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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Written by Yuval Noah Harari

Narrated by Derek Perkins


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Written by Yuval Noah Harari

Narrated by Derek Perkins

ratings:
4.5/5 (3,415 ratings)
Length:
15 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Aug 15, 2017
ISBN:
9780062796233
Format:
Audiobook

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BookSnapshot

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Description

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be "human."

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

This provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

Publisher:
Released:
Aug 15, 2017
ISBN:
9780062796233
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

BookSnapshot

About the author

Prof. Yuval Noah Harari is a historian, philosopher, and the bestselling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, and Sapiens: A Graphic History. His books have sold over 35 million copies in 65 languages, and he is considered one of the world’s most influential public intellectuals today. The Guardian has credited Sapiens with revolutionizing the non-fiction market and popularizing “brainy books”. In 2020 Harari joined forces with renowned comics artists David Vandermeulen and Daniel Casanave, to create Sapiens: A Graphic History: a radical adaptation of the original Sapiens into a graphic novel series. This illustrated collection casts Yuval Noah Harari in the role of guide, who takes the reader through the entire history of the human species, accompanied by a range of fictional characters and traveling through time, space and popular culture references. Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976, Harari received his PhD from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is currently a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He originally specialized in world history, medieval history and military history, and his current research focuses on macro-historical questions such as: What is the relationship between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded? What ethical questions do science and technology raise in the 21st century?


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What people think about Sapiens

