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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

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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? Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

512 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Yuval Noah Harari

63 books33k followers
Professor Harari was born in Haifa, Israel, to Lebanese parents in 1976. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002, and is now a lecturer at the Department of History, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He specialized in World History, medieval history and military history. His current research focuses on macro-historical questions: What is the relation 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?

Prof. Harari also teaches a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) titled A Brief History of Humankind.

Prof. Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality, in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History’s Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history.

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Profile Image for Maciek.
567 reviews3,408 followers
June 1, 2022
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book bound to appear on a large number of coffee tables and favorite lists, and be picked up even by those who normally would not find the time for reading. It will certainly not be the next A Brief History of Time, which is often named as the world's top unfinished popular bestseller.

Both A Brief History of Time and Sapiens share a similar, worthy goal - to explain complex issues in a way which can actually be understood and comprehended by most people. Just as A Brief History... aimed at explaining cosmology to a lay audience, Sapiens aims to provide a readable and concise historical summary of the progress of human evolution - all in under 500 pages.

Is this possible? Of course not - histories of individual countries often take up several volumes, and histories of entire civilizations and ultimately an entire specie would take up hundreds if not thousands of volumes. Because Harari's book is limited to just a single volume (and a relatively short one at that), he has to severely limit his scope to what he considers to be the biggest life-changing developments of our species, which essentially reduces it to a collection of trivia about these events.

But that's not the true flaw of the book. Sapiens begins strong enough with a very interesting presentation of early human history and development of early human species, which culminated in the rise and eventual dominance of our own - the Homo Sapiens. However, the rest of the book consists largely of author's own musings and thoughts about the human condition and character - while some of these thoughts I find interesting and agreeable (such as our collective belief in the value of money), one thesis he that he put forward struck me as truly bizarre.

Basically, Harari considers the agricultural revolution to be "history's biggest fraud", which instead of improvement left humans who settled down to farm worse off and more miserable than their nomadic, foraging ancestors. To prove his point, Harari waxes poetics about hunter-gatherers and their daily existence: they lived in egalitarian communes where property and love was freely shared, and were much more adept at survival in the wilderness than their descendants who plowed the fields. Hunter-gatherers had to have a much larger knowledge of their surroundings, and possessed vastly superior mental reflexes and physical dexterity which put future generations to shame. Although we have since gained vast knowledge as a collective, Harari argues that on the individual level ancient foragers were "the most knowledgeable and skillful people in history".

For Harari, our foraging ancestors were not only mental and physical supermen, but also enjoyed a much more comfortable and rewarding lifestyle than all the subsequent peasants, workers and office clerks. They worked fewer hours and since they had no homes, they also had no household chores; this allowed for plenty of free time to play with one another, tell stories and just hang out. Since foraging necessitated exploration, it also provided plenty of adventure: what better thing to do than explore new places to look for cool plants and other edible things? Because they were always on the move and therefore not dependent on a single source of food, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a superior, multi-nutrient diet and were less likely to suffer from hunger and starvation than subsequent agricultural societies, which often depended on a single crop, and not only were receiving much less nutrients but also suffered heavily from famines when their food source failed. Farming? Bah! Humbug.

True, there were some drawbacks, Harari reluctantly agrees. Although some lucky souls made it longer, life expectancy averaged only 30 to 40 years. Children dropped dead like flies, and sometimes wild tigers came out of the bushes and ate you and your whole family and tribe. Not to mention that sometimes you and your band wandered and wandered, and the food simply wasn't there. Or even worse - the food was there, but so was another tribe which was not exactly keen on sharing their already limited supply. What about this? "It would be a mistake to idealize the lives of these ancients", says the author, though I do not really understand why, since this is exactly what he appeared to be doing, "though they lived better lives than most people in agricultural and industrial societies, their world could still be harsh and unforgiving." Ain't that the truth. Sometimes, life is just hard. Rocks fall, everyone dies.

But agricultural revolution? It sucked, Harari argues. First, he has unnamed (and presumably fictitious) scholars proclaim the development of agriculture as "a great leap forward for humanity", which "produced ever more intelligent people(...)able to decipher nature’s secrets". But this is not true - "there is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time", he says, as "foragers knew the secrets of nature long before the Agricultural Revolution, since their survival depended on an intimate knowledge of the animals they hunted and the plants they gathered". As I mentioned above, Harari states that agricultural revolution made things worse for farmers - it robbed them from excitement of hunting and gathering by forcing them to settle down next to their fields and perform menial farm work, which strained our joints and spine. Although farming provided a surplus of food it did not provide the farmer with a better diet, robbing us of the diversity of meals experienced by a hunter-gatherer. Farming also failed to provide us with economic security - crops can always fail and lead to hunger, whereas hunter-gatherers can always move on and hunt for other types of food (unless, of course, they do not find any and starve to death). Farmers also had to stay and defend their land if attacked by a hostile group, whereas foragers could always escape to another area, look for food there, and survive (they could, of course, end up not being able to escape -who can fight or run on an empty stomach? - or...not find any food, and starve to death).

So, what exactly has agriculture ever done for us? Since it has taken so much not only from our fathers but also from from our fathers' fathers, what has it ever given us in return? The aqueduct? Sanitation? Wine? And why have humans not returned to hunting and gathering but stubbornly toiled their fields and broke their miserable backs, while they could be climbing trees and camping in the wilderness? The answer is simple: more food allowed women to have children more often, and even though they still died fairly often this time births outpaced deaths several times. Village population increased, and soon entire generations of people no longer remembered the good old days of running in the forests and looking for berries. "The trap", Harari writes, "was shut".

He goes on to say: "Since our affluence and security are built on foundations laid by the Agricultural Revolution, we assume that the Agricultural Revolution was a wonderful improvement".Yet, we are wrong in thinking this, because "it is wrong to judge thousands of years of history from the perspective of today" (though apparently not when it comes to foraging, which was a blast by all accounts - that is, the author's). Harari neglects to mention the exact reason why the agricultural revolution took place - farming first arose in places where hunting and gathering was no longer possible, and in the long run prevailed as the better option. Hunter-gatherers simply did not choose to one day walk out of the woods and start domesticating animals and plants; they were forced to do that because the environment they were living no longer allowed for foraging to remain a viable option. The Younger Dryas interval in ancient Levant is often linked to the adoption of agriculture in the region, as an example of the first deliberate cultivation of plants. People understood that seeds developed into plants at the time when they desperately needed to increase their food supply in order to survive, and linked one with the other.

It is interesting that Harari does not only romanticize hunting and gathering, but actually looks at the agricultural revolution and its impact from a perspective of a hunter and gatherer - that is, focusing on the thing that mattered most to our foraging ancient ancestors: food. Hunter-gatherers spend their lives pursuing food; as Harari admits, because of their nomadic lifestyle they had very few possessions, as they were constantly moving around in search for food to sustain them. Food was their driving force; their lives centered around food, as they never had a steady supply of it and always had to hunt and look for more if they were to survive.

In contrast, agricultural revolution provided humans with a steady and regular supply of food, and or the first time in our history allowed humans to take our minds off food and constant travel. The impact of this is monumental and cannot be stressed enough. Basically, without agricultural revolution, our knowledge would be stagnant - as we would simply not have the luxury of time to develop it. Food surplus and settling down allowed humans to think more and develop new ideas and technologies, allowing for more efficient farming - which in turn allowed for more time to think and develop even more ideas and technologies. In contrast to general knowledge of our forager ancestors, surplus of food and settler lifestyle allowed for skill specialization, which in turn allowed us to do things beyond their wildest dreams, and become technologically advanced. Basically, I would argue that societies comprised of hunter-gatherers cannot advance and live up to the full human potential - it is impossible to have a truly technologically advanced nomadic society, while it is possible to have a technologically advanced settler society which is able to send some of its members into the world as hunter-gatherers. To put it very simply: hunter-gatherers live in the wilderness, living day to day on what they find or hunt down, while agriculturists discover penicillin, split the atom and fly into space.

Although the author later brings up valid concerns about our treatment of animals and abuse of collective power, his rant against agriculture is truly bizarre considering that without it he would not be able to write this very book. It's as if he disregarded the very Sapiens which he aimed to describe, and which has defied his thesis by abandoning hunting and gathering to settle down and farm. Still, there are good parts and certain valuable and interesting insights in this book - it's just a shame that it's tainted with such a weird and contrived chapter.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,081 followers
October 30, 2022
“The best-selling author is a gifted storyteller and popular speaker. But he sacrifices science for sensationalism, and his work is riddled with errors.” —Current Affairs


This book is a superficial gloss on human history. Nice try but it excludes too much subject matter in favor of an overarching conceptual view to be deeply interesting. Stopped reading for reasons detailed below at p. 304 of 416.

Considering the outlandishness of some of its claims—the downside of the Agricultural Revolution, the joys of Empire—the book seems weirdly under-sourced. The bibliography is beyond meagre. Don't get me wrong, I like a little informed speculation as much as anyone. Take for example the claim that houses, their advent, "became the psychological hallmark of a much more self-centered creature." (p. 99) I, for one, would be delighted to know how one can discern the psychology of someone who lived more than 9,000 years ago. The apparently relevant note cited is "2 Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative". But when one looks up Mr. Marks' book one sees that it pertains only to the 15th to the 21st centuries CE.

