Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Paperback – 30 Apr 2015
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"I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species" (Bill Gates)
"Interesting and provocative… It gives you a sense of how briefly we’ve been on this Earth" (Barack Obama)
"Jaw dropping from the first word to the last… It may be the best book I’ve ever read" (Chris Evans)
"Tackles the biggest questions of history and the modern world… Written in unforgettably vivid language" (Jared Diamond)
"Startling... It changes the way you look at the world" (Simon Mayo)
"Sapiens is a starburst of a book, as enjoyable as it is stimulating" (Sunday Express)
"One of the best books I’ve read recently… Gives an excellent overview of how our species has developed" (Lily Cole)
"Sweeps the cobwebs out of your brain… Radiates power and clarity, making the world strange and new" (Sunday Times)
What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens? This bestselling history of our species challenges everything we know about being human.See all Product description
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There are many histories of humanity. And when they are well written they immediately come to notice and invariably adorn the coffee table - - and may even be widely read. I have in mind Jacob Bronowski’s ‘Ascent of Man’ which features notable breakthroughs by men in human progress, such as the invention of the arch – the significance of which is fascinating. Although I don’t recall mention of any female contributions, the way he links ‘building blocks’ together is genuinely insightful.
Harari similarly chronicles human progress in terms of significant events that provide a way of tracking our journey from insignificant foraging origins in distant prehistoric times, to the planetary impact today. A “cognitive revolution” 70,000 years ago which facilitated an ‘out of Africa’ journey has been well documented by archaeology, but was less of a revolution than Harari claims. Indeed, recent finds in the sands of Saudi Arabia (April 2018) show anatomically modern humans left Africa several millennia earlier, and the ‘developments’ were a lot more disparate than he seems to think. Either way, the details perhaps remains generally unknown to a wider audience. Bronowski says that science should never be hidden away, but it takes a book like Sapiens to draw attention to key developments in science and history. But how accurately?
Unfortunately, while this is the sort of book no mainstream reviewer who would ever attempt to write themselves, Harari’s aim to provide a readable path through many millennia of potentially confusing human history is as worthy as it is fraught with problems -- not the least of which is the selective treatment that seem at times to be caricatures, rather than definitive normative historicity. Perhaps it's inevitable that many will take issue with his scope and his approach. That said, each chapter has footnotes with 13 pages of supporting references.
So what was it that enabled just our species to survive and thrive, while other members of the genus Homo met their demise? Obviously our traditional preoccupation with dates and time-lines is far too impoverished. So for the answer to that question, a good read awaits. And don’t be tempted to skim it in order to move to the follow-up. You may not agree with his take on key issues but it's a worthy attempt that's generally readable.
Harari covers a lot of ground at a pace which is swift enough to keep the reader interested, but not so fast as to make you feel lost. The book loosely goes in chronological order from the emergence of homo sapiens to modern day, and weaves together the initial advantages homo sapiens had over various other species of human, through to the impacts that homo sapiens have had on the world as a result of our dominance over the planet. The author also does an excellent job of highlighting the impacts (positive and negative) that human development has had, whilst not becoming preachy towards the reader - allowing you to reach your own conclusions.
This read comes highly recommended, and I look forward to reading the follow up book once I get the opportunity.
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