4.7
3415 ratings / 357 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    I have to admit that I have a liking for what I call history primers, and this is one such book. While this is a book that discusses history, Harari does not seem concerned with walking over old historical sites to recover facts that others had missed. Rather, the author shows how various events have affected the development of human culture: in some cases for the worst. Throughout the book, Harari's observations and commentary raise some issues that are worth further contemplation. If you enjoyed books like "Guns, Germs and Steel" or "A Short History of Nearly Everything" then you would most likely enjoy Harari's ideas on why humans have collectively agreed to make the world the way it is.
  • (5/5)
    Non-fiction history of where humans came from to where they are going. It was a great look into human history. The author singles out aspects of human history that he finds important. He writes really well and makes it an easy and enjoyable read. He does have strong opinions, which some people may disagree with, but I enjoyed learning about his perspective.
  • (4/5)
    Author has amassed a great deal of history, facts, and speculation. He then weaves an interesting fabric explaining just about everything to do about human history/evolution. Like Chomsky, he ignores or dismisses theories and evidence that diminish the strength of his threads. Still, an entertaining read ...
  • (4/5)
    an very interesting look a humans! it is very readable but also very thought proving worth reading
  • (5/5)
    This is not an easy book to present or review. It dissects so many parts of human life and culture, that it would be complicated to discuss on that basis alone. And yet one comes to feel that Harari addresses history largely in the service of offering deeply-held critiques and challenges that unfold over the course of the book.Let me just mention that the hardcover first U.S. edition is an admirable physical specimen. Most notable to me is the feel of the paper. I don't know the accurate words to describe it, but it may be a premium glossy high-lustre paper that feels extremely comfortable to handle. This book fits clearly into the emerging area of historical study some call Big History. It concerns itself with the broad sweep of the human career. Not quite as broad as the view of David Christian who doesn't limit himself to the human part of the story, but broad in that Harari starts with our proto-human ancestry and concludes with a consideration of a potential trans-human future.Let's be clear: I found no original scholarship here. Harari hews to familiar if wide and inclusive intellectual terrain. He owes a great debt to people like Jared Diamond, David Christian, and numerous authors who have come before. The Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, civilization, modernity. Science and its overthrow of the belief that was no more to discover about the universe. The interplay between science, capital and government. And on.This is not a criticism. Harari is an articulate and forceful purveyor of ideas. Sometimes he fails to make clear the distiction between scholarship and his own opinions, but for the most part he can be forgiven; his playing fast and-loose can be frustrating (eg. the chapter on the Agricultural Revolution is titled "History's Biggest Fraud"; "having so recently been one of the underdogs of the Savannah we are full of anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous"; "the leading project of the Scientific Revolution is to give humankind eternal life"), but it often feels like quibbling in the face of the questions he raises. Or alternatively, one tends to agree but knows inside that there is less certainty in his assertions that he lets on.Harari spends a lot of time on the notion of human success being due to what he calls inter-subjective phenomena, meaning fictions we agree upon, like money or countries but unlike electrons. He wants to remind us of how much of what we take for granted about ourselves and the world -- and which has resulted in our numerical proliferation and material aggrandizement -- is in a deep sense imaginary. He emphasizes the (familiar) dark side of the Neolithic (and post-Paleolithic in general): longer hours, disease, the false lure of acquisitiveness, etc. He suggests that happiness ought to be the barometer of how we live. Are people happier now than they were before giving up the migrant hunter-gatherer life and becoming sedentary participants in civilization? (Acknowledging however that there's no going back) He is forceful in his criticisms of religion and government. His account of money, capital and banking is especially cogent. He emphasizes repeatedly our insensitivity to the emotional harm our practices have on animals. This book is meant to challenge, to be a cautionary tale. There is a dark -- but not necessarily unfair -- thread running through the text. About our potential future as powerful beings: "Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?"; and "But since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, the real question facing us is not 'What do we want to become?', but 'What do we want to want?'. Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven't given it enough thought."In the end, this is a thought-provoking book. He may not be right about everything, he may blur the lines between scholarship and interpretation, but his critiques are well worth considering. For a thorough introduction to Big History, I prefer David Christian's Maps of Time. For a challenging critique of the human past and future, this book must be reckoned with.
  • (5/5)
    Interesting and provoking thoughts on where we are as a species.
  • (4/5)
    An excellent popular science book about the development of humankind that is written in a very readable style and that covers a lot of ground in a very accessible manner. Having been given the book by my brother-in-law for my birthday, I read it in a week or so and have passed my paperback copy to my son and offered to buy my daughter a copy for her Kindle.It is popular science and may not be rigorous enough for some who have already read/studied specific areas in greater depth, so you should be sceptical about the assertions made, as Harari would encourage you to be as this is a scientific book. It may not be 100% correct, but you are usually clear where Harari is putting forward his interpretation on the current evidence. Evidence can be interpreted in different ways and its interpretation changes are further evidence becomes available.It is very readable overview of a complex subject and Harari puts forward a cogent interpretation.
  • (5/5)
    Very interesting read about humankind. I listened to this book on audible and quite enjoyed it! I chose it because it was a pick from Mark Zuckerberg's book club. A book that I thought would be a little boring but once I got into it I found it very interesting and hard to put down. I think everyone should pick this one up at some point.
  • (4/5)
    Educational and informative read, though the ending is not particularly convincing. Feels like the author moved from a biological angle to a historical angle, before moving to a technological angle, which I guess makes sense, as the book was about the whole history of the homo sapiens.
  • (4/5)
    Without a doubt, Harari is an erudite historian. His book covers a wide range of events in our humankind from the beginning to the near-future described in 4 parts and 3 revolutions - Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific revolutions.There are specific parts of the book that I found very interesting like the downsides of walking upright and differences between mono- and polytheists. The authors' views about money and capitalism are quite ingenious and captivating.The sections that talk about how the concept of god was used to unify people of various races and how money did pretty much the same are highly thought-provoking.Some parts of the book could have been a little concise, but all-in-all this is a very good book.
  • (5/5)
    In the arena of a few dozen millenia, homo sapiens are being propelled from non-dominant primates to Gods. What shall we do? Live like Buddha!!!
  • (5/5)
    Fascinating story of the human race as a species. This book is full of ideas and was a joy to read!
  • (5/5)
    I read 50 books a year and have been doing it a long time. Mostly fiction but my share of non-fiction and I can honestly say that this might be the most enjoyable non-fiction that I have ever read. This is a must read. Harari does a wonderful job of explaining our evolution. It allows you to look at everything that we do from this evolutionary perspective. Although the subject matter is scientific, he does a good job of making it enjoyable. I enjoyed his presentation about the industrial revolution and the rapid progress(?) that we have made in raising the standard of living for our species. However, it also points out what we done to the other species and the planet. Books that make you think are the best and this one goes to the top of the list. 5 is my highest book rating but this was actually a 7. Can't wait to read his new book.
  • (4/5)
