Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Pages: 440

Genre: history

audiobook review

Synopsis

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

The Audiobook

You know the narrating of every history or discovery channel show ever? It’s that voice, at a very slow tempo. The moment I found the speed up feature (1.2 or 1.5) at the new app I was using, it became better. I switched from audiobook to reading a physical copy halfway through. The audiobook is good if you want to take your time, the physical copy if you want to just get through some of the parts you find less interesting.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

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This book is aimed at compressing human’s history into one 440 page book, kind of like a historical summary and overview, with focus on the human evolution. It’s certainly not impossible, history textbooks have done in for years, but it means you have to pick and choose. For example this book doesn’t include a lot of individual stories. Even things like Ancient Egyptian history has to be strewn in here and there as examples, instead of getting its own chunck of description and explanation. The focus on this book is on events and decisions that changed the ways of humanity. But even focusing on revolutions, he’s barely able to fit enough theory to explain them.

It might be a better book if it was told in a hip or relatable way, aimed at younger people or like an introduction. Because the story isn’t quite told in a textbook – here’s the facts – kind of way. The weird in between made me question certain conclusions the author drew and what seemed like opinions given as facts. And that’s my biggest problem with this book, the author’s own thoughts on human characteristics and such given as if they were facts. There should be a more obvious divide between what’s facts (much agreed upon theories) and what’s more debatable, or even his own, theories. I liked to listen to a lot of them and they gave me questions of my own.

It was definitely not as eye-opening as I’ve heard other people describe it as. I’d heard a lot of positive things about this book, mostly that it gave people a new perspective on history and realize new connections between events. It made me ponder and research a few subjects more, so I’m still glad to have read it.

Feelings I had reading this book: bored, confused at the author’s angle at some subjects, interested by the general threads going through like revolutions and by placing certain things (like monotheism and polytheisms) in the bigger picture (uniting people).

4 thoughts on “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

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