Book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Who should read this book: People who enjoy non-fiction, people who like history.
Hey guys! Before I get into the book review I want to talk about what this is. I mean not a lot of people are actually going to read this, but for those of you who do read it and read the last blog post about the podcast, you might be confused. So let me just clarify, I’m confused too! I wanted to find something to do with my spare time that wasn’t sitting on the couch watching reruns of Friends and New girl in a pair of yoga pants eating too many chips. I guess I want to do something more interesting with my time. Now I read a lot. I think about what I’m reading and I LOVE to talk to people about what I read. But some days (a lot of days) it’s just easier to sloth on the couch than read a book and think…
So I thought let’s do a podcast all about books and reading, and even read books to people! That sounds amazing. But then I started researching all that is involved in running a podcast and it’s way more work than I have time for. Plus I want to talk about the books I’m reading now, not just books in the public domain. I have a list of 24 books I want to read in 2019 ( I will be doing another post about this) and I don’t have time to read all those books and record myself reading a bunch of other books! Let’s just say I’ve done some re-evaluating. And it’s come to this, a book review blog! I recommend books to my friends and family all the time and I love picking out books for other people. I always have an opinion about the books I read so why not write it down? Anyways, that’s why so here we go.
A History Book that (probably) won’t put you to sleep.
First, let me say I love history. I studied history in university and literally have a favourite book called The Russian Revolution. So be warned I might be a bit biased about this book as it is in essence a history book. So if you find history boring, just stop here, seriously read no further, you won’t enjoy this book.
Ok for the history lovers that are still here, this book was pretty good. It’s definitely brief and generally skips over the nastier bits of humankind, so it’s a lighthearted, forgiving and concise history of us. It begins in Africa and tells how Sapiens turned into humans. It talks briefly about the various revolutions that got us to where we are today (Agricultural, Scientific, Industrial). It talks about the rise of capitalism, consumerism and materialism. And it ends with a brief discussion about bionic arms etc., that are our indefinite, if not already present, future. Harari has an interesting take on the future of Homo Sapiens which I look forward to reading about in his follow-up book Homo Deus. Overall, a good read, I’d give it a 7/10. If that’s all you need to know and don’t feel like reading a rant, stop here. If you wish to know why it’s not 10/10, read on.
There is a huge, glaring problem with this book. When I picked up this book, I imagined a gruesome tale. Human history is full of murder and selfishness. I figured this book would make me a little sad and guilty. Every history class in university, every history book I’ve ever read, has included a dark side of humankind. If you want the light and fluffy version of history this is the book for you. But as a student of history, I was disappointed by the lack of discussion on the true nature of humans as a collective.
Humans have been killing each other for a long time. The agricultural revolution created a class system that has been devastating us ever since. We have been decimating the populations of all the other animals on this planet for our entire existence. We do not take care of the planet, animals, or our ourselves. This book is way too tolerant of that behavior. Harari would briefly mention in a tiny paragraph oh did you know that there are only 80K giraffes left in the whole world because of us? Isn’t that interesting? No! That’s terrible! We are terrible! Did you know that animal agriculture is destroying the planet? Tee hee isn’t that interesting? Uh what? Why doesn’t Harari talk in more detail about this madness? Because no one is listening anyways. This book is really interesting and I’m not being sarcastic, it’s a very good history of humans, but it didn’t do justice to the damage we as a human race have caused on this planet.
I feel like Hermione Granger when she found out her beloved Hogwarts: A History doesn’t mention anything about houseelves. This book is missing a key part of the history of humankind, our path of destruction. The book is lighthearted, occasionally a little bit funny, Harari has a nice writing style that kept me reading. But I suffered a let down. When I got to the afterword of the book, it started out with a great paragraph, and I thought finally he’s going to say something about our darkness.
” …(humankind) transformed itself into the master of the entire planet and the terror of the ecosystem. Today it stands on the verge of becoming a god, poised to acquire not only eternal youth, but also the divine abilities of creation and destruction.”
That was it. No suggestions for improvement or reasons why this is probably a bad thing. In conclusion, either Harari is suffering from denial like the majority of the human race, or he was trying to subtly make some little points about our destruction. If it was the first, big surprise. If it was the second, Sir you did not try hard enough. But who am I kidding, the book would never have sold millions of copies or become an international best seller if it made people feel bad.
So if you want to learn a little bit about the race of Homo Sapiens and you don’t get bored with history, you would probably like this book.
Overall rating: 7/10
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