    I suppose that if you write book subtitled "A Brief History of Humankind" that fits in a backpack you're going to have to abridge someplace. Even so, I think that Harari's book is a useful introduction to long-term anthropology, if that's the term, for a general reader such as myself. The most useful thing about it, perhaps, is how well it explodes the whole "paleo" fad that's taken over the marketplace lately. The author points out how little we can know about how our distant ancestors lived and how varied their societies probably were. It convincingly argues that the caveman archetype that these products push may have had little to do with many ancient humans actually lived: humanity had, at this point, probably many ways of living at once, and it's unlikely that we'll ever know exactly what shapes most of those societies took. From several sub-species and perhaps thousands of tribal bands who probably knew very little about each other to a whole-earth entity we can confidently identify as "humanity," the book traces the development of "globalism" in the broadest possible sense. It also has a lot to say about the sometimes counter-intuitive trade-offs we made by evolving in to sapiens, leaving the forest or the savanna for farms, and, finally by letting machines do much of our work and even some of our thinking. Whatever you think of the whole "happiness studies" thing, "Sapiens" does make some interesting arguments about the pros and cons of every stage of human development. Other parts of the book are less successful. Harari takes some left turns into arguments best left to modern political commentators and his take on the future of humankind seems a bit sketchy and rushed. Still, I found this to enjoyable read, if only because it showed me how much I don't know about a huge stretch of human history.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant. Bold. Fascinating. To say that it's thought-provoking would be a major understatement. I simply wasn't prepared for many of Dr. Harari's arguments, theories and interpretations and the staggering amount of historical time that he covered so aptly! It's not just any history book. Controversial? Yes. But where the author has a point - he is very convincing; where there isn't enough historical information to make a point he honestly says so, all the while producing very plausible theories... Excellent chapter on Polytheism and Monotheism and a great take on Buddhist view of happiness - among so many other fascinating, even if at times "irreverent", insights... Interesting theories about "patriarchal genes" in our societies even up to this day. I also truly see Dr. Harari's reasoning about love-hate relationship between global empires and the societies that they absorbed. What's more, I find the author very objective in his search for answers. All in all, I agree with one of the readers: this book is "most enjoyable and most depressing" at the same time. But it's honest. If I were to choose one book to recommend to my two adult children, this would be the one.
  • (4/5)
    Harari presents a work that looks at the human species as a whole and describes our history from the biggest perspective possible. In this way he describes our development from nomadic foragers through the agricultural revolution into the development of societies, empires, nations, technologies to our current position as the dominant life on the planet. This objective approach allows Harari to present novel and often uncomfortable reasoning behind who we are and how we became that way.The moral voice is weak - you cannot tell whether Harari is a right-on PC academic who sees everything that humans do is bad, or whether he believes that humans are part of a bigger picture where humans are driven by their collective species inheritance, just as all other animals and plants are. The objectivity is to be admired but it does make the narrative flow more difficult to follow and the reader is often caught off balance as his perspective and view changes.This is an important book that addresses some hard questions in a different way and provides much for every human to think about as they go about their daily lives.
  • (4/5)
    Well-written history of 70,000 years of Humans
  • (5/5)
    This book will make anyone think about their beliefs and our place on this planet as a species. Absolutely fascinating. The only issue I had is that the author does present many of his theories as fact (like there are no other theories out there, or if there are they are briefly / dismissively mentioned. While many of the theories presented appear (to me) to be very rational and logical there where a few times I did wonder what an anthropologist would think of the statements.
  • (5/5)
    A must read. It will get you thinking about how we have progressed and whether it have been progress or regress. Have the lives of sapiens improved over the thousands of years? What about the planet and the other animals on the planet (the ones we haven't killed off any way) are they better off?
  • (4/5)
    Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind is just that. It begins with the earliest humans and there were several. We seem to think we have a monopoly on humanship but it is not true. There were many humans who did not make it. Homosapiens may have crowded them out. In the earliest years men were hunters and gathers. You will learn about the monkeys who are our closest relations. I enjoyed the book and think it is worth a detour.
  • (4/5)
    Long history from Noah Harari. Great intro observing that "a large brain, the use of tools, superior learning abilities and complex social structures (p. 11)" are insufficient as an explanation for humans' now dominant position, as "humans enjoyed these advantages for a full 2 million years during which they remained weak and marginal creatures." Humans were in the middle of the food chain until we jumped to the top quite recently, with no ecological checks and balances on our power. Harari is clear that he sees agriculture as a trap increasing the number of people at the cost of lowering the standard of living. Nobody agreed, but who would volunteer to starve to go back? Another (well known) observation is how recent much of what modern geographically based culture culture is - e.g. only recently did tomatoes come to Italy and horses came to the Americas with the Europeans. Relatedly, it is always good to be reminded of both the breadth and the contingency of practices and norms. I was not aware that Columbus never realized he had not come to India and that America was named after Vespucci who was one of those who said that one did not know which country it was. There is much material on how myths/fictions keep humans cooperating, like religion, rights and the legal system, the limited liability company. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Good gallop through he whole of human history. Not just one damn thing after another , but what are the underlying structures and causes that give it shape.Good one is the pattern of empire, Roman, Ottoman or British - kind of Decline & fall but shorter. Has a jolly tone and even some good jokes, some of them a touch puerile, and many detailed examples are made up with silly names (Mr Greedy and the like), where it would be more convincing if a real case were taken. The jocularity perhaps makes it easier reading but detracts from the heft of the argument. also too much space and weight given to Marxist approach which, for me at least, seemed out-of-date even before the Soviet collapse.
  • (5/5)
    An absolutely brilliant book! Superbly written, engaging, simple explanations of complex concepts - often reads like a good novel. I learned so much reading this book - more than I ever learned in geography and history at school! The ability of the author to summarise the entire history of humankind is amazing. I liked the fact, too, that he had opinions that he argued for. This is a stunning book and a must-read for anyone interested in humanity, how we got where we are, and where we are headed. Can't recommend it highly enough.
  • (5/5)
    I really like this book. Yuval really takes you on a journey that is not easy to get off! I decided to be somewhat disciplined when I read this book, in that I read just the chapter a day. This allowed me to read each chapter slowly, and to think about what he has written. This indeed is the best way to read the book. He asks some extremely interesting questions, and does indeed pose some interesting thoughts. I don't agree with all he has written about Indian history. I think he has made some mistakes there, but that is my point of view. The end is superb, and the fact is that we really do need to think about how we want to treat this planet in the future. It is indeed the only one we have.
  • (4/5)
    Some books explain why things happened ...or didn't. This book tells us how: how human beings rose the middle to the top of the food chain; the author traces our evolution from "an animal of no significance" to "the animal that became a god". What I enjoyed most about this book is:One, its twist on perspective. We have a tendency to personify animals; this author treats humans as animals. Two, the role of "imagined communities" in human development. Three, the engaging, clear writing style.There were problems with the text. I think he romanticizes foragers, he says little about productivity growth and largely ignores the role of geography in human development. And he tends to blur the line between scholarship and speculation, but his ideas are certainly interesting and worth considering.
  • (5/5)
    Impressive
  • (5/5)
    It may sometimes over simplify things, but the book's greatest attribute is that it makes you think, and consider mankind from a distant objective viewpoint. I also appreciate that even at the end, talking of today and the future, the author presents various possibilities without pushing one over another.
  • (5/5)
    Part natural science, part history, and part philosophy, this is a thought provoking read. It is careful not to make value judgements, but it is not reluctant to ascribe unknowable motivations to groups of people. Some of these motivations I thought reasonable, others not so much. I did have a few issues with some distinctions (and lack of distinctions) being drawn. The biggest was that the author uses a VERY broad definition of the word 'religion', which he defines as "a belief in a superhuman order." Distinctions that I, and I think most others, would make between religion, ideology, and philosophy, he lumps together as forms of religion. By his definition, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Stoicism, Cynicism, Epicurianism, Liberalism, Communism, Naziism, Humanism... are all forms of religion. Admittedly, the distinguishing line between such things is far from sharp, but grouping them under the umbrella term of 'religion' implies more similarity than they seem to be to have to me. The term 'belief system' would have been a better choice. His terminology may be what leads him to define humanism, for example, as a group of religions that "worship humanity." I doubt many Secular Humanists (which, oddly, is not one of the three varieties of humanism he identifies) would agree that they 'worship' humanity or regard it as 'sacred'. Humanism, in this respect, is simply the philosophical position that human codes of behavior are human based. Whereas a theistic religion may maintain that laws, taboos, commandments, and other such things are dictated by a god or gods, humanism maintains that such things have their origins in human imagination, cultural evolution, and human biology. There's not a lot of worship going on in this, unless he's also using an atypical definition for that word as well.
    But despite a few issues with terminology, I found this to be a well written, well organized, and thought provoking book. I highly recommend it.

