To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Hardcover – February 10, 2015
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
An Amazon Best Book of the Month for February 2015: Yuval Noah Harari has some questions. Among the biggest: How did Homo sapiens (or Homo sapiens sapiens , if you’re feeling especially wise today) evolve from an unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to become the dominant force on the planet, emerging as the lone survivor out of six distinct, competing hominid species? He also has some answers, and they’re not what you’d expect. Tackling evolutionary concepts from a historian’s perspective, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, describes human development through a framework of three not-necessarily-orthodox “Revolutions”: the Cognitive, the Agricultural, and the Scientific. His ideas are interesting and often amusing: Why have humans managed to build astonishingly large populations when other primate groups top out at 150 individuals? Because our talent for gossip allows us to build networks in societies too large for personal relationships between everyone, and our universally accepted “imagined realities”--such as money, religion, and Limited Liability Corporations—keep us in line. Who cultivated whom, humans or wheat?. Wheat. Though the concepts are unusual and sometimes heavy (as is the book, literally) Harari’s deft prose and wry, subversive humor make quick work of material prone to academic tedium. He’s written a book of popular nonfiction (it was a bestseller overseas, no doubt in part because his conclusions draw controversy) landing somewhere in the middle of a Venn diagram of genetics, sociology, and history. Throughout, Harari returns frequently to another question: Does all this progress make us happier, our lives easier? The answer might disappoint you. --Jon Foro
“Sapiens tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language.” (Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The World until Yesterday)
“Sapiens is learned, thought-provoking and crisply written…. Fascinating.” (Wall Street Journal)
“In Sapiens, Harari delves deep into our history as a species to help us understand who we are and what made us this way. An engrossing read.” (Dan Ariely, New York Times Bestselling author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty)
“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)
“[I]nteresting and provocative…It gives you a sense of perspective on how briefly we’ve been on this earth, how short things like agriculture and science have been around, and why it makes sense for us to not take them for granted.” (President Barack Obama)
“I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a fun, engaging look at early human history…you’ll have a hard time putting it down.” (Bill Gates)
“Thank God someone finally wrote [this] exact book.” (Sebastian Junger)
“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)
“It is one of the best accounts by a Homo sapiens of the unlikely story of our violent, accomplished species.…It is one hell of a story. And it has seldom been told better…. Compulsively readable and impossibly learned.” (Michael Gerson, Washington Post)
“This was the most surprising and thought-provoking book I read this year.” (Atlantic.com)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Harari claims that the Jewish Bible has no references to Satan or other similar evil force. I presume that this means Harari has dismissed the Book of Job from the wisdom writings in the Hebrew scriptures. The "Other" with whom God is betting in Job seems to me to be the predecessor of the evil one in Islam and Christianity. As Judaism often incorrectly claims to be the founder of monotheism, it seems to me that it shares at least some of the blame for the evils that Harari attributes to monotheism.
Similarly, Harari argues that Catholic saints really are demigods. Brigid, an Irish saint, for example is simply the Catholic Church adopting the Irish goddess Brigit. This may be true, but Irish scholars are divided deeply over this. Harai's account of Catholicism adopting local gods and making them protectors of local areas would appear to make Catholicism is polytheistic religion.
Harari also seems to misunderstand how causality works. The Industrial Revolution took place 100 years before the disintegration of the modern family. Surely there are more proximate causes including women's struggle for equal rights, geographic mobility, effective birth control, and women being able to support their children. Harari also attributes "strong individuals" to a weak family, a weak community, and a strong state and capitalist market. In contrast, weak individuals are the product of a strong family and community and a weak state and market. Harari might be correct if he were arguing that individualism grew as family connections declined, but if that is his argument, some evidence would be nice. What clearly is not the case, however, is that weak families lead to strong individuals. Almost all research on the effects of family structure shows that strong families lead to strong individuals and weak families lead to weak individuals.
