Friday, March 11, 2016

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

This book's full title is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This is an absolutely fascinating book. Harari has such a different view of history than I have read before. It starts from the beginning of time and ends at the present date. The concept of objective reality and imagined (or fictional) reality is quite interesting.

After this broad scope covering our past, he looks at our future. He sees a lot of our past and certainly our future in quite negative terms. He thinks that the agricultural revolution was awful for us humans. The great thing about this book is that it makes you think.

It is interesting that reviews either just praise this book to the sky or they are rather critical. A quote from the Strawson review is "Much of Sapiens is extremely interesting, and it is often well expressed. As one reads on, however, the attractive features of the book are overwhelmed by carelessness, exaggeration and sensationalism." Another quote is "Harari hates "modern liberal culture", but his attack is a caricature and it boomerangs back at him."

Ranjeev Dubey in Good Reads says "Every once in a decade, a book comes along that has the capacity to radically change the way we think about matters of substance. This book is one of them." Also Hedva in Good Reads says "It is amazing that such a young person could grasp the whole history of mankind, synthesize it and present it in such and interesting, coherent, fluent way."

There is a very interesting, but quite negative review by Galen Strawson in The Guardian. He points out some big flaws in this book. This review is quite different from a lot a read from reviewers that were just overall by this book. There are also quite a number of good reviews of this book at Good Reads. Tom Payne at The Telegraph also has an interesting review. John Lewis-Stempel's review in the Express might be entertaining.

Yuval Noah Harari presents this book as a course on MOOC. Harari speaks at RSA in September 2014. After a short introduction, Harari speaks to about 17 minutes into the video. This session is moderated by Tim Feilden of RSA org and ends with a Q and A. The series of lectures Harari gives are here. There are some 20 lectures divided into segments.

Also, an index of the books I have reviewed are on my website at Books. Follow me on Twitter.

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