Summary and book reviews of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens

A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari X
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sinéad Fitzgibbon

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About this Book

Book Summary

A groundbreaking narrative of humanity's creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be "human."

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.

1
An Animal of No Significance

ABOUT 1 3 . 5 BILLION YEARS AGO, MATTER, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.

About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into molecules. The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.

About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. The story of organisms is called biology. About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.

Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Of all the human developments described in Sapiens, which one do you think was the most significant in the course of our history?
  2. By what measures is homo sapiens the dominant species on planet earth?
  3. Which was the most surprising fact or assertion that you came across while reading the book? Did you disagree with any of Harari's arguments or interpretations?
  4. Do you think that the major world religions are comparable to 'shared mythologies' such as nations, corporations and currency? When does a mythology become a reality?
  5. Humankind has only been present for a minute fraction of planet earth's existence – do you think that our civilization will retain its current position in centuries to come?
  6. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind wouldn't be possible without the innovations and discoveries of our predecessors, it is also a book which proves that it is not beyond the abilities of one man to distill such a huge expanse of history into a single articulate and highly readable volume, even if such a process at times necessarily lends itself to sweeping generalization and a certain oversimplification of statement. Harahi's fierce, almost iconoclastic independence of mind is very much in evidence. He is not afraid to put forward his own interesting — if sometimes overly radical — theories about our past and our possible future. By debunking some deeply held evolutionary myths, he makes us question everything we thought we knew about the human story.   (Reviewed by Sinéad Fitzgibbon).

Full Review (781 words).

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Media Reviews

Financial Times (UK)
An absorbing, provocative history of civilization…packed with heretical thinking and surprising facts. This riveting, myth-busting book cannot be summarised…you will simply have to read it.

The Independent (UK)
Not only is Harari eloquent and humane, he is often wonderfully, mordantly funny.

The Guardian (UK)
Engaging and informative…. Extremely interesting.

The Sunday Times (UK)
The sort of book that sweeps the cobwebs out of your brain…. Harari…is an intellectual acrobat whose logical leaps will have you gasping with admiration.

The Observer (UK)
Harari's account of how we conquered the Earth astonishes with its scope and imagination…. One of those rare books that lives up to the publisher's blurb...brilliantly clear, witty and erudite.

Publishers Weekly
Writing with wit and verve, Harari…attempts to explain how Homo sapiens came to be the dominant species on Earth as well as the sole representative of the human genus… Provocative and entertaining.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This title is one of the exceptional works of nonfiction that is both highly intellectual and compulsively readable… a fascinating, hearty read.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An encyclopedic approach from a well-versed scholar who is concise but eloquent, both skeptical and opinionated, and open enough to entertain competing points of view.…The great debates of history aired out with satisfying vigor.

The Times (Ireland))
Harari can write…really, really write, with wit, clarity, elegance, and a wonderful eye for metaphor.

Author Blurb Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The World until Yesterday
Here is a simple reason why Sapiens has risen explosively to the ranks of an international best-seller. It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!

Author Blurb Dan Ariely, New York Times Bestselling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty
In Sapiens, Harari delves deep into our history as a species to help us understand who we are and what made us this way. An engrossing read.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Race To the Theory of Natural Selection

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harahi identifies three specific "revolutions" which were central to the development of the human species. The first was the Cognitive Revolution; taking place between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, it was responsible for the development and use of language. The second was the Agricultural Revolution which saw homo sapiens abandoning, approximately 12,000 years ago, traditional foraging in favor of farming and permanent settlements. Finally, there is the Scientific Revolution, a much more recent and ongoing phenomenon occurring within the last 500 years. The driving force behind this Scientific Revolution was what Harahi refers to as "the discovery of ignorance" - having realized and ...

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