Another thing, the book seems all biological determinism—and we know what that sort of thinking led to: the Konzentrationslager. The life of the mind is nothing here, the intellect nothing, all because it has no discernible basis in biology—so reductive and materialist, too. I'm hoping this is just a rhetorical device. Please, let it be. Moreover, the author cherishes a certain sneering and glib tone which I find annoying. Well, yes, now he's changing his tune, isn't he? But not before thoroughly pissing me off. Was that necessary? Ah, now he's starting to celebrate the very social constructs—the law, the state, joint stock corporations, etc.—that he so glibly belittled as "imaginary myths" a few pages back. So his earlier arguments were disingenuous. That's not something I prize in a writer.

Notwithstanding the questionable attempt to raise the reader's hackles, just mentioned, I find myself on p. 170 and 95% of this is material I already know. Granted, the author tries to package it as felicitously as possible, but it's still stuff I know and, no doubt, material my well read GR friends will also know. What I had hoped for on cracking this formidable spine was something far more intellectually challenging, like Naipaul. Still, I find myself nursing a hope that this is just an overly long introduction to a thrilling thesis. At the same time I fear it will turn out to be another tedious read for a far less learned general reader than myself. Am I overqualified for this book? Trepidation abounds. 2.0 stars so far, inauspicious.

Meh. It's really an undergraduate survey course, if that. It's a great review of common knowledge that seeks to find new linkages and epiphanies. It sometimes works. But often the linkages are specious. As when he terms liberal humanism a religion. It isn't, though it's a neat shorthand for his minimalist theories. Now I'm reading about how religions are unifiers. The author certainly has a flair for the obvious, I'll say that much. Here's an example of author Harari's reductiveness, which is inevitable in a book skirting so many vast subjects. On p. 232 we read: "The Aryan race therefore had the potential to turn man into superman." Nietzsche is nowhere mentioned. The statement is wholly lacking in context—the Nazis are glossed but that's all. It really doesn't make coherent sense. Gloss, that's the word that best describes this book. A gloss.

The writer is careless with metaphors. We're told that cultures are "mental parasites," that "history disregards the happiness of individuals" and that "history made its most momentous choice." (p. 243-244). To say such things is to give agency to the non-sentient and adds to the narrative's by now utterly grating superficiality. Here's yet another bizarro statement:
Had the Aztecs and Incas shown a bit more interest in the world surrounding them – and had they known what the Spaniards had done to their neighbors – they might have resisted the Spanish conquest more keenly and successfully. (p.292)

Nonsense. The Spaniards had guns, germs and steel. Reread Jared Diamond and William H. Prescott, Mr. Harari. Foreknowledge would have availed the indigenous peoples little or nothing. The author goes on to admit as much in the paragraphs to follow, but why then wasn't that earlier sentence cut? But it gets better:

If the subject peoples of the Inca Empire had known the fates of the inhabitants of Mexico, they would not have thrown in their lot with the invaders. But they did not now....[Thus] the native peoples of America...[paid] a heavy price for their parochial outlook.

It's astonishing the author should use that ecclesiastical word. For what was the ostensible motivation of the conquerors but the glory of Christendom. Harari is blaming the victims. The world view of the Aztecs and Incas and others was limited. Harari blames them because they had not yet advanced beyond that basic if incomplete awareness. He then goes on to excoriate all of Asia and Africa for not having had the wherewithal to explore the world and conquer others. But these are cultural predilections, not standardized goals applicable to all. This leads to an unseemly West is the Best argument that's right out of Niall Ferguson's Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order.

Is this book popular because it essentially functions as the West's cheering section? It's lovely we have developed science and technology and historiography etc. I'm glad I live in the West. But it's absurd to say that earlier cultures, because they did not develop in a timely manner our own particular brand of curiosity, were deficient. All cultures are blood soaked, our own included. The world is only what it is, not some counter-factual supposition.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
January 29, 2019
I see many people complaining about the wild leaps of logic and the lack of footnotes - but honestly, what did you expect in a 500 page book, not even with small print, that's supposed to give you a summary of all history from the emergence of Homo sapiens to the present day? Personally, I thought the basic idea was terrific: the author has taken it upon himself to defend the Book of Genesis and show you that it's all true. I have seen creationists attempt the same thing and fail miserably, with their pseudo-scientific explanations of why the Earth is actually six thousand years old, how the Flood explains geology, etc. None of this nonsense for clever Dr Harari. He doesn't bother arguing about the places where science has obviously got it right (the Big Bang, plate tectonics, evolution), but takes them as givens. He doesn't get into the tangled reasoning about where a Creator might come into the picture; here, there is none.

Instead, he cuts to the chase and gives you a story that's actually very interesting. About ten thousand years ago, people largely stopped being hunter-gatherers and started being farmers. This is usually presented by modern commentators as a Good Thing. But in Genesis, it isn't: we are expelled from the Garden of Eden and forced to eke out a miserable existence tilling the unforgiving soil, and now we have to live with the consequences. We have had the presumption to eat the fruit of the Tree so that we may become as gods, knowing good and evil. Harari ingeniously defends the idea that this, more or less literally, is what happened. We became farmers, then we started developing better technology, then we constructed cities, and finally, very recently, we invented science. We have made the most of our position as lords of creation, driving many species extinct and turning a few others into efficient machines for producing meat. But none of this has made us happier. In fact, as the Bible says, it's made us more and more miserable. We're evolutionarily adapted for being hunter-gatherers, not software engineers or stock traders. We are on the verge of learning how to conquer death and make ourselves immortal: but even then, we won't be as happy as we were back in the Garden. We'll more likely find new and even worse ways to cut ourselves off from our true heritage.

Harari takes the position that our great strength as a species, the thing that sets us apart from all other living beings, is our ability to make up stories about things that are only to be found in our imaginations, and then treat them as though they were real; by this process, they become real. As he points out, empires and religions and money don't actually exist, but now they rule our lives. He's particularly interesting on the subject of money. Again, I can see some readers who dislike what they call his cheerleading for modern Western society. I don't think Harari is a fan of the West, and the book is in my humble opinion not Eurocentric at all; for example, Harari seems to like Buddhism rather more than Christianity. He's just pointing out the indisputable fact that Western society has taken over the world, and he ascribes that, more than anything else, to the West's ability to make up a better story about money, which we call capitalism. If this is where you're coming from, talking about the power of myth to transform human existence, you don't go overboard with the footnotes. There are no footnotes in the Bible. You do your best to tell a great story, and you hope that it will transform our existence.

I think Harari's done pretty well here in terms of achieving those goals. Kudos.

[I also have a frivolous review of the book here.]
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
December 9, 2018
Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?

What a fantastic book. I can see why everyone from Bill Gates to Barack Obama was raving about it. It's an extremely compelling, accessible history - almost like a novelization - of humankind.

I've read a few of these "brief history of the world" books, most notably A History of the World in 100 Objects and Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. I liked both, but neither is as engaging as this book. Also, Harari's book stays vague on the physics, dinosaurs and such, unlike Bryson's work, making this not so much about the whole universe, but specifically about humans. Or, I should clarify, homo sapiens.

Most of all, I like how easy to digest the author makes all this information. I have a lot of respect for authors who can present something complex in simple terms. I've always liked the quote attributed to Einstein “If You Can’t Explain it to a Six Year Old, You Don’t Understand it Yourself”. Anyone with a thesaurus can make something seem more dense and complicated than it is; it's much harder to explain something long and complicated in a way that everyone can enjoy.

And it does read like a really exciting and fascinating novel. Harari takes us through the history of human development and migration, through the Cognitive Revolution and Agricultural Revolution. He looks at how currency and coinage developed, the creation of religions, the arrival of imperialism and capitalism, and the history of inequalities and injustices.

I especially like how he presents a relatively unbiased view of events. He focuses on what we know, and is quick to say when something remains a mystery to biologists and anthropologists. When there are conflicting theories, he outlines all the main ones. The only agenda Hariri seems driven by is a desire to present the most accurate view of humanity's history.

This book filled me with a sense of wonder. Wonder at how far we've come in just a few millennia; wonder at all the twisting roads of history; wonder at where we could possibly end up. The final chapters of the book take a peek at the future's possibility, making me even more excited (and a little scared) to read Homo Deus.

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Profile Image for Adina .
889 reviews3,525 followers
September 26, 2017
It is again unpopular opinion time! It seems it becomes a rule for me not to enjoy a book that everyone seems to love. Well, someone has to. Here we go with the review. Prepare your tomatoes and raw eggs (someone actually threw a raw egg at me once for fun but it bounced from my bum )

Sapiens’ beginning was fantastic. I loved the author’s voice and the information about the early days of the human kind was fascinating. I did not read any non-fiction about the origin of humans so I was excited to understand our origins better. I could not stop highlighting interesting passages to include in my review or to read later. Here are some of the ones that picked my interest.

“It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”

“Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals.”

However, everything started to go downhill from somewhere in the middle of Part II. From an eager and excited reader I slowly became pissed off, disappointed and struggled to finish. I had several problems that plagued my reading experience and I plan to exemplify them below.

First of all, I soon grew tired of the author’s ironic and condescending humor. His ego was transpiring from all his words and his personal opinions and the way he tried to enforce them annoyed me more and more.

Secondly, I felt like many of his assumptions and extrapolations had no proof and they only represent the author’s personal opinion. For example, the way he supported for the whole book that humans were better of as hunter-gathers without bringing no real arguments to support his opinion.

