Sapiens A brief history of humankind

Yuval N. Harari

Book - 2015

"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."--

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Harper 2015.
Language
English
Hebrew
Item Description
"Translated by the author, with the help of John Purcell and Haim Watzman"--Title page verso.
First published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 by Kinneret, Mora-Bitan, Dvir."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
443 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 417-428) and index.
ISBN
9780062316110
0062316117
9780062316097
0062316095
Main Author
Yuval N. Harari (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* It's not often that a book offers readers the possibility to reconsider, well, everything. But that's what Harari does in this sweeping look at the history of humans. Beginning before the beginning of Homo sapiens, the book introduces the other members of the genus Homo, who have lived on the planet for millions of years, and shows how sapiens endured while others died out. Then, with both wit and intellectual heft, Harari moves briskly through the important stages of human development: the harnessing of fire, the emergence of language, the agricultural revolution, the ongoing development of religion, the emergence of commerce and empires, and the industrial and scientific revolutions. He then discusses where humans are today and where (if anywhere) they may be tomorrow. There is something to ponder on almost every page. Particularly fascinating is Harari's consideration of whether people were happier in the past, when they had less but expected little, or today, when possibilities are endless but expectations are often not met. Part of the book's genius is not only that it organizes human history into understandable patterns, but also that those patterns are so fresh and fascinating. For instance, there is the idea that the way society has kept itself organized is through the use of fictions—religion, obviously, but the idea applies equally to the concepts of money, laws, and human rights: "None of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another." This ability to believe in fictions has also allowed sapiens to give loyalty to everything from nations to corporations. Readers of every stripe should put this at the top of their reading lists. Thinking has never been so enjoyable. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

In this well-written, fascinating study of the human saga—from the earliest members of the genus Homo until the present day—Harari (Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) discusses the major factors that influenced the course of human history.  In particular, he considers the importance of the cognitive, agricultural, industrial, and scientific revolutions and ways these pivotal points in history shaped human culture, society, and humans' impact on the world around them.  The book emphasizes the overall influence of these major turning points in human history on the development of religion, nations/empires, economic systems, government bureaucracies, imperialist aggression, and the growth of a global human society—and on whether they "set humankind on the road to prosperity and progress" or "led to perdition."  The author also offers a sobering vision of humanity's future, one based on the growing capacity to implement evolutionary change based on intelligent design.  His insightful, informative discussion on these facets of human history offers considerable food for thought.  Harari writes in a clear, conversational tone, with little reliance on jargon or needlessly complicated concepts.  This book will be of considerable interest to students of history, anthropology, and human culture. Summing Up: Essential. All library collections. --D. A. Brass, independent scholar Danny A. Brass independent scholar http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.190494 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This title is one of the exceptional works of nonfiction that is both highly intellectual and compulsively readable. Originally published in Israel in 2011, it has been translated into over 20 languages, including this polished English version. Harari (history, Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) takes the reader on a journey that begins with the dawn of Homo sapiens around 200,000 BCE and ends with the scientific revolution. The author covers the cognitive revolution, which allowed Homo sapiens, unlike our predecessors, to imagine what the author terms fictions—gods, laws, the idea of money, and so on. These concepts made it possible for large groups of the species to work together for their greater good. The author goes on to reveal the consequences of the agricultural revolution (beginning around 10,000 BCE) and the scientific revolution in the 16th and 17th century, which include everything from bureaucracy and slavery to the endless search for happiness. VERDICT Although Harari's ideas may be controversial for some readers, those who are interested in history, anthropology, and evolution will find his work a fascinating, hearty read.—Jennifer Stout, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. Lib., Richmond [Page 124]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Writing with wit and verve, Harari, professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attempts to explain how Homo sapiens came to be the dominant species on Earth as well as the sole representative of the human genus. He notes that from roughly two million years ago until about 10,000 years ago, we were not the only humans on the planet; many species preceded us, and some overlapped our tenure. Harari argues persuasively that three revolutions explain our current situation. The first, the cognitive revolution, occurred approximately 70,000 years ago and gave us "fictive" language, enabling humans to share social constructs as well as a powerful "imagined reality" that led to complex social systems. The second, the agricultural revolution, occurred around 12,000 years ago and allowed us to settle into permanent communities. The third, the scientific revolution, began around 500 years ago and allowed us to better understand and control our world. Throughout, Harari questions whether human progress has led to increased human happiness, concluding that it's nearly impossible to show that it has. Harari is provocative and entertaining but his expansive scope only allows him to skim the surface. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A narrative history of humanity's creation and evolution explores how biology and history have defined understandings of what it means to be human and details the role of modern cognition in shaping the ecosystem and civilizations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Official U.S. edition with full color illustrations throughout.#1 New York Times Bestseller The Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg,  now available as a beautifully packaged paperbackFrom 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Official U.S. edition with full color illustrations throughout.#1 New York Times Bestseller The Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg,  now available as a beautifully packaged paperbackFrom 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.