Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
How to condense a book about a subject as huge as, oh you know, the history of HUMANKIND into a brief insta-review?! Firstly, let me tell you this, the writing itself is superb and most importantly, hugely accessible. Harari has a remarkable ability of making the complex comprehensible and genuinely enjoyable to read about.
Secondly, the subject matter at hand — where did we come from and where are we going. Science, religion, money, idelology, empire, industry — it is *all* here. You’ll question your beliefs; I was particularly struck by the chapters ‘History’s Biggest Fraud’, which explores supposed evolutionary ‘success’, ‘The Law of Religion’, which explores polytheism, monotheism, Good and Evil and ‘And They Lived Happily Ever After’, which examines human happiness and its connection to really knowing the truth about ourselves. Indeed, can we ever be happy?
Thirdly and finally, this book was written over ten years ago and it’s one I have always *always* meant to pick up. I am very glad that finally, I did.
There was a time when anyone who wanted to signpost their intellectualism on the underground was holding/reading this book (the cynic in me thought this a mere accessory). I have always been a thinker, questioning how we are here and why. Descartes “cogito ergo sum ~I think, therefore I am” is one of my favourite maxims. Sapiens is nothing short of astonishing. Harari traverses time and place to cover such a breathtaking amount of information that I frequently had to stop to contemplate his arguments and research.
I found some chapters heavier and more saturated in detail than others and I can understand a ubiquitous view that this is a hard read. For the most part it was accessible and surprisingly witty. The author challenges some incredibly pervasive social stereotypes and the chapters on humanity’s origins and early movements were mind blowing, highlighting for me the nonsensical divides and bias based on gender, orientation and skin colour. An exploration of what makes humanity successful and how we attain happiness which I found incredibly thought provoking.