Finally, I had a problem with the scope of Sapiens. As the titles suggests, the book tries to be A Brief History of Humankind. I believe he did not succeed very well to do that and the reason is that it is quite impossible to do what the author planned in less than 500 pages. The task is too vast. The result is mix of everything with no structure, jumping from one subject to another and confusing the reader. The information was too vague, too general, it all resembled a set of interesting trivia.

When reading other negative reviews of Sapiens I stumbled repeatedly on a recommendation: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. The book was already on my TBR so it is going to be the next read on the subject. I hope it will be better.
Profile Image for Marc Gerstein.
535 reviews152 followers
May 30, 2015
Had I stopped reading after the first section, I’d have given this a five stars and whined that the Goodreads platform doesn’t aloe reviewers to go higher. But I didn’t stop. I kept reading, . . . until it got so bad, I found myself unable to do more than skim, and eventually, to just skipping large chunks.

It starts out as a fascinating discussion of the development and rise of our species, homo sapiens. But starting in the second section on the Agricultural Revolution, Harari shift gears and drops any pretense of an scholarly work. From that point on, it’s all personal bias all the time. This guy absolutely hates human beings and society. It seems that he is completely stuck in the idea that the world would have been better off had humanity simply stayed put in the hunter-gatherer stage.It seems all the countless billions of humans who lived since then are deluded and don't get it, and that only he understands. Yeah, right!

OK. There are worse sins than personal bias. Many great writers have it and let it show. But unlike Harari, the good ones work to try to justify the positions they take. Harari, on the other hand just bombards readers with one opinion after another and treats them as proven fact, even though what he says is often debatable or out and out wrong. That’s one of the reasons I gave up on a close reading as I progressed into the second half. Even when it seemed as if Harari was selling me something I didn’t know (which did not occur often), I simply did not trust him. An author can choose to forego many things. Credibility and trust are not among them.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this mess is through a conversation I once had among people who liked to discuss philosophy. Somehow or other, though, this conversation veered off into a set of irritating rants on how western society sucks. The thing that sticks out most in my memory is how the host went off on a diatribe about the greatness of nature and Native Americans and about how he was fine being a non-vegetarian because the cows understood human need for meat and were happy to offer themselves as a precious spiritual gift to humanity. My reply: “That conclusion is based on interviews with how many cows?” The conversation abruptly ended. That is exactly the way I reacted to the self-serving gibberish offered by Harari under the guise of scholarly presentation.
Profile Image for Moran.
210 reviews33 followers
September 19, 2013
I believe I am relatively familiar with history in general, and I'm usually not very excited about reading more about it. But this book was something else.
Beautifully written and easy to read, this book just made me want to know more and more about how the author thinks the world evolved to what it is today. Revolution by revolution, religion by religion, conception by conception, things were simplified and yet still maintained valid points - and it was never boring.

The best thing about it was that it actually made me think.
The author doesn't treat you as ignorant at all - he doesn't assume you know nothing but assume you know a lot and understand a lot, and doesn't lecture about anything, and that attitude makes the book a pleasure to read.

Just read it.
Profile Image for Liad Magen.
20 reviews144 followers
July 21, 2015
This book had changed my life, the way I think, the way I precept the world.
I think it should be an obligatory book for everyone on this planet.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
February 27, 2020
History and Sociology for Dummies, this book is almost irrecoverably watered down intellectually. [and for all those commenters that think I am calling them dummies, I am simply referring to the popular XXX For Dummies books and I am not intentionally insulting folks that enjoyed the book.] Sapiens does make some interesting points and probably opens a few debates, but it disappointed me. There are lots of soundbites here, especially the oft-quoted one about the agricultural revolution being "history's greatest ripoff", but they remain soundbites because they never really reach a conclusion.

The book starts out alright was the hunter-gatherer civilizations are discussed in some detail and without focusing exclusively on North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Harari's chapters here did make for decent reading about the concept the author calls the cognitive revolution which separates us from other animals. Unfortunately, the next section about the agricultural revolution is a bit too polemical. Yes, it was a radical change and yes it did lead to new problems (disease, famine, etc), but without it, the human species would likely have never evolved to the point of me typing this text on my laptop and you reading it in a browser. There are not parallel paths proposed, just a vague condemnation of agriculture before he takes on the subject of religions. Here, he talks of the evolution of monotheism from the polytheistic systems that abounded before. I felt he did not discuss in sufficient death the animist systems (which still dominate Africa, South America, and the Arctic among others.) He seems to favor Buddhism (the pages there have a much more tolerant and fawning tone than those of the other religions) which seemed a little intellectually dishonest to me - I mean if he is trying to develop a dispassionate argument about how religions develop, he should not take a particular position without announcing it first. Anyway, after this, the book covers the industrial revolution and brings us up to modern times.

Honestly, I felt that the end of the book really soured the whole product for me. Well, I was already annoyed with all the cute phrases and the prolific use of "!" at the end of 20% of the sentences (OK, I am exaggerating but seriously, a "history" book shouldn't use the exclamation point says the snob reviewer). But when the author sets up an argument about where we should be headed as a human race, he then goes off on bizarre tangents about cyber technology and refers to an obscure Project Gilgamesh (which unless I missed something major earlier in the book, he never mentioned before). I felt that the last chapter just came out of nowhere and made absolutely no sense. Perhaps, as other reviews here on GR have suspected, no one actually reads this book, preferring to leave it unsullied on their coffee table as a prop to their showoff intellectualism. In any case, it didn't do it for me.
Unfortunately, my in-laws who bought me Sapiens also bought me the sequel so I suppose I will be guilted into reading it at some point. In conclusion, I prefer reading REAL history books with caffeine rather than this decaffeinated, saccharin substitute for them. I would highly suggest the more factual and far less polemical Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies which deals with a similar topic, but without the excessive punctuation (!).

I am not alone in my disdain for this over-publicized waste of trees. A friend passed me this article: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/public... in which the author concludes:
"But Sapiens provides us with no resources for answering questions about the moral implications of scientific and technological change. A commitment to a reductionist, mechanistic view of Homo sapiens may give us some insight into some of the aspects of our past most tied to our material nature. But Harari’s view of culture and of ethical norms as fundamentally fictional makes impossible any coherent moral framework for thinking about and shaping our future. And it asks us to pretend that we are not what we know ourselves to be — thinking and feeling subjects, moral agents with free will, and social beings whose culture builds upon the facts of the physical world but is not limited to them."
This book is waaaaay overrated.

As an aside, I wanted to briefly talk compare The Overstory and The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World with this book. In the Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the author bemoans the wanton destruction caused by the agricultural revolution, but to my mind proposes no alternative and just leaves the reader with empty, vacuous soundbites. In the former two books, we are given a vast insight into how trees communicate and how they are intimately related to human beings. Yes, our ignorance of their speech (as alien to us as would be expected because our life spans and perception of time is on the same magnitude as that of flies to humans) has caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem. And there is an obvious domino effect: global warming and climate change. But, in the two books about trees, even if a militant outlook is shown to be a dead-end, it is demonstrated that being custodians of nature, we can help forests come back and preserve our biodiversity. It is not all of humankind that is to blame, as Harari would have us believe, but rather, rapacious grift driving large corporations which reap a direct, short-term financial benefit from wholesale environmental destruction. If the law was enforced rather than trampled upon, the jobs could be converted to conservation-related jobs and the forests could be preserved. I found that this positive message was stronger than any of the superficial aphorisms in Harari's book.
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
288 reviews558 followers
June 14, 2021
"what looks inevitable in hindsight was far from obvious at the time."

"Presumably, everyone reading this book is a Homo sapiens - the species sapiens (wise) of the genus Homo (man)."

We 'sapiens' have diverse tastes when it comes to everything, so same goes for reading, and there are oh-so many options: many sub-genre's of fiction and non-fiction. We usually pick the one we enjoy the most - and that's fiction most of the time - and stick with it for good. But every now and then, there is that book - which isn't fiction - but it feels better than fiction. And then among those select few, there is that book, once read, one cannot help but recommend to others regardless of their favorite genre. Sapiens is one of those exceptional books. This book, I belive, is an excellent read, irrespective of what your usual favorite genre is.

"As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled."

This is kind of a history book, but it isn't the typical history book, intended to a niche of readers. The way the author narrates is quite fascinating, and unlike in the typcial non-fiction book, gives the reader the craving to finish it in one go. And the way everything's organized is well thought out the the flow is perfect. Once started, though the book is somewhat long, you will not feel tempted to skip over any parts of it.

"You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven."

We start off with a brief introduction to how everything in the universe came to be around 13.5 billion years ago, and quickly navigate to around 70,000 years from present, where things escallate. Then comes the Cognitive Revolution, then through agricultural revolution to modern era.

"historical record makes Homo sapiens look like an ecological serial killer."
"We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."

The way how the social structures and various religions evolved was described in a very unique way. Typcially, we'd expect the author to explain along a particular school of thought, and explain reasons for accepting it to be the most reasonable way to look at things. But here, things are quite different. We are provided with different, and often contradicting, views on certain major historical aspect, while allowing us form our own opinions, which is kind of fun. And the subtle humor you encounter everywhere complements the flow nicely.

" A wealthy man in ancien Egypy would never have dreamed of solving a relationship crisis by taking his wife on holiday to Babylon. Instead, he might have built for her the sumptuous tomb she had always wanted."

But I guess this book is not for the history experts, for they might find things to be too simple. A connosiur of history might find the contents boring. However, for all others, this book has the ability to shift the way you look at the world quite profoundly.

" 'Cooperation' sounds very altruistic, but is not always voluntary and seldom egalitarian."

