Book Review of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. 5/5
Some books take more effort than others to read. Sapiens is one of those books, and considering the ambitious goal of the author to summarize the entire history of mankind in a single 400 page book, a certain level of density must be accepted. For those of us unafraid to challenge ourselves with our reading selections, the bird’s eye view of humanity offered by Sapiens is an opportunity to fundamentally change our perspectives, our ideas of ourselves, and our ideas about the human race to which we belong.
This is a rare book that takes non-fiction to the level of art. Along with non-fiction classics like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Sapiens has the power to enlighten us by illuminating unseen forces that are at work every day shaping us culturally and biologically. What truly makes it brilliant though is its ability to inspire awe at the long journey the human race has been on, and to make us delightfully aware that we’re currently holding the baton of this timeless relay race with an unknown destination.
Harari takes us from a pre-historical time where Homo sapiens competed with Neanderthals and other early humans for dominance to the emergence of the agricultural revolution which led to the evolution of money. From there, cities could begin to take shape. Governments and religions grew in power and influence. Technological advances started to change the landscape and change the way we interacted with each other. As technology grew exponentially, humans found themselves in a strange land that didn’t conform to our biological instincts and tendencies. He leaves us not with an answer, but with a startling question. Will the world that we shaped with our technology force us to evolve into something that can no longer be considered human?