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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,630 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0062316097
ISBN-10: 0062316095
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Review

“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 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 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)

“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)

“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)

“Yuval Noah Harari’s full-throated review of our species may have been blurbed by Jared Diamond, but Harari’s conclusions are at once balder and less tendentious than that of his famous colleague.” (New York magazine)

“This title is one of the exceptional works of nonfiction that is both highly intellectual and compulsively readable… a fascinating, hearty read.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“An encyclopedic approach from a well-versed scholar who is concise but eloquent, both skeptical and opinionated, and open enough to entertain competing points of view.…The great debates of history aired out with satisfying vigor.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“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)

“The most idea-packed work of non-fiction I’ve read in years.” (Dick Meyer, www.abcactionnews.com)

“In this sweeping look at the history of humans, Harari offers readers the chance to reconsider, well, everything, from a look at why Homo sapiens endured to a compelling discussion of how society organizes itself through fictions.” (Booklist Best Books of the Year)

“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.… Readers of every stripe should put this at the top of their reading lists. Thinking has never been so enjoyable.” (Booklist (starred review))

“The sort of book that sweeps the cobwebs out of your brain…. Harari…is an intellectual acrobat whose logical leaps will have you gasping with admiration.” (John Carey, Sunday Times (London))

“Harari’s account of how we conquered the Earth astonishes with its scope and imagination…. One of those rare books that lives up to the publisher’s blurb...brilliantly clear, witty and erudite.” (Ben Shepard, the Observer (London))

“An absorbing, provocative history of civilization…packed with heretical thinking and surprising facts. This riveting, myth-busting book cannot be summarised…you will simply have to read it.” (John Gray, Financial Times (London))

“Full of…high-perspective, shocking and wondrous stories, as well as strange theories and startling insights.” (Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times)

“Not only is Harari eloquent and humane, he is often wonderfully, mordantly funny” (The Independent (London))

“Engaging and informative…. Extremely interesting.” (Guardian (London))

“Harari can write…really, really write, with wit, clarity, elegance, and a wonderful eye for metaphor.” (The Times (Ireland))
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (February 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062316095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062316097
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,630 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2015
Format: Hardcover
A standard history of the human race begins with Paleolithic proto-humans, traces the development of modern man or homo sapiens sapiens, then chronicles the beginnings and expansions of human civilization from agriculture to the present. Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens follows that path, but with several intriguing twists. The result is a fascinating book which will challenge pre-conceptions and occasionally annoy or even anger the reader, but will always intrigue.

Harari focusses on the three great revolutions of human history: Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific. He asks how "An Animal of No Significance" managed to become the dominant life form, and whether that animal's learning to produce his own food and then to further harness the natural world to his will through science were boons or setbacks, both for that animal and for the rest of the biosphere. In 20 brilliant chapters Harari asks his readers to consider not only what did happen, but what might have occurred had things turned out slightly differently (the roles of chance and accident are given a lot of attention.) He reveals the mutually agreed upon "stories" that helped shape human societies and questions their validity, not to disillusion but to challenge his readers. At times the tone is unavoidably cynical, but at others there's a real optimistic air (leavened by some cautions here and there). I found Harari's ideas fascinating, especially those in his final chapter "The End of Homo Sapiens" and in his brief but important "Afterword: The Animal That Became a God."

Readers who are looking for detailed chronicles listing, for example, the Emperors of China, Kings and Queens of England, or Presidents of the United States should look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a masterpiece. I feel fortunate that I discovered it before most other people. I discovered it by reading an extremely negative review for this book in the Wall Street Journal written by a historian. (In his defense, he just didn't understand that this is not a history book, and he had no idea what Harari is getting at).

This book never stops in challenging my understanding of our place in the universe. What we believe in determines what we want to want. Sapiens are distinguished by our ability to believe in fictions. The cognitive revolutions starts with the first set of hypothetical stories we allow ourselves to believe in whether they are true or not. The real importance is that the family, kin, friends, and community share those beliefs.

Our fictions allow us to cooperate. They gives us the imaginary order that is necessary for societies to act together. Corporations are not people, they do not exist in reality. One can not point to a corporation. It's not the buildings, or the executives or any other physical entities that make the corporation, but it is our belief that makes them real. The author notes that the word for corporation comes from the Latin, corpus, the same as in the body (corpus) of Christ within the transubstantiation.

Religion gives us comfort from the absurd and comforts us to accept death. Science (and its offshoot, technology) does the opposite. It gives us knowledge leading to life extension and makes our time alive more comfortable. The Gilgamesh Project of life extension is a major character is this book.

The myths we create can never be logically consistent without contradictions. Perfect liberty will always conflict with perfect equality.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd like to give this book 3 1/2 stars if I could. It is engaging and easy to read, but somewhat flighty and full of broad statements that make it hard to differentiate facts from the author’s opinion. It’s also somewhat contradictory. Some examples:
- 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.
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