You can't afford to miss reading this book. You shouldn't miss reading this book. You must read this book. This just became one of my all time favorites. DO GIVE THIS ONE A CHANCE...

"A person who does not crave cannot suffer."
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
June 28, 2020
Choose Your Fictions Carefully

There are far too many fascinating assertions in this book to even mention. But for me the most fascinating is Harari’s idea of the Cognitive Revolution which took place about 70,000 years ago. "We might call it the Tree of Knowledge mutation. Why did it occur in Sapiens DNA rather than in that of Neanderthals? It was a matter of pure chance, as far as we can tell. But it’s more important to understand the consequences of the Tree of Knowledge mutation than its causes."

It is this mysterious, and as yet unexplained, change in human genetics that he pinpoints as the primary reason for the ultimate success of the species Homo Sapiens in competition not just with established flora and fauna but with other human forms. Interestingly, Harari’s argument also establishes the anthropological foundations for literary post-modernism.

To over-simplify, but not by much, the Cognitive Revolution of Sapiens is precisely the ability to tell, and eventually read and write, stories, that is, fictional narratives which are interesting, entertaining, and above all convincing. This ability, an evolutionary enigma because it does not give obviously immediate advantage, underlies human ability to organize beyond very small units, to cooperate in matters of survival, and to prevail against competing species which are stronger, quicker, better adapted to the environment, able to speak in a more varied manner, and even more clever.

These narratives, according to the narrative told by Harari, begin in gossip, talk among ourselves about ourselves, which is a behaviour that is now as far as anyone knows unique to Homo Sapiens, and may even have even been unique among others of the genus Homo. Gossip leads to shared tales about common experiences, ancestors, and problems. These tales evolve into myths which are widely shared and identify large groups as ‘us’. "There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings."

Such tales incrementally employ an increasing lexicon of fictional, that is to say abstract, ideas. It is these ideas which allow the ultimate success of Sapiens, not necessarily because of their pragmatic qualities, but because, whatever they are, they are shared:
“Myths, it transpired, are stronger than anyone could have imagined. When the Agricultural Revolution opened opportunities for the creation of crowded cities and mighty empires, people invented stories about great gods, motherlands and joint stock companies to provide the needed social links. While human evolution was crawling at its usual snail’s pace, the human imagination was building astounding networks of mass cooperation, unlike any other ever seen on earth.”

As modern existential and linguistic philosophers have thought for some time, these ideas - scientific, religious, technological, social, legal - are fundamental fictions that become progressively indistinguishable from the ‘natural’ world which is apart from the imagined world of language. As Harari states what is a reiteration of this philosophical conclusion:
“Three main factors prevent people from realising that the order organising their lives exists only in their imagination:... a. The imagined order is embedded in the material world... b. The imagined order shapes our desires... c. The imagined order is inter-subjective.”

It is this invisibility of these linguistic fictions which constitute daily life that is both the greatest strength and greatest flaw of our species. We are able to organise ourselves, because of them, to travel to the Moon. We are also able to believe a half dozen untruths before breakfast. The internet is perhaps the best example of the paradox of our fraught existence since it promotes both cooperation and mass deceit.

For me the implications are clear: 1) literature is the only hope for the world. Fiction - novels, fairy tales, fantasies, and lots of 'em - are the only means to get a grip on reality. Reading lots of fiction developes the aesthetic sense. And it is only through aesthetics that one can decide what is important and how to deal with what is important. 2) It is also clear to me that novels cultivated our species genetically over millennia for this very reason - to get us better at reading them.

Postscript: For a rather plausible opposing view to Harari’s, see: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Petra on hiatus, really unwell.
2,457 reviews34.4k followers
February 10, 2017
The book was too much a basic primer for me, at least to start with, but that's probably because I've read too many books on our origins biologically and culturally. Once the author had us settled into the civilization of cities he waxed romantically (as authors on this subject quite often do) on the life of the hunter gatherer and its perfection. (I've just finished Sebastian Junger's Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging and there was more of that.) If it was all so perfect then more of us would return to that ancient life style where people had more leisure, freedom and happiness according to Harari and Junger, neither of whom have given up their miserable materialistic lives for stalking around with a spear.

The book got better. There were some good explanations of why we are as we are and how things developed, Such as human conversation evolving (see below) so we could gossip about our fellow tribes people. I didn't always agree with the author. But I always enjoy books like that to some extent because it gives me a different point of view, different reasons and things to think about. So this was good.

But then it dragged at the end as the author got preachy and scifi technological about our bionic futures. At some time not in the unimaginable future, robots will think for themselves and be able to feel, and then they will supercede us... Yes well Asimov covered all that more than half a century ago. It's not going to happen we are too complex to duplicate. And anyway I can't see robots gossiping and if they don't do that what have they got to talk about that will make them 'human'? If the desire to gossip gave us speech, then the inability to gossip puts us right back into the pre-sapiens world. Robots are retrogression. Bionic bodies though, that might be progress.

Written on reading the book. According to the author, basic vocal communication was solved by the primates. And although animals aren't supposed to have theory of mind, green monkeys have been heard calling 'beware there's a lion' when there's no such thing, they just don't want to risk losing or having to share food they've just found.

Human conversation apparently evolved so we could gossip. As a social animal, we need to know whose screwing who, who ripped off who, and who lives in a really disgusting midden. Maybe the author's right. He also says that we are not a tolerant species. He got that right for true.
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,263 reviews2,437 followers
November 28, 2022
This book is simply outstanding, and I can indubitably say that this is the best non-fiction book I read this year.

- This book discusses the whole of Human History. These are some interesting excerpts from it - “Not all people get the same chance to cultivate and refine their abilities, whether or not they have such an opportunity will usually depend on their place within their societies remained hierarchy.

- Harry Potter is a good example. Removed from his distinguished family and brought up by ignorant muggles he arrives at Hogwarts without any experience in magic, and it takes him seven books to gain a firm command of his powers and knowledge of his unique abilities.

- Even if people belonging to different classes develop exactly the same abilities, they are unlikely to enjoy equal success because they will have to play the game by different rules.

- If in British ruled India an untouchable, a Brahmin, a Catholic Irish man and a Protestant English man had somehow developed exactly the same Business acumen they still would not have had the same chance of becoming rich because the economic game was rigged by legal restrictions and unofficial glass ceilings.”

- It is sad to say that even though the world has progressed to a large extent in terms of latitudes for the weaker sections of the society based on race and cast, there is still a long way for us to go to say that each and every individual is treated equally and provided with equal opportunities like everyone else.

- If you are a person who is more into fiction and plans to read just one non-fiction book this year, this should be the one you should pick.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 3, 2019
”Despite the astonishing things that humans are capable of doing, we remain unsure of our goals and we seem to be as discontented as ever. We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steamships to space shuttles – but nobody knows where we’re going. We are more powerful than ever before, but have very little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep us company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.”

 photo Cave of the Hands_zps5jypqowt.jpg
Cave of the Hands. Cueva de las manos in Argentina. The art in this cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago. I find this photograph to be very emotional to think about because this band of Humans are saying...we were here.

The pursuit of happiness is one of the many big themes that Yuval Noah Harari covers in this remarkable book about the history of Homo Sapiens. He brings us from the beginning of our known history to the present and offers his interpretations and evaluations of our conduct along the way. There are many points in the book where he crystallized my thinking about a subject, and there are several other points where he encouraged me to think about what I know in different ways. Since taking myself out of the rat race, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder exactly what I was trying to accomplish for the 30+ years I pursued money and career advancement. Now, I want to make sure with what time I have left to spend it pursuing something much more meaningful and satisfying than the pursuit of more and more money.

This book will make you uncomfortable. You may disagree with some of his conclusions, but do not use that as an excuse to not read the book. He will also enlighten you on other points that very well may help shape your personal philosophy. I have been thinking about reading the book for some time, but what convinced me was all the one star reviews for the book on Amazon. It was quickly apparent to me that most of those reviews were written by religious people who never read the book but were told they should be offended by it because of his opinions on religion. He doesn’t just believe that Christianity is a fabricated construct, but also thinks that nationalism and a whole host of other -isms are as well.

”How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism?”

Or how about this one?

”It may well be that we’d all be better off if Christianity and Islam had been forgotten or defeated.”

Why did Constantine the Great pick Christianity as the religion of the empire? We really don’t know. It was far from a dominant religion at the time. Harari compares it to a POTUS waking up one morning and deciding that the Hare Krishnas are the national religion. It is hard to fathom that it was a moment of altruism. He was an intelligent man and must have felt that Christianity offered the best way to better control his people and unite them under one concept, instead of the host of gods that polytheism offered.

I come away from this book realizing how deeply brainwashed I’ve been about a whole host of issues, and I have been remiss in not questioning more of the foundations of thought or intent behind most of my long held beliefs.

The big revelatory moment for me was when he talked about individualism.

”The state and the market approached people with an offer that could not be refused. ‘Become individuals,’ they said. ‘Marry whomever you desire, without asking permission from your parents. Take up whatever job suits you, even if community elders frown. Live wherever you wish, even if you cannot make it every week to the family dinner. You are no longer dependent on your family or your community. We, the state and the market, will take care of you instead. We will provide food, shelter, education, health, welfare and employment. We will provide pensions, insurance and protection.’ Romantic literature often presents the individual as somebody caught in a struggle against the state and the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state and the market are the mother and father of the individual, and the individual can survive only thanks to them.”

