Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
January 2019
Fred's Rating: 
Yuval Noah Harari
Total Pages: 
Harper Perennial

Yuval Noah Harari, with PhD in history from U. of Oxford, lectures on history at the Hebrew U. of Jerusalem, specializing in world history. This international bestseller has been translated into more than fifty languages and sold ten million copies worldwide.

I was given the paperback edition. I give here Amazon’s website for the Kindle edition:

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

The home page has a good review (click on ‘Read more’). Further down the home page, I recommend the ‘ Review’ which gives some Q&As of Harari – a good ‘taste’ of his ‘engaging’ style. Further down the home page, I recommend two very thoughtful reviews. First, a three-star review by Robert Schuler (a ‘Top 1000 Reviewer’), use ‘Read more,’ for it is very long. Second, a shorter four-star review by ‘Stanley’ – whose review title is ‘Fun, Enjoyable Easy Read’ – which is what I found it to be.

But I must add that I also agree with the title of Robert Schuler’s review: ‘important hypothesis about human cooperation, but without critical analyses or scientific development.” That is, this book has interesting and important ideas to think about, but a specific idea often appear in Sapiens in a single paragraph. For other historians I’ve read, this idea would take a few pages or even a whole chapter of ‘critical analyses or scientific development.’

In a way, what Harari gives us are his conclusions, presented without development. This reminds me of the initial paragraph called an ‘abstract’ in physics journals. An abstract is brief, so as to give the reader what the article will reveal in detail. I usually skip an article whose abstract doesn’t say enough to cause me to want to read the rest of the article. (Articles in most journals use the abstract idea.)

However, Harari’s writing style is indeed also a ‘fun, enjoyable easy read’ in part because of his wit that appears often enough that I seldom wanted to put the book down, but to continue to read more of his speculations about the many events in this ‘brief history of mankind.’

I recommend using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option of the above Kindle website. You will soon come to the 2-pp Timeline of History. It is brief, as he chose to focus on the most important aspects for humanity in general, not the specifics of any particular region, nationality, or religion. The last two eras – the Present and the Future – give notice of his speculations about these two periods. The third sentence of the Present – “Organisms are increasingly shaped by intelligent design rather than by natural selection” – may seem a bit premature and quite speculative to most of us, but Harari gives some thought-provoking arguments. This is especially true for the two questions of the Future – “Intelligent design becomes the basic principle of life? Homo sapiens is replaced by superhumans?” He rightly uses questions rather than statements for these highly speculation ideas. I add my question – What does he mean by superhumans? The Contents page shows how he presents his conclusions about the history of humankind. You’ll have to read this book Sapiens to find out what he means by superhumans.

I’ve also read his two most recent follow-up books “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” (2018 edition) and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” (2018) but not in this time order. However, I have chosen to review these books by Yuval Noah Harari in time order so as to look for any changes in his thinking.

As for this current book – “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” – I rate it at four stars.