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21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval…

21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2918)

by Yuval Noah Harari

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2922155,664 (4.17)8



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Yuval Nah Harari author of "Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind" has presented issues affecting the world and include such issues such as Nationalism, Immigration, Religion and Community among others. He definitely has a way of presenting challenging and complex issues with clarity and insight. The issues that are presented are much more descriptive than prescriptive. The concluding three chapters (Part V: Resilience) are the weakest as Meditation. Mindfulness is fine but can hardly address some of the future challenges he so clearly and capably describes. ( )
  Wisconco | Nov 17, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Good but not great. I went into the book with high expectations given the reviews of Sapiens which I have yet to land a copy of. The book focuses on coming technological changes and how they will likely impact daily life and political life. One of Harari's big points is that the pace of our technological progress has so outpaced our moral and political progress that disaster is almost inevitable. I kept getting reminded of Ian Malcolm's quote in Jurassic Park where he says the scientists were so busy trying to figure out if they could bring dinosaurs back to life that they never stopped to ask if they should.

Harari goes through technologies like biotech and big data and demonstrates how much progress is being made in doing jobs that we once thought could only be done by people. This begs the question of what those people will do when the jobs are no longer there? What happens when there are very few actual "jobs" left when machines and algorithms go more accurately perform the work than people. Harari talks about self driving cars but then expands into fields like medicine and law, making a compelling argument that those professions are at risk too. Meanwhile, our political structure is utterly unequipped to work through the consequences of such change.

Other parts of the book deal with issues like the survival of political systems and issues like religion, immigration and terrorism. They are well written and interesting. However, it is hard to read the book and escape a sense of impending doom for the species. Harari himself says that it was not his goal to leave everyone pessimistic but the only actual suggestion he proposes for the litany of problems is meditation. It felt like a very thin straw to grasp for in the face of so many issues.

Recommended but not life changing. ( )
  Oberon | Nov 15, 2018 |
This is a most intriguing book. To me, he starts where he kind of left off in "Homo Deus", with the discussion on the 'super-humans' of the future, and I could not help but think of "Brave New World" and "1984". Almost 250 pages later, he mentioned them. His postulates here are not that far removed from being a plausible reality, because of the growth of AI. There may well be the growth of a 'useless' class. What is frightening and he does not address this, is that they will be concentrated in countries like India. What are the implications on law & order

To my mind, he seems on much stronger ground, when he talks of the pernicious effects of the way religion is practised, the state of education etc. this is where the book comes alive.

It's definitely a book worth the reading. There is much to think about. ( )
  RajivC | Nov 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
So many friends read and recommended Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, that I finally purchased it (though I’ve been sidetracked by other books and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet). While none of my friends have told me that they’ve read Harari’s second book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, I’ve seen enough gushing reviews to realize that they’d probably like it just as much if they did. If Harari’s third book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, is representative of his prior two books, I can see why he’s so popular with so many.

Harari’s third book discusses five challenges Harari believes to be facing our world (and our species) today: the technological challenge, the political challenge, despair and hope, truth, and resilience. Harari presents three to five essays as to each of these challenges, discussing them from various angles. It’s obvious from these essays that Harari is both a clear-eyed thinker and a good writer. He has obviously thought quite a bit about the challenges he presents. And he writes about them in an erudite, yet friendly and casual, style that seems virtually designed to appeal to today’s reader, especially those who “read” books via audiobook. And that’s both good and bad.

It’s good because too few of us spend much, if any, time thinking about the challenges our species may face in the future because of our actions today. We’re too wrapped up in the stress of our daily lives, and in trying to decompress and recover from that stress, to give much thought to the challenges we may personally face in the future, much less the challenges that may face our whole species. We need more authors such as Harari, more people alerting us to problems we may be creating before it’s too late to change course, more people getting us to think before we act.

