My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the author:
Yuval Noah Harari (born 24 February 1976) is an Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the international bestsellers- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, and intelligence.
Publication Year: 2011
‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ tells the story of the evolution of Homo Sapiens by briefly discussing the important events that shaped the lives of humanity throughout the centuries. Reading non-fiction can sometimes be a little tricky but this book was very engaging right from the start. It is a mix of the history, biology, philosophy which was fun and very informative.
The author presents interesting facts that challenge the ones that we have been taught. For eg., I believed that the evolution of Homo Sapiens was linear but I learned that there were actually 6 different species of ‘humans’, out of which only one survived. I also loved the way the author presented his unbiased opinion regarding various events; he gives credit to Sapiens where it’s due but also calls them out for their actions.
“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”
The book analyses the three important revolutions that influenced humanity- the cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution, and the scientific revolution. It not only takes a look at how the lives of humans changed but also the impacts on the other species of animals, food chain, and ecosystem.
The Cognitive revolution discusses in detail about how Homo Sapiens, then living as hunters-gatherers distinguished themselves from other species of humans to group together and managed to survive. Most of the human behavior today can be explained by taking a look at the way our ancestors lived as our brain is adapted to that lifestyle which subconsciously still influences us.
The Agricultural revolution talks about the transition of the lifestyle of hunter-gatherer to that of a farmer and its ramifications. It caused the domestication of humans by plants and animals by humans. This led to the formation of large societies, social norms which defied the biological instincts. It also has an interesting discussion about religion, racism, sexism etc.
The Scientific revolution takes a look at all the factors that led humans on a pursuit of knowledge. It discusses the link between science and imperialism, the emergence of capitalism which led to the industrial revolution which the author calls the Second Agricultural Revolution and appearance of consumerism.
“A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.”
Apart from that, we learn a great deal about how history progressed; how the formation of empires, the creation of money and religion led to the unification of mankind. At last, the author has an interesting discussion on the psychology of happiness and how it compares to the happiness of the older generations.
All in all, reading this book felt like reading a really entertaining history textbook. It was really fascinating to take a look at the history and realize how far we’ve come and it only makes you wonder at the endless possibilities. I felt like the book dragged a bit towards the end but it was worth it.
I definitely recommend reading it.