    (P.S. the picture on page 287 of the edition I read is either upside down or the caption is incorrect. The map as shown is oriented with north at the bottom, so Europe is not in the upper left corner as the caption states.)
  • (4/5)
    For the last couple of years, I haven't eaten beef or pork. Part of this was dietary but the larger portion was due to my distaste with the way these animals are dealt with in the food industry. After reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind I have decided to stop eating all meats for good. I'd be quite surprised if others reading this book didn't feel the same way. (This will make sense later.) This book covers exactly what the title says. Yuval Noah Harari touches on almost every aspect of what it means to be human. I can see why this book could be contentious in some circles as he is of the belief that consumerism, imperialism, and communism are religions instead of merely ideologies. He has a no holds barred attitude about the way in which humans have ravaged the planet and taken advantage of others of our species as well as flora and fauna. (Remember the no eating chicken thing?) What was most intriguing about Sapiens were the questions that he raised about the nature of happiness. There have been many books about how to be happy but no research into how happiness is measured and its trends throughout the years. (Maybe he has an upcoming novel in the works.) If you're interested in culture, human evolution, and a unique perspective of the world then you're likely to enjoy this book. I will say that a lot of this was common knowledge and/or already known to me as an Anthropology major. The second half of the book is where it got really interesting. I love a good thought experiment and trying to figure out answers to seemingly unsolvable problems is my idea of a good time. :-) I'd give this book a solid 8/10.
  • (5/5)
    An amazing history book that is well written and easy to read. It's not a dry recitation of facts, but really a study of why things happened and which aspects of life have an important impact on history. A must read!