But it’s bad because Harari seems overly cautious in his warnings, seemingly going out of his way not to offend anyone in his audience. He’s so inoffensive, even as to the groups he singles out as wrongly pursuing the irrational “solutions” to problems that have plagued our species since the dawn of time, and even as to the groups that he seems to believe to be creating the greatest risk to the future of our species, that I doubt that almost anyone whose actions Harari objects to will recognize themselves in his warnings. A prime example of this problem is evidenced by Harari’s popularity, and the popularity of this specific book, among the Silicon Valley tech elites against whom Harari warns his readers even more than he warns them about tribal religions or nationalistic political movements. Thus, the people who are (in Harari’s view) thoughtlessly creating the biggest risks for our species are also the ones who are most applauding his book, without recognizing themselves or pausing to think about the risks they are creating.

Perhaps Harari should have added a sixth section to his book about ego-centrism and how difficult it is to convince people to realize that they themselves, not just others, are a large part of the problem, that while they may view themselves as one of the good guys they are, in fact, one of the bad guys without realizing it. Perhaps Harari should have written a section that acts like Mitchell and Webb’s “Are we the Baddies?” comedy sketch, warning his readers that they, specifically, may be one of “the baddies” and need to slow down and more thoughtfully consider the consequences of their actions, both in their private lives and in their careers.

Harari may have been able to obtain the same result had he written more about potential solutions to the challenges that face our species and not just about those challenges themselves. And that, ultimately, is my gripe about Harari’s book. While he brings much-needed attention to a number of the challenges facing us, he doesn’t present any solutions. He doesn’t present the hard-choices we would need to make in order to avoid or solve the problems he flags. It allows his readers to view the problems as something either so large that there’s obviously nothing anyone can do about them, or as something for others to think about and solve. After all, if someone as intelligent, educated, and thoughtful as Harari – someone who has the luxury of spending hours each day thinking about these problems – can’t suggest any potential solutions, then what chance is there than any of his readers will do any better? Why bother trying at all. Let’s just wait to see what happens and hope for the best.

Harari writes in his introduction, “As a historian, I cannot give people food or clothes – but I can try to offer some clarity, . . . .” I think Harari has indeed succeeded in bringing more clarity to the challenges that face our species today. But I hope Harari won’t be as nice to his audience in his undoubted fourth book, that he calls his readers out in no uncertain terms for what they themselves are doing to put us all at risk, and that he presents concrete steps we can all take to avoid succumbing to the challenges that face us, hopefully showing us how to avoid altogether the outcomes he fears. That would be a book worthy of being read for more than entertainment purposes. ( )
  tnilsson | Nov 11, 2018 |
An interesting read but because it is individual short chapters on lots of different aspects of the world it is not as involving as Sapiens and Homo Deus were.
Final chapter could be summarised as "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" [Hamlet], the basis of all cognitive therapy. ( )
  infjsarah | Oct 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
It’s no criticism to say that Harari hasn’t produced a satisfying answer yet. Neither has anyone else. So I hope he turns more fully to this question in the future. In the meantime, he has teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.
Wittgenstein schreef dat filosofie alles zou moeten laten zoals het is: de wereld beschrijven en ordenen, zonder die uit te willen leggen of conclusies te willen trekken en daarmee de werkelijkheid geweld aandoen. Historicus Harari lijkt zich in precies zo’n spagaat te bevinden. Hij wil de geschiedenis beschrijven zoals die was, huidige wetenschappelijke en technologische ontwikkelingen weergeven zoals die zijn. Maar in zijn drang om conclusies te trekken en lessen aan te dragen, wordt zijn verhaal een theoretisch construct dat raakvlakken mist met de werkelijkheid.
[T]his book sees Harari enter that class of gurus who are assumed to be experts on everything. The 22nd lesson of this book is obvious: no single member of the tribe Homo Sapiens can know everything. If this new age needs new stories, then we have to let more people tell them.
added by Jozefus | editThe Guardian, Helen Lewis (Aug 15, 2018)
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