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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by…

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)

by Yuval Noah Harari

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2,139923,058 (4.19)97
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4.5 ( )
  mihaiu | Oct 14, 2017 |
More interested in the question of what we are, than who we are. The answers are, at times, astonishing, possibly even life-changing. This book is occasionally flawed by a faintly condescending tone and flights of narrative fancy. But it's constantly provocative and entertaining. ( )
1 vote ColinCampbell | Sep 8, 2017 |

Two different people were kind enough to give me a copy of this for my birthday, and I can see why they might have thought it would appeal to me - it's an attempt to write a history of human consciousness, read through politics, economics and social structures. The author is a history professor and takes great glee in putting things together and trying to make a greater whole out of a lot of data.

I was not entirely convinced. The book has a strong start - looking at the fact that there were in fact six species of the genus homo, and asking how homo sapiens came out on top. It's a good question, but it doesn't get a very clear answer. Hariri then heads very much onto his own track by pointing out the damage done to us all by the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic period, in a way somewhat reminiscent of Douglas Adams' remark about coming down from the trees having been a mistake, and proceeds through unrecorded and recorded history, coming to no particular conclusion other than that it is all a bit of a mess. I did not detect a central organising principle or methodology, and not for the first time I felt that anthropology often has better insights to offer than the usual historical or political narrative.

Irish readers will be surprised to learn that no saint is more venerated in Ireland than St Brigid, and there are various other slips indicating wide but not very deep reading.

Still, it's interesting to see someone try to put all of human history between two covers, even if it isn;t a huge success. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Sep 4, 2017 |
Brilliant. Bold. Fascinating. To say that it's thought-provoking would be a major understatement. I simply wasn't prepared for many of Dr. Harari's arguments, theories and interpretations and the staggering amount of historical time that he covered so aptly! It's not just any history book. Controversial? Yes. But where the author has a point - he is very convincing; where there isn't enough historical information to make a point he honestly says so, all the while producing very plausible theories... Excellent chapter on Polytheism and Monotheism and a great take on Buddhist view of happiness - among so many other fascinating, even if at times "irreverent", insights... Interesting theories about "patriarchal genes" in our societies even up to this day. I also truly see Dr. Harari's reasoning about love-hate relationship between global empires and the societies that they absorbed. What's more, I find the author very objective in his search for answers. All in all, I agree with one of the readers: this book is "most enjoyable and most depressing" at the same time. But it's honest. If I were to choose one book to recommend to my two adult children, this would be the one. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Aug 25, 2017 |
A brief history of humankind
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yuval Noah Harariprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gower, NeilMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Purcell, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watzman, HaimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In loving memory of my father, Shlomo Harari
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About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time, and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang.
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.
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