A Non-Fiction Must Read — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

I’ve read some great books lately. One that stands out as a bookshelf keeper is a non-fiction work by the renowned historian, Yuval Noah Harari–Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This was a New York Times best seller, and Amazon’s Best Book of the Month for February 2015, among other things, so I guess this comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, I approach works that purport to have stunning breadth and depth with skepticism, and I am pleased to now join the chorus of those that confirm the fact that this book delivers on its promise.

To quote just a few of the many great reviews:

Sapiens takes readers on a sweeping tour of the history of our species…. Harari’s formidable intellect sheds light on the biggest breakthroughs in the human story…important reading for serious-minded, self-reflective sapiens.” (Washington Post)

“Sapiens is learned, thought-provoking and crisply written…. Fascinating.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Yuval Noah Harari’s celebrated Sapiens does for human evolution what Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time did for physics.… He does a superb job of outlining our slow emergence and eventual domination of the planet.” (Forbes)

“This was the most surprising and thought-provoking book I read this year.” (Atlantic.com)

“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.” (Publishers Weekly)

I read the audiobook version narrated by Derek Perkins. (My children insist that is not “reading,” but we can debate that distinction at another time.) Perkins is an accomplished and diverse narrator, and he does a superb job conveying the text and spirit of this work, which is entertaining, thought-provoking and deeply credible.

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?

Harari begins about 70,000 years ago with the initial appearance on this planet of modern cognition. He examines the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem, he discusses the agricultural revolution, he charts the rise of empires, and he satisfactorily integrates history and science to present a comprehensive view that connects past developments with contemporary concerns.

If you haven’t done so yet, please consider giving it a read (or a listen). I found it well worth the time and it is on now on my list of “must re-read” books.


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4 Responses to A Non-Fiction Must Read — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

  1. Sounds good! Haven’t read a good non-fic book in awhile.

  2. >>> “Harari begins about 70,000 years ago with the initial appearance on this planet of modern cognition.”

    That time-frame coincides with the Toba super-eruption which many geneticists say reduced the world’s population of Homo sapiens down to a few thousand and nearly wiped it out. If true, it provides further evidence that our existence as a species is and always has been a tenuous endeavor. We take so much for granted as to expose our evolutionary limitations regardless of the technological advances we’ve achieved. I believe it is time now for a wake-up call.

    Thanks for the book reference, I’ll check it out.

    • J. C. Conway says:

      Yes, wake up calls abound. I don’t think Harari goes into the genetic bottleneck theory. But he does provide interesting and important insights about the species and its habits.

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