There are a number of books that cover similar territory and are far superior to Sapiens. Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen," "The Origin of Virtue," and "Nature via Nurture" all are better science and history. Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal" and "The Evolution of God" are far superior accounts of the development of virtue, cooperation, and why the world is becoming less violent. Laurence Tancredi's "Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality" demonstrates why natural law is not imaginary as Harari claims, but developed from human awareness of ordering in nature and the role of order, reason, and altruism (inherited human preferences) led to the doctrine of natural law. Finally, for those who oppose evolutionary biology, Rose and Rose (eds.) "Alas Poor Darwin" covers many of the topics covered by Harari, but the chapters make more compelling use of science rather than opinion masquerading as science.
Harari writes well and gives plausible, but often incorrect, explanations of the major events in human history and their impacts on the world. His book is strongest when discussing the importance of empires in human history and in showing that the agricultural and industrial revolutions were, at best, mixed blessings.
- Dr. Harari states that the agricultural revolution was a fraud, and that Sapiens (presumably both us and Neanderthals) would have been better off if we had remained hunter-gatherers. He envisions an idillic life for hunter societies and compares that unfavorably to the dreary life of Sapiens down on the farm. However, a few pages later he points out that the extinction of mega fauna immediately followed Sapiens appearance on major continents such as Australia and North America. So hunter-gathers were, at best, living an unsustainable lifestyle and one which, as soon as the mammoths and sloths were all eaten, would lead to starvation. Unless of course, those starving hunters discovered that some grasses were good to eat and that they could grow them on farms!
- He equates the Code of Hammurabi to the Declaration of Independence. But the more correct modern-day equivalent for King Hammurabi’s code (in the U.S. at least) is the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) as both documents lay out crimes and punishments. The Declaration of Independence is a statement of principles, or mythos (not myth) within which our founding fathers laid out the basis for separation from Britain.
- He deconstructs that same Declaration, declaring that there is no biological basis for concepts like “inalienable rights”, “liberty”, “created equal” and “pursuit of happiness.” But then a few pages later, he uses those concepts to decry the fate of domesticated animals because they are confined and are bred for human consumption. How is Dr. Harari to know that a chicken, if given a choice, would not prefer a short life free from fear with ample food to one in which it would have to forage in the wild with a wolf or coyote behind every tree?
- Dr. Harari equates social constructs and ideologies with religions, I think in part to be controversial and spark debate. But in explaining the rise of certain religions, he ignores facts that do not conform to his thinking. For example, he indicates that Constantine could have chosen among several monotheistic religions as a state religion for the Roman Empire, and professes that no one can know why Constantine made the choice he did. That ignores Constantine’s “conversion experience” which is documented in early church history.
- In the section titled “Blind Clio” Dr. Harari states that “There is absolutely no proof that human history inevitably improves as history rolls along.” Yet just a few pages later in the “Gilgamesh Project” he spends several pages citing ways in which humankind is better off due to the scientific revolution. Perhaps we are on the cusp of another dark age, but it is hard to imagine that mankind will ever again be living life as in the 12th century. Unless, of course, radical Islamists conquer the world or Sapiens is nearly eradicated by a viral pandemic (as other reviewers have suggested)!
- He correctly attributes (IMHO) capitalism (or perhaps more correctly mercantilism) with the relatively recent rise in living standards; but he lays responsibility for the collapse of the family unit to the industrial revolution which began in the 1850’s. But the collapse of the family, at least in the inner cities of the U.S. is a relatively recent phenomenon, which I believe is more correctly (at least in part) an unintended consequence of the Great Society programs begun in the 1960’s.
Having said all that, I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the book. There is much in it to ponder, especially when considering the future of Sapiens. We are indeed on a threshold of a new era, one which no one can predict. I am nearing the end of my lifetime, but my grandchildren will inhabit a world vastly different from that which I knew in the second half of the 20th century. Future societies will have to grapple with inequities in a-mortality; e.g. how to distribute life-prolonging benefits of science; and the obsolescence of human labor as a productive enterprise.
Most recent customer reviews
A critical approach should be kept while reading as opinions and facts are mixed