How often do we hear the term “stand on your own two feet?” Or “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?” Looking for help from others in current culture is seen as a sign of weakness. Standing as individuals has made us weaker, not stronger. We are accused of a form of co-dependency if we are too attached to our extended family or our friends. I’d never really thought about how being individualistic was actually helping the powers-that-be to exert more control us. We are experiencing a great divide in politics, and many of my friends have already decided they won’t be going home for the holidays. We used to be able to set disagreements aside and focus on what we do agree on, like...baseball or reading books or the weather, but now politics has become such a defining part of our lives that we feel like those who disagree with us are actually immoral.

Have all these technological advances made us happier? To a degree yes, but also very unhappy in other aspects. The demands on our attention are more immediate and all consuming. Even when we relax, we are not really relaxed. Faster and more efficient doesn’t necessarily equate to making anyone, but the people making the enormous amounts of money at the top, any happier.

”Nothing in the comfortable lives of the urban middle class can approach the wild excitement and sheer joy experienced by a forager band on a successful mammoth hunt. Every new invention just puts another mile between us and the Garden of Eden.”

I made 62 highlights reading this book, which is an all-time record for me. I could have had even more! Harari gave me so much to ponder and consider that I’ve already decided that in a few years I’m going to reread the book. I borrowed the book from the library, but I already know I will need to own this one because a book like this needs to be readily available to help me better explain my own thoughts. I could have written a review as long as the book itself because there are so many assertions in this book that cause the mind to expand and make new connections across a myriad of subject matters. It is the most important book I’ve read in a long time. I hope it will be for many of you as well.

We are gods on this planet, and we need to change our view of how we see ourselves in the context of the planet and the future.

”Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,118 reviews44.8k followers
November 14, 2020
This is a hugely ambitious book; it takes a very broad approach, condensing huge topics into short chapters in an attempt to provide a basis for the development of our entire species. The parts I found most interesting were regarding ecology and man’s interaction with the ecosystem.

Human history is that of ecological disaster. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we fuck up the ecosystem and leave our mark of destruction. This is not a new phenomenon, it’s something Sapiens have always done. When we developed our massive brain, we came up with new and creative ways to dominate and control our environments and these were often destructive and to the detriment of all other forms of life. We learnt to survive. We learnt to thrive. But the price was paid with the extinction of many other species.

Harari writes that man is so far removed from his natural self. Despite the modern world he lives in, he still has his innate biological drives and instincts (as governed by our genetic makeup) and when these aren’t fulfilled (which they never could be in a metropolis) man becomes depressed and isolated. It’s because we jumped to the top of the food chain and the ecological system was not given time to adjust and neither was man’s biology. These things normally take a millennium, not a few centuries. We still have the same bodies (and instincts) of our ancient kin and it does not meet the environment we live in.

This occurred because of three major revolutions in human history. The first was the cognitive revolution which allowed for the creation of language, effectively setting us above all other forms of life in terms of intelligence. The second was the agricultural revolution, which allowed us to harvest the earth and control it to meet our dietary needs. The third was the scientific revolution, which allowed us to take the first steps in understanding life and the universe and use the discoveries to benefit humankind and industry. Harari narrates all these monumental events with much detail, though because of the nature of the book he does fall into generalisations, but I didn't mind too much. There were also quite a few funny comments to offset it:

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”

And through this he also raises many questions. What would have happened if the other species of human had survived? Would we be at harmony? What religions, science and art could the other species of human’s developed had they the opportunity to flourish like we did? These are such interesting questions, and ripe material for a science fiction novel exploring such ideas. I’m sure someone has written one about it somewhere.

So this was a great read, full of interesting facts and ideas, with the potential to change how you view the human race and its history.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
811 reviews3,468 followers
August 25, 2023
العاقل:تاريخ مختصر للجنس البشري ..الكتاب الذي ترجم لأكثر من ٤٥ لغة منذ صدوره عام ٢٠١١ وبيع منه أكثر من مليون نسخة و هو من تأليف المؤرخ الإسرائيلي و الأستاذ الجامعي يوفال هراري..
يُقال عن الكتاب إنه سيغير نظرتك إلي العالم وينصح بيل غيتس بقراءته لكل من هو مهتم بمعرفة تاريخ جنسنا البشري ومستقبله...

الكتاب بيبدأ بالثورة الذهنية وبيتكلم كيف إستطاع الإنسان العاقل التخلص من كل الكائنات البشرية الأخري مثل الناتيدرال وغيرهم وكيف كان السبب في إنقراض الكثير من الحيوانات والكاتب وصف الإنسان علي إنه قاتل بيئي متمرس..
بياخدنا الكتاب بعد كدة للثورة الزراعية واختراع الكتابة وكيف تم توحيد البشرية من خلال المال والامبراطوريات والأديان ثم إلي الثورة العلمية وتطور الصناعة و أخيراً في أخر فصل بيتكلم عن ما هي طبيعة السعادة ومستقبل النوع البشري..

الكتاب يعتبر كتاب علمي وفلسفي شوية والصراحة يعني أنا بكره الكتب دي..بتزهقني جداً في قرايتها ومع ذلك مقتنعة إني لازم من وقت للتاني أقرأ كتب من هذه النوعية..

الجزء الأول في الكتاب كان من أمتع الأجزاء بالنسبة لي خصوصا وجهة نظره عن الثورة الزراعية وإنها كانت أكبر خديعة في التاريخ و أستدل علي ذلك بالعديد من المبررات اللي أقنعتني وجداً كمان..

لم تعجبني وجهة نظره في الأديان ولم أقتنع برأيه إن الديانات المتعددة الألهة فيها مميزات عن الديانات التوحيدية!! دة غير إنه مقتنع إن الديانات التوحيدية فيها بشكل أو بأخر تعدد الهة ودة في رأيي كلام فارغ ملوش أي أساس من الصحة..
تشبيهه للشيوعية بالديانة كلام غير منطقي ..و أيضاً كون 'معالي الباشا' إسرائيلي فهو تطرق لحروب مثل العراق وايران وحرب الخليج و مجابش سيرة المجازر والإنتهاكات اليومية التي تقوم بها بلده!!

الكتاب فيه تكرار شوية ولكن طبعاً هو فيه معلومات علمية كثيرة ..مكتوبة بطريقة ممتعة في بعض الأجزاء وبطريقة مملة في معظم الأجزاء..ترجمة الكتاب كانت ممتازة في رأيي و لكني أشعر إن الكتاب ده أخد حجم أكبر من حجمه بكتير وميستهالش كل هذه الضجة!

وأخيراً نتفق أو نختلف مع الكاتب ولكن تظل التساؤلات التي طرحها في نهاية الكتاب مهمة جداً إننا نفكر فيها..
بعد كل هذه الإختراعات والأشياء المدهشة التي يستطيع البشر أن يفعلوها هل إحنا فعلاً سعداء؟هل إحنا فعلاً راضيين؟ وأهم سؤال فيهم بقي هل إحنا فعلاً عارفين إحنا عاوزين إيه؟
عموماً أنا عن نفسي عارفة..مش عاوزة أقرأ كتب علمية تاني السنة دي..خلصت كدة:)

"السعادة تبدأ من الداخل ومفتاح السعادة هو أن تفهم من أنت أو ما أنت..."
26 reviews6 followers
February 28, 2015
The only parts of this book that really grabbed my attention were the chapters on early humankind, and especially the interaction between Homo Sapiens and other Homo species. The rest of it is a very pedestrian and basic journey through some aspects of human history, with the author making a lot of sweeping assertions and tending towards a rather vague and disembodied explanation of things like culture, money, etc. These sort of general explanations might be good for someone new to the study of history, but the reader should beware that they don't get taken in too much by the author's often simplistic and one-sided explanation of these concepts. The unifying theme of it being "a history of humankind", focusing on Homo Sapiens as a species, often disappears and it becomes a general plod through whatever aspects of history the author is interested in. More on Homo Sapiens' relations with other species and with nature might have been good.
Profile Image for Petrik.
687 reviews45.9k followers
July 1, 2019
Chris Evans highly recommended this book. When Captain America says so, you listen.

It’s been almost three years since I joined Goodreads and this is literally the second non-fiction book I finished reading. The last time I read a non-fiction book was in December 2016, it was an autobiography titled In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park. Anyone who knows my reading taste should know that I don’t read non-fiction, not only I found the majority of them to be boring, the main reason behind why I read is escapism and the best genre to offer me the best escapism experience lies in SFF. I don’t even know how to rate and review this book because it always made me feels awkward to give a rating to a non-fiction work, especially if it’s an autobiography, which luckily this book is not. Please remember that my rating—as always—speaks mostly for my reading enjoyment, not the technicality of the book.

“Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.”

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is exactly what the title claimed to be. Harari did a spectacular job in compressing important moments—which are HUGE—of our history into this book. I’ve heard so many incredible things about it but never gotten around to it because I thought I would be bored with it, this book, however, proves to be incredibly enlightening and engaging than I thought it would be. There are way too many topics of discussion to unpack in a single review for me, Harari elaborated on how humanity became the most powerful race, the insane power in collective belief, money, war, advancements of technology, religions, and many more important topics.

“Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.”

A huge part of why I found this book to be not as factual as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, Harari provided tons of facts and well-researched notes, but the author’s belief and opinion definitely bleeds into the text. This isn’t particularly a problem for me; I found it highly intriguing to read his perspective on humanity and our history. In general, I like to understand why people act or think the way they do about something and Harari explained his reasonings. Obviously, there were some of his opinions that I agree with, some that I don’t. However, I never found the book to be preachy, his combination of knowledge, facts, and opinion made me think about our society these days. Plus, I doubt that this book would’ve been compelling for me to read if it were all pure facts and data.

