by Yuval Noah Harari

How Homo sapiens became Earth’s dominant species.

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What people are saying on Twitter (sample)

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

    • 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.
    • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is quite extensive in its scope despite the sub-title. Harari covers the entire history of the species he calls Sapiens, from their unexceptional rise in Africa to their domination, and ultimate transformation of the world.Harari is so inclusive that he often runs two lines of thought without trying to rectify them. He stresses, quite correctly, that human evolution and dominance of the planet was an accident, and is by no means secure. But in other areas, he writes as if it is the destiny of Sapiens to grow more complex in their social arrangements; that it is fated.He juggles these two balls throughout the book. The author often treats Sapiens as animals, no more special than any others. At other times, he presents Sapiens as destined creatures, so unique that they will surpass natural selection entirely with intelligence and technology.This has been the cleavage that runs through our species self-conception since the rise of natural science. In this book, the two streams can be a bit distracting, even annoying at times. But Harari is presenting a work that is vast in its scope and aims; in a way, it seems fair to leave this part of the human experience unanswered and contradictory. In the end it is the best approach to examine the history of our troubled species.
    • I was verrrrrrrry disappointed in parts of this book. It starts out well-- the overview of human-prehistory is quite decent, and I learned some new things, esp. about human impacts on biodiversity. (full disclosure: I'm a scholar in an overlapping field, with an MA in History of Science in an Israeli university, with many colleagues who have also worked with this author). As with many authors in the Richard Dawkins style of popular writing, he oversteps with determinism around evolution and how it works. Unlike many authors, he does accurately recognize that the agricultural revolution was at least partly a disaster, and continues to be, ecologically... But where it really lost me was in his capsule history of economics. He's clearly out of his expertise here, parroting uncritically the barter-as-founding-myth-of-economics, which has been conclusively debunked, there are zero anthropolgists on the planet who would agree that 'everyone was doing barter, it was a pain, so we created money'. For that whole aspect of his narrative, one would be far better off reading David Graeber's 'Debt: the First 5000 Years'. This book is very ambitious, and I admire his chutzpah in attempting so all-encompassing. If you're interested in world history and humanity's future, it's worth a read, but with a big grain of salt.
    • 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.
    • A few years ago it occurred to me that the only thing really holding society together is habit and that money is just a concept. It scared me to think that society was so fragile. The author of Sapiens describes this much better than I. And, he made me feel better since, although learned, social structures are relatively resilient. In fact, he describes why some forms are more resilient than others.This book is full of issues that we should all be thinking about. It is more of a history of social structures than a history book in the classical sense. It describes how the structures of human societies have changed, from when we were just another animal, through hunter gatherers, through agriculture, through science and industry, and finally our future (or replacement) based on tinkering with our own genetic code.Although Sapiens is well thought-out and well presented, I don't agree with everything the author says. But, I think that is ok. The main idea is to describe the changes in sociology of humans, and present various theories about why things happened as they did. Most of my disagreement seem like semantics, but when I was reading the book I thought the distinctions were important.Here are a couple examples of my disagreements:The author uses the word "fictions" to describe things that are not concrete: things that can be perceived in people's minds but not in the physical world. Examples in the book are corporations and money. These specific things would not exist if people did not think of them in their minds. And, it is true for most of the sociological concepts presented in the book. But, I think the author is too general. I would prefer the term "abstract" rather than "fiction." Fiction implies unreal. I believe that some abstract things are real. The classical example is Plato's view that perfect abstract concepts are actually more real than the concrete representation. Such as, a drawing of a circle on a piece of paper is merely an imperfect attempt to represent the concept of a perfect abstract circle. But, Plato would claim that the abstract concept of a perfect circle would still exist even if no one was around to think about it. And, I basically agree with him. And, I think there are many other abstract concepts like that. Humans have many abstract concepts, some were created by people, some were discovered by people. Only the former are "fictions."Another disagreement is the notion of what is the "true" part of a religion. His definition of the true part of a religion is its moral code and a social structure. I understand why he does this, so he can use humanism and liberalism (and others) in the same way as Christianity and Buddhism (and others). And, from the point of view of this specific book, this makes sense, since Sapiens is about describing how social structures have changed. But, to me that is not true religion. At best moral codes and social structures are the product of the true religion, at worst they are a distraction from the true religion. To me, the true part of a religion is the part that is about getting to know God.So, read this book. Keep an open mind. Stop once in while to think about what is written. Then the main questions at the end is "Where do we go from here? And, why?" That is something we should be asking even if we never read this book.