Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind book review

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind book review

I picked up Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari a few months ago. I had initially wanted to read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari . Coincidentally, I came across Sapiens by the same author and was equally excited to read this book.

Sapiens is a captivating read. The author delves into the history of humankind in the last 70,000 years. He states in the beginning that “three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the cognitive revolution…the agricultural revolution…the scientific revolution…this book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans and their fellow organisms.”

There were plenty of interesting revelations from various chapters that stood out to me. Homo sapiens had quite a few brothers and sisters. The earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. Humans have extraordinarily large brains compared to other animals and giant brains are very rare in the animal kingdom. A major reason for humans to get to the top of the food chain was the domestication of fire. The Code of Hammurabi of c.1776 BC served as a cooperation manual for hundreds of thousands of ancient Babylonians. The code was a collection of laws and judicial decisions whose aim was to present Hammurabi as a role model of a just king. It influenced future generations to adopt something similar in terms of social order. An imagined order exists and it depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. The influence of imagined orders in our daily lives cannot be underestimated. Complex human societies seem to require imagined hierarchies and unjust discrimination. Subsequent chapters explain how money, empires and universal religions spread across the world. A significant milestone that launched the Scientific Revolution was the discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most important questions. Our willingness to admit ignorance was an important breakthrough. Although the Europeans did not enjoy a technological edge over the Chinese in early 1400s, they were unparalleled and had grandiose ambition to explore and conquer. There are plenty of other interesting revelations weaved into wonderful stories throughout the book.

Sapiens will enlighten you with a lot of knowledge and provide a perspective like no other book. It was definitely one of the most interesting books I have read. The book allowed me to better understand how we came to be the Sapiens of today and put so many things in perspective (money, religion, historical moments etc). I am sure I will revisit the book in a few months or so. A highly recommended read.

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