians.) If you thought Joseph Campbell's "Hero With a Thousand Faces" was based on real research you'll love this book. Much like Campbell Harari has given us an opinion piece disguised as a "history of humankind".The book can be generously called a set of personal meditations of history and human nature, but done with little research and even scanter evidence. If it had been labeled such I might have approached the second half of the book differently.
    • An interesting and thoughtful read for history buffs, and really for non-fiction readers who might be curious about how we as a species got here. It is a commonly held belief that we humans have rightfully emerged to "rule over all the creatures of the earth". This book really makes me think about this assumption, and not because the author explicitly questioned it, but rather because throughout, he implicitly suggests that our common belief in our own evolutionary brilliance may not really be a fact existing in reality anywhere outside of our own fertile imaginations as a species. I would love to hear other readers' thoughts on this, so that makes me think this is a great book club choice.I've heard it said that we humans are not necessary to the survival of ecosystems, not even the ones we inhabit. I've also heard it said that germs are the true masters of the universe. Yes, the guys truly at the top of the food chain are invisible to you on an ordinary day, but they can fell you, nonetheless. Now there are some thoughts to make us rethink the stories we have told ourselves about our own brilliance, importance, strength.I defy anyone to read this book and come away thinking the same way about themselves.