“How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.”

I’m sure there are thousands of reviewers more knowledgeable than me that can tell you why this book is incredible. I’ll close this review by saying that if you feel intimidated by this book, I can assure you that Harari’s prose was utterly easy to digest. Sure there were a few topics—like capitalism—that bored me but most of the time I had a fantastic and enlightening time reading this book. Heck, I personally think this book should be available as a must-read book for everyone at school when they’re learning about history. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind made education and information a joy to read. The last pages of the book showed glimpses of Harari’s thoughts about the future of humanity, which I assume is what his book, Homo Deus, will be about and I look forward to reading it, hopefully within this year.

“Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
January 29, 2019

- Pssst! Eve!

- Who's there?

- A friend.

- What kind of friend? Come on out, don't be shy.

- I'm not Shai-

- You are.

- I'm not. Who told you that?

- I just figured it out myself. Oh, there you are. What are you doing curled round that branch?

- Waiting for a chance to talk to you, Eve. So tell me, where are you going today?

- I'm gathering. See, Adam and me are hunter-gatherers and we take turns. Today he's hunting and I'm gathering. He's going to catch a rabbit, and I'm going to find mushrooms and wild garlic for the delicious rabbit and mushroom casserole we're making for dinner.

- It sound exhausting.

- It takes about three hours a day. And it's fun. I love it.

- I see you already have your mushrooms. So where are you going to gather your garlic?

- There's a good place just past that hill.

- You know that?

- I know every inch of the Garden of Eden like it was the back of my hand.

- But tell me, what will you do if you get there and a bear has eaten it? I understand that bears love wild garlic.

- They do! They're so naughty. But they're so big and strong and cuddly too, you have to take the whole package. I'll go look somewhere else, I know another good spot.

- What if those naughty bears have eaten the garlic there too?

- Well, I don't know.

- Wouldn't Adam be mad if you got home without any garlic for your favourite dinner?

- Of course not. He's crazy about me. I'd just kiss him and he'd forget the whole thing a minute later.

- But suppose he was really looking forward to dinner, and he was too hungry to want sex right there and then?

- Adam's never that hungry.

- But suppose.

- Look, I have no idea. What am I supposed to do about it?

- Well, you could start a vegetable patch.

- What's that?

- You take some wild garlic, and all the other things you're especially fond of, and you start growing them in one place.

- That won't work. The bears would find out about it and they'd come by one night and eat the lot.

- No problem. You make a strong fence around the vegetable patch so they can't get in.

- A fence?

- You take big logs and drive them into the earth, very close together.

- Big enough to keep out bears?

- You're starting to get the picture.

- And all this trouble just so that I can be sure of having garlic when I need it?

- Oh, it's not just garlic! You can grow all sorts of things in your vegetable patch. Wheat for example.

- Wheat?

- It's a kind of grass. You take the seeds and grind them up and mix them with water and herbs and bake them over a fire. Then you eat it with honey.

- I like the honey part, but the rest of it sounds disgusting. Why would anyone want to do that?

- Look, it's more efficient. You could grow all your food in your vegetable patch, and then you wouldn't have to spend so much time walking around gathering.

- I told you it was just three hours a--

- You'd be able to start a larger family. You know how much attention kids need. Wouldn't little Cain and Abel like to have a few baby brothers and sisters?

- Well now you mention it, Adam and I have talked about that. But I hate this wheat idea. Burned ground-up seed paste. Yuk.

- In fact, bread is quite tasty.

- I'm sure it's not good for you just eating seed paste. The Lord Jehovah always tells us to maintain a balanced diet with plenty of fresh greens. Trust me, He knows everything about food and nutrition.

- If you tried it, you might find it's better than you think.

- And look, if we started this vegetable patch, then we'd need to look after it all the time. We couldn't move around. It's fun being a nomad.

- But it wouldn't be so much fun if you had a larger family, would it?

- Okay, you have a point there.

- See, this vegetable patch is just the start. You think ahead a bit. When Cain and Abel are grown up, they'll start families of their own and move off to the next valley to hunt and gather there. You'll never see your grandchildren. Won't that be sad?

- Well, it's true--

- You start growing wheat, and there'll be enough for you, and Adam, and Cain and Abel, and all their families too. And you'll be able to play with the grandchildren every day.

- But look, if there's, like, fifty of us living in the same place for ages then it'll get filthy. We tried staying put once. Didn't work. After a year, we went back to being nomads.

- What's more important, a bit of dirt or seeing your grandchildren?

- Uh--

- Just think about it unselfishly, Eve.

- Okay, okay, I guess the grandchildren. I guess. But look--

- Yes?

- If we start doing this, then after a while there'll be too many of us for the vegetable patch.

- So, some of you will go off and start a new vegetable patch.

- But then we'll never see them. We'll be back where we started.

- You need to invent some technology, Eve.

- What's technology?

- You know, things like axes and bow-drills and stuff. But a bit more complicated. You'll be amazed.

- I'm not sure it sounds like a good idea. Bow-drills are plenty complicated for me.

- Eve, just try it! Don't be so prejudiced. You admitted you were wrong about the vegetable patch.

- My head is spinning. Why don't you come back and have dinner with us? See, I found the garlic while we were chatting. I'm sure Adam would love to talk to you. I promise, our rabbit casserole is killer.

- What's for dessert?

- Dessert?

- Eve, there are so many things you need to learn! Here, let me tell you how to make an apple pie...

[I also have a serious review of the book here.]
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
November 28, 2021
קיצור תולדות האנושות = Ḳitsur Toldot ha-Enoshut = Sapiens : A Brief Bistory of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book by Yuval Noah Harari first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011, and in English in 2014.

The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century, focusing on Homo sapiens. The account is situated within a framework provided by the natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology.

Harari's work situates its account of human history within a framework provided by the natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology: he sees biology as setting the limits of possibility for human activity, and sees culture as shaping what happens within those bounds.

The academic discipline of history is the account of cultural change. Harari surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century, focusing on Homo sapiens.

He divides the history of Sapiens into four major parts:
The Cognitive Revolution (c. 70,000 BCE, when Sapiens evolved imagination).
The Agricultural Revolution (c. 10,000 BCE, the development of agriculture).
The unification of humankind (the gradual consolidation of human political organisations towards one global empire).
The Scientific Revolution (c. 1500 CE, the emergence of objective science).

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه جولای سال2019میلادی

عنوان: انسان خردمند: تاریخ مختصر بشر؛ نویسنده: یووال نوح حراری (هاراری)؛ مترجم: نیک گرگین؛ تهران، فرهنگ نشر نو؛ چاپ اول تا ششم سال1396؛ در621ص؛ شابک9786008547037؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، فرهنگ نشر نو: آسیم؛ چاپ هفتم و دوازدهم سال1397؛ عنوان دیگر تاریخ مختصر بشر؛ موضوع تمدن و انسان و تاریخ؛ تکنولوزی و تمدن، از نویسندگان اسرائیل - سده21م

برگردان پارسایی این کتاب را پسر کوچم برایم خریده است؛

صد هزار سال پیش، دست‌کم شش گونۀ انسانی بر روی زمین زندگی می‌کردند؛ امروز تنها یکی بر جای مانده است

ما، انسان‌های خردمند؛ چطور گونۀ ما در نبرد برای سلطه بر دیگران پیروز شد؟

چرا نیاکانِ شکارگر – خوراکجوی ما اقدام به ساختن شهرها و برپایی پادشاهی‌ها کردند؟

چگونه به خدایان و ملت‌ها و حقوق بشر ایمان آوردیم، به پول و کتاب‌ها و قوانین اعتماد کردیم، و خود را برده ی بوروکراسی و مصرف‌ گرایی، و حرص و آز برای خوشبختی ساختیم؟

دنیای ما در هزاره ی آینده چه شکلی به خود خواهد گرفت؟

انسان خردمند به‌ گونه‌ ای جسورانه، همه‌ جانبه و بحث‌ برانگیز هر آنچه را تا کنون گمان می‌کردیم در مورد انسان می‌دانیم: افکارمان، رفتارمان، اعمال‌مان، اقتدارمان…؛ و آینده‌ مان را، به چالش می‌کشد؛ از همگی‌مان با هر ایمان و باوری می‌خواهند که روایتهای زیربنایی جهان را زیر پرسش ببریم، پیشرفت‌های گذشته را با دلمشغولی‌های کنونی مرتبط کنیم، و از نتایج جدل‌ برانگیز آن نهراسیم؛ دکتر «یووال نوح حراری» از دانشگاه «آکسفورد» دکترای تاریخ دارند، و در دانشگاه «بیت‌ المقدس»، تاریخ جهان تدریس می‌کنند؛ موضوع اصلی این پژوهش ایشان پرسشهای صریحی است، همچون

رابطۀ تاریخ و زیست‌ شناسی چیست؟
آیا عدالتی در تاریخ یافت می‌شود؟
آیا در مسیر تاریخ مردمان سعادتمندتر شده‌ اند؟
شصت و پنج هزار تن، در دورۀ اینترنتی تدریس تاریخ مختصر بشر ایشان، ثبت‌ نام کرده‌ اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 25/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 06/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 23 books25.9k followers
September 25, 2021
إنَّ وصف المؤلف بأنه « مؤرخ استثنائي » وبأن الكتاب هو « أفضل كتاب ستقرأه في حياتك » هو من قبيل المبالغة الهوليوودية، ومن أسباب نكد العيش، لأنه ينمّ انعدام الحساسية في التلقي أمام كثير من الأفكار الاختزالية والمسطّحة، إن لم نقل الخاطئة، التي جاء الكتاب ملغومًا بها حتى لامَس أحيانًا تخوم الادعاء، منذ بيل غيتس وحتى باراك أوباما.

