Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Publisher: Random House of Canada
Publication Date: first published in January 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
While Sapiens is well out of the realm of books I generally pick up to review for Worn Pages, it’s been on my TBR for a while, and I figured I’d finally tackle it while I’m on maternity leave. Providing an overarching preview of the development of Homo sapiens (us humans) from the dawn of time until now, Harari delves into what he claims are the major breakthroughs of humankind: the Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific Revolutions.
I certainly did learn a lot with Harari’s narrative, but I often found his focus on certain topics to be too brief, glossing over historical evidence that perhaps the average bear might not have knowledge of; and other times he delves deeply into topics that seem tangential, or not chronological, making it difficult to follow the timeline of human development. He certainly does not spend as much time on the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions as I would have liked, but far too much time visiting and revisiting the Scientific Revolution.
I found often that this book was riddled with Harari’s personal biases and opinions, rather than providing straight fact and information. I found myself quite angry with him a few times for inserting his opinions where I didn’t feel like opinion belonged (just my opinion lol). The novel claims to be a brief history of human kind, and the history is there, but it is not without Harari inserting his own views regularly, and presenting them as fact as well. I didn’t mind at first, but he does have very strong thoughts on many topics and it became aggravating after a while, detracting from the book as a whole.
I’ll still read his other books—I did received them as presents, and I’m curious as to what he has to say, but I do caution everyone reading to take his writing with a grain of salt. There is a lot of interesting and useful information here, mixed in with a ton of personal opinion.