A Brief History of Humankind

Book - 2015
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"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? 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"-- Provided by publisher
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, 2015
ISBN: 9780062316110
Characteristics: 443 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Kitsur toldot ha-enoshut


From Library Staff

Finally! An explanation for humankind’s proclivity toward fierce religiousity, xenophobia and gluten intolerance. ---Mary, circulation staff

From the critics

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Jul 09, 2019

I have been thinking we humans have been ruining Mother Earth since the industrial revolution, making life much easier for ourselves and terrible for all other species. I was wrong. It started much, much earlier. Sorry I am leaving this garbage dump for my heirs. Maybe if warming and all the poison can kill off 99% of us and start over with hunter-gathering again in a few thousand years we can do better next time.

Jul 08, 2019

Humans, writes Harari, are “wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.”

And that’s about as optimistic as he gets.

Echoing Rousseau’s yearning for the “noble savage” and a simpler past, Harari views the human project as a disaster: from the agricultural revolution (“a trap”), ethics (“a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to), all the way to capitalism, which “implies that egoistic greed is beneficial for all” and “has killed millions out of cold indifference.”

It’s as if Harari is determined to make the planet great again, and has identified the biggest obstacle as the malevolent human race. This book should delight angry pessimists every where.

IndyPL_JamesM Jul 01, 2019

History is one of my great passions, and over the years I have read several hundred books on various aspects of history – classic Greece, the Dark Ages, the British Empire, American history, and so on. Yuval Harari is by far one of the most unique voices to put words to paper (or screen).
Sapiens is a book about how we evolved as a civilization from pre-history through the 20th century. Rather than focusing on names and dates, he discusses concepts and developments which shaped Humanity in ways both simple and complex. For instance, Harari discusses the influences of “shared fictions” and storytelling, the Agricultural Revolution, the massive influences of religion, science and, of course, money. A brilliant read from cover to cover.

Jun 03, 2019

A book that should be read by everyone! Well written and easy to read for a very serious and thought provoking topic!

May 07, 2019

The author makes a lot of claims that are not properly backed up with academic resources, as well as makes general, sweeping statements about how humans thought and felt in the past. Harari has some very fundamental misunderstandings of how global oppression works (like saying the West rejected racism after WWII... no...), and does not seem to have an actual grasp on how capitalism functions other than it being the global economic system.

Although I found some of his ideas useful, such as his ideas about the importance of the myth of credit in building modern capitalism, I found myself skimming and skipping entire pages in the last quarter of the book because his claims became more and more distanced from evidence-based ideas. Harari also comes off as extremely arrogant, making his baseless claims more distasteful.

Skip this one.

Mar 18, 2019

There can be no brief history of mankind. We have become a failed species endangering the very earth we live on, how we got to this point requires a Britannica level series of books. By the time we understand ourselves it will quite likely be too late for us and our planet. Good background and a place to start.

Mar 07, 2019

Now has 3 different bks out.

Mar 01, 2019

Walking through human history, like this book does, has never forced me to think in quite the same way about who we are.

Feb 26, 2019

I thought the first half of the book was excellent. There, the author provides insights into the competition between Sapiens and other human tribes (e.g. Neanderthals) and provides his thesis for the survival of this relatively unremarkable branch of the human tree. The chapters that talk about the growth of language/writing as factors in the ability of a community to grow beyond a certain size (and ultimately form and empire) was particularly interesting, as was the idea that "myth" (be it religious, national or ideological) is a necessary glue for the establishment and continuity of large scale tribes (nations). The book becomes more tedious in the second half where it feels like one aspect or another of the modern world - religion, economics, capitalism, etc) are presented one after another so the author can say, "see? Just like I said." This was a 400 page book that should have stopped at page 200.

Feb 21, 2019

Incredible book: a lot of fodder for thought, brilliant language, zooming from very big ideas to vivid details.

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Mar 17, 2018

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Nov 05, 2015

Both scientist and conqueror began by admitting ignorance - they both said 'I don't know what's out there.' They both felt compelled to go out and make new discoveries.

SFPL_ReadersAdvisory Aug 18, 2015

"We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."


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