مثال صغير؛ الزَّعم بأن الدين الإسلامي دين لا يدعو للتعلّم بحجة أن النبي لقّب بـ « خاتم الأنبياء »، وعليه فكل ما لم تورده النصوص الإسلامية غير ضروري، ضاربًا بعرض الحائط - أو جاهلًا وهو الأسوأ - مقولته الشهيرة؛ « أنتم أعلم بأمور دنياكم » ومآلاتها في متوالية من الفتوحات العلمية التي جرت طوال القرون الست للحضارة الإسلامية.

الحقيقة أن الفصول التي أفردها هاراري عن الدور الذي لعبه الدين في تاريخ الإنسان يشبه وجبة بائتة ورديئة بالمقارنة مع ما يمكن أن تقرأه مع فراس السواح وخزعل الماجدي مثلًا. كما أنه همَّش إلى حد بعيد الدور الذي لعبه علم النفس وعلم الدماغ في عملية تطور المجتمعات وتحضرها.

التحفظ الآخر كان القول بأن كل ما هو موجود وقابل للحدوث فهو طبيعي، وعليه تحييد دور الثقافة في المفاضلة بين فكرة وأخرى، بين قيمة وأخرى، إلى درجة الوصول إلى حالة من النسبية المطلقة التي لا تقل كسلًا عن الثنائية المريحة. إن استخدام الطبيعة كمرجع وحيد لتقييم مواقفنا يعني القبول حتى بفكرة القتل لأنه طبيعي وممكن. ونعم، الثقافات هي ابنة الإنسان، ومع ذلك ما زال بالإمكان المفاضلة بين ثقافة وأخرى، لكنَّ ربما يفضل بعضنا ألا يفعل ذلك، فالأمر هكذا أسهل.

لقد ناقض المؤلف حتى تعريفه الخاص للدين بالقول بأنه يدعي أنه آت من مصدر فوق بشري، عندما وصم الشيوعية بأنها دين وأن إلهه هو ماركس. لقد منح نفسه حق المبالغة في التأويل أحيانًا، وشعرت كثيرًا بأن ثمة قسر وإصرار على تفسير الأمور بطريقة تبسيطية واحدة.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,442 followers
April 28, 2023
Mi-a plăcut mai puțin decît Homo Deus. Sapiens: Scurtă istorie... e considerată una dintre cele mai influente cărți din secolul XXI, e în Top ten. Nu mi-am explicat prea bine de ce. Poate pentru că recomandă (și pe drept cuvînt) o dietă vegetariană. Și eu sînt un semi-vegetarian.

Am citit nu de mult o recenzie care a reținut doar acest aspect al cărții, că e bine să mîncăm numai pătrunjel, mărar, coacăze. Prin urmare, Sapiens... e și un manifest ecologist. În treacăt fie spus, capitolul despre creșterea animalelor pentru hrană e sfîșietor.

Prima parte a cărții prezintă ipoteze imposibil de verificat. La ce visa oare vînătorul-culegător, în ce divinități credea? Nu vom ști niciodată. A doua parte e plină de profeții sumbre. Cît de etic e să-l transformi pe Sapiens într-un robot extrem de isteț? Cît de etic e să-l modifici într-o ființă nemuritoare?

Pentru Yuval Noah Harari, istoria e un drum de la bine la rău, de la vîrsta de aur, a lui Saturn, la vîrsta de fier. Acum trăim în cea mai neagră dintre epoci. Îi dau dreptate. Omul e pe cale să-și piardă mințile. Cînd era vînător-culegător, omul știa mult mai puține lucruri (sfera cunoașterii era mult mai restrînsă), dar mai bine, mai complet. Acum știe infinit mai multe, dar nu mai poate stăpîni întregul: „Știe din toate cîte nimic”. Nimeni nu-l poate stăpîni. Omul e un ucenic-vrăjitor ebrietat.

Să nu uit. Inteligența nu depinde deloc de mulțimea cunoștințelor acumulate. Aristotel știa mult mai puține lucruri decît orice individ școlit de azi, dar gîndea mult mai riguros decît noi. De la Platon încoace, inteligența noastră nu a progresat nici cu un milimetru. Din acest motiv cuvios, a citi (a înțelege) dialogul Parmenide e o ispravă tot mai rară. Pricepem foarte puțin, o pojghiță, și întotdeauna greșit. Am devenit mult mai ușor de înșelat. Ne autoamăgim. Trăim din iluziile învățate de la bunici și profesori. Ne hrănim mintea cu prejudecăți.

Revoluția cognitivă (acum 50 de mii de ani) a fost cum a fost, deși nu știm ce a provocat-o: un hazard, să zicem. Omul a început să picteze, să scrie poeme, să se gîndească la viața de apoi. A inventat o ființă divină, summum ens. În schimb, revoluția agricolă (acum 12 mii de ani) - afirmă Yuval Noah Harari - a reprezentat un dezastru, o nenorocire. Omul a crezut că rezolvă o problemă (aceea a hranei) și a deschis în realitate „cutia Pandorei”. A întemeiat așezări mizere, populate de copii flămînzi, așezări bîntuite de maladii necruțătoare, ciumă, holeră, viruși etc.

Într-un cuvînt, Sapiens e pe ducă, a ajuns la crepuscul. Nu mai ține minte aproape nimic, fiindcă își depozitează știința în cărți și nu-și mai exersează memoria. Nu mai poate recita un vers măcar. Grecii știau Odiseea pe de rost. Nu e fericit. Harari crede că numai vînătorul-culegător era fericit. Capacitatea craniană i-a scăzut, creierul i se ramolește. Vînătorii-culegători aveau un craniu mai mare, chiar dacă nu la fel de mare ca al neanderthalienilor, iar creierul adăpostit înăuntru chiar le folosea la ceva, nu-l țineau degeaba. De prin anii 70 ai secolului trecut, IQ-ul lui Sapiens e într-o prăbușire vertiginoasă. Putem observa asta cu ochiul liber, nu-i nevoie de teste psihologice complicate, care oricum nu spun mare lucru.

Ce va fi? Să treacă epidemia și dacă nu vom muri, vom vedea...
Profile Image for Tanja Berg.
1,904 reviews437 followers
May 28, 2017
Rating 5* out of 5. This is one of those rare books which is superbly written, intelligent and mind-altering. I am convinced by this author's arguments and my view of the human condition has changed permanently.

I thought this would be a book that would delve lavishly in later human evolution, but it is does not. It discusses it briefly and moves on, concentrating its effort on the times of agricultural revolution and forward. It is a masterpiece of anthropology.

"Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. One the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As times went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as United States and Google."

"Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persits, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. [...] Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability of companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights."

I have never considered the extent of the imagined reality we all live in before. I have never equated my belief in human rights with the belief in Vishnu, or considered that a corporation too is all in our collective heads.

The author moves on through history and gives plenty of new perspectives on events.

"Most people today successfully live up to the capitalist-consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on the condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions - and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How, though, do we know that we'll get paradise in return? We've seen it on television."

These are just a few tidbits of insight and perspective. I absolutely loved this book! Highly recommended to anyone curious about the human condition.
Profile Image for Nicole.
509 reviews14.3k followers
February 14, 2022
Początek bardzo mnie wciągnął, ale im dalej tym mniej konkretnie. Niemniej jest to świetna książka!
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
November 21, 2018
"Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?"

Now, that is a mean cliffhanger on page 466!

I am so done with Sapiens, I am willing to enter the realm of posthuman Homo Deus out of spite for my species. During the time it took me to read the "short" history of humankind, written in funny sarcastic prose, painting with broad brush strokes what made us develop into this bizarre population of 7 billion people, I have rated this brick of a book five stars, one star, no star, all the fault in our stars. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, though. I am as surprised as I can be that my fingers eventually ended up choosing four of them to head my review. It must mean that my serotonin levels are particularly high today.

Let's be honest. There are difficulties in this book. And there's no surprise there, as it is written by a homo sapiens, a species notoriously wellknown for making false assumptions and creating individual and collective fictions to survive, adapt and conquer the world. The author, who specialises in world history according to the oxymoronic blurb (what is his GENERAL field then, I would like to ask?), sells his narrative as a factual account a bit too often for me to enjoy it fully. I felt myself tending towards one star while reading the superficial analysis of empires, for example. I kept asking myself what the preferred audience for this book is, as it is clearly too difficult to read for people who are not interested in history, and too shallow for those who are. I was building up a real emotional rage (my serotonin levels were bad between pages 200-350!).


This books keeps people in my environment talking, discussing, reflecting. And that is a good thing, I believe. As long as homo sapiens tries to acquire more sapientia, the world becomes more serene according to my worldview, aka imagination. I like Harari's premise, that the ability to create collective fictions and use them as guidelines for our shared communities defines us as a species.

And part of my irritation derived from the fact that he is excellent at demonstrating the human narrative skill in his book. I felt his story took over, and interferred with mine. I have a different idea of the Agricultural Revolution. So I can get into a rage when reading his? I am confirming his premise by doing so.

My annoyance with his easygoing, dismissive style is at the same time what kept me reading - he is like the laughing philosopher who despairs of the world and decides that all is a joke, while I most of the time take the position of the crying philosopher who wants to change humankind for the better. Harari does for homo sapiens what Hitchens did for gods. He puts them in their place.

This book has its place in the meaningless, yet amusing narrative of a bunch of mammals whose best and worst skill is storytelling.

Be warned, but read it!
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
816 reviews2,581 followers
March 17, 2016
This is an excellent book about the history of humans, covering all aspects; evolution, anthropology, geography, psychology, religion, ideologies, and the future of humans. Physically, the book is beautiful; the glossy paper makes it heavy as well. What really makes the book interesting is the unique points of view that the author, Yuval Harari, brings to life.

For example, early in the book, Harari mentions that chimps and sapiens (humans) can only organize in groups of up to 150, without organizing into a hierarchical structure. So, how did cities grow to their enormous size? Through fiction. Yes, that's right, through fiction, through beliefs in common myths. These are myths about ideologies. These imaginary fictions include human rights, nations, and currency; they work because many people cooperatively believe in them.

Some civilizations are built quite differently from our own. For example, the Bari Indians believe that genes do not come from a single pair of parents, but that they are contributed by multiple fathers. Monogamous relationships do not exist among their tribes. Harari discusses a number of controversial theories about nuclear families and monogamous relationships. One theory states that infidelities and divorce of modern times stem from forcing people to live in unnatural, permanent relationships. Another theory holds that monogamy and nuclear families are core human behaviors.

Harari describes the disappearance of many animal species in certain habitats that are coincidental in time with the arrival of humans. For example, Australia lost 23 of 24 large animal species at about the same time that humans migrated there. Many other islands were also rich in large mammals until humans arrived.

Harari discusses the agricultural revolution in some detail. He addresses the question why agriculture became important in the Middle East, Central America, and China, but did not become popular in Australia, Alaska, or South Africa. He explains that most plants and animals cannot be domesticated, and that regions where there is a deficit in domesticatable plants and animals did not develop agriculture.

It is obvious that Harari laments the rise of agriculture. He claims that hunter gatherers, who roamed the lands and did not stick to one location like agriculturists, were more stimulated, less in danger of starvation and disease. Their diets were more varied. Agriculture increased the volume of food, but not better quality of food, and did not yield more leisure-time. Agriculture created population explosions and pampered elites. In fact, Harari claims that the agricultural revolution is "history's biggest fraud." The culprits of this fraud were wheat, rice, and potatoes, all plants that domesticated humans! Also, farming encouraged warfare, because it forced people to fight to protect territory. And agriculture, because it developed over millennia (not overnight), created consequences gradually. People could not anticipate the full consequences of their decisions. More wheat helped to lead to more children, and less food for each.

Harari compares the Code of Hammurabi with the American Declaration of Independence. Hammurabi's code implicitly acknowledges three classes; superiors, commoners, and slaves. The Declaration of Independence states that all men were created equally. But Harari disputes this; he states that men were not created at all, but instead they evolved differently.

From a sociological point of view, Harari asks why are most cities patriarchical. It is not because men are stronger. Physical prowess is inversely proportional to social power in most societies. He explores various theories, but none of them are very compelling.

Since the French Revolution, political history is a series of attempts to reconcile liberty--which involves individual freedom--and equality. In order to understand another culture, one should look at the "Catch 22's", that is, look where rules and standards contradict each other. These contradictions are part of culture. For example, in Medieval Europe, there was a clash between Christianity and chivalry. In modern Western civilization, there are clashes between equality and liberty.

I have just scratched the surface of this big book. I will leave you with one more unique point of view expressed in this book. Harari calls the present modern age the "Age of Ignorance." I won't explain this; it would be a spoiler. This book is a wonderful introduction to sociology, and I highly recommend it to all.
Profile Image for فرشاد.
150 reviews298 followers
March 9, 2019
مثل شطرنج‌بازی که در تلاش برای شکست (یا پیروزی بر) خودش ناکام می‌ماند، نویسنده‌ی این کتاب نیز سعی بر آن داشته است که نظریات متضاد و متناقض درباره‌ی تاریخ انسان را با نوعی بی‌طرفی و بدون جانب‌داری به مخاطب ارائه دهد. هرچند که در این راه، گاهی از مسیر بی‌طرفی خارج شده و در کسوت یک نطریه‌پرداز، دست به تحلیل وقایع می‌زند. از این که بگذریم، انسان خردمند، کتاب خوش‌خوانی است که بررسی روند تکامل انسان از آغاز تا عصر کنونی می‌پردازد. گاهی به تحلیل تاریخی می‌پردازد و گاهی به بیان وقایع و ذکر اطلاعات بسنده می‌کند. گاهی همراه با ایده‌ی پیشرفت و گاهی بر ضد آن سخن می‌گوید. در مجموع، اثری خواندنی، لذت‌بخش و روان است.
Profile Image for Simon Clark.
Author 1 book4,979 followers
October 25, 2016
Fantastic. Absolutely sublime. I don't think I've ever read a book with such grand scope, or a book that promises to cover so much and actually delivers. Dealing with the biggest questions about our species - Why are we here? Why are we the way we are? What does our happiness mean? - Harari writes precisely and with shrewd use of metaphor, providing answers that seem intuitively right but leading us to think further than we have before. The links between giant forces that control our world such as capitalism, science, and empire are made brilliantly and made me see the world through fresh eyes.

Dizzyingly good. Everyone should read this.
Profile Image for Mohamed Shady.
626 reviews6,672 followers
April 6, 2019
من المدهش أن تعلم أن مؤلف هذا الكتاب لم يتجاوز عامه الثالث والأربعين.
كتاب لم يتوقف لحظة عن إبهاري. لا أذكر على وجه التحديد آخر كتاب قرأته وأجبرني على الانقطاع عن النوم فقط لكي أكم��ه.
الحقيقة أن العنوان مضلل، هذا ليس تاريخ البشرية وإنما تاريخ كل شيء.
Profile Image for Tom LA.
604 reviews237 followers
August 15, 2022
In this book, professor Harari crammed EVERYTHING. Or, to be precise, a bit of everything with astounding randomness.

The book's initial chapters are its strongest feature. They also mislead you into thinking that the book is going in a certain direction (anthropology and evolution), while the direction that it actually takes is a completely different one. Too bad.

I found the brief portion about history in relation to happiness interesting, or at least original, because I had never heard that perspective before.

Like all sociological and philosophical writers, however, Harari wants to sound completely detached from his object of study but fails miserably, and like many others who write on such broad topics, he ends up serving up his personal views and opinions as if they were perfectly objective assessments.

Example: he is steeped in women's rights as if they were part of an "objectively" right "imagined order". Or in the portion about sexuality, where "open mindness" is presented as the non-refutable objectively best approach to sex.

In other words: every type of mental order is "imagined" (he really means "deluded") except for his own , which can be summed up in scientism and liberalism.

Among other "imagined realities that are not imagined because imagined by the author" , Harari keeps banging on the necessity for the global unification of humankind. I also love the concept, but so did John Lennon (not a great realist) and so does a 10 y.o. who knows nothing about history. "Imagine all the people sharing all the world" is not a sound foreign policy.

He says that the great unifiers of mankind are 1) money 2) empires 3) religion. In this order. And that they are all imagined.

Politheists are intrinsically open-minded, therefore cool guys, because they never wanted to convert anyone. In line with the relativist zeitgeist of our era, he keeps using the word "open minded" as an objectively positive quality for people.

Time to remind Harari of the great Chesterton quote: “Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out!”.

The last chapters present futuristic scenarios that SF readers have been very familiar with since the '50s - but for Harari, they are excitingly fresh and original.

He seems to be unaware of the non-originality of these scenarios, and shows his abyssal ignorance in the SF field in more than one occasion. For example, when he says "science fiction describes developments of our present society, only with more advanced technologies", which is probably less than 50% of SF literature. Also "Nobody foresaw the internet" (!) Wow. Just wow. That's an "F-" in Science Fiction class, professor Harari.

Religion. Throughout the book, Harari doesn't demonstrate a real understanding of religion, aside from the formal and technical aspects of it. For example, in line with western mainstream pop thinking, to him Buddhism is the most interesting of all religions, because "it's the one focusing the most on happiness". God, what a horribly superficial and conventional and stereotypical statement! He goes on to idealize Buddhism, which "gives profound serenity by stopping the pursuit of feelings". I don't need to add anything here for anyone who has a fair knowledge of Christianity or Judaism or Islam. Clearly, he doesn't.

I could go on for hours and highlight every instance where Harari presents totally subjective and arguable points as if they were not, but l won’t.

Instead, I will briefly point out the worst thing about this book : that is, how the author spent his time trying to destroy ideas and "imagined things", illusions, while making zero efforts to be constructive.

Here is the thing: among educated people, today, stripping sense and meaning out of anything is the easiest thing to do. Just ask ANY teenager. What is really difficult, on the other hand, is to BUILD. To believe. To develop. To create hope. All things that this book does not do for one second, ... although it could have done, and without breaking out of the endless boundaries that it gave itself (“to talk about everything”).

The very last sentence of the book perfectly sums up this pessimistic point of view: "Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods (human beings) who don't know what they want? ".

So to sum up, a weird, pessimistic, sometimes engaging, but fundamentally flawed and overhyped book.
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