Review: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Farrukh Kidwai on February 16, 2015

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9781846558245
Rating: ★★★★½
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It was almost one year ago when I fell in love with history after reading the book A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich, a book that I think should be made mandatory for every teenager.  It was this book that whetted my appetite to dig deeper into the chambers of history. Thus, when I was delivered the book Sapiens, I was hopeful that my knowledge on the history of mankind would be accentuated.

This book sets its foundation on the basis of evolution. The book retracts to about 150,000 years ago, which the author reckons as the date of advent of the species Homo sapiens.  The author also proclaims that other than Homo sapiens, there were other species such as Homo soloensis and Homo erectus. However, the other races became extinct due to interbreeding and replacement theory. These theories leave ample space for a learned reader to exercise their discretion in terms of the legitimacy of these theories.

But if one discounts the complicated history lessons, this book will leave a significant imprint on matters of religion, race and languages. The evolution from a society where once, men rejoiced over the invention of fire, to struggling to achieve peace today is described in detail. The author’s assertion on spirituality is debatable, but worth reading.

The author makes strong remarks on the agricultural revolution, capitalism and socialism. This is not uncharted territory for those who are acquainted with books on history.

One story that greatly influenced me was the code of Hammurabi. He was the King who practiced ambivalence in justice. The same has been translated into action. An eye for an eye was his brainchild. However, he did not subscribe to the opinion of equality. Instead, he believed that if a rich person hurts another rich person, then the rules were different from when a rich person hurts a poor person.  In his opinion, when God did not create all people equal, then men should not be in haste to make them equal.

The book delineates the modern world and all the gizmos which have made our life easier. However, being a student of economics, I was impressed by his thoughts on the current fraudulent and bogus system of making money out of thin air.

The book is cognitive and laden with small pockets of humour without being divergent. You may not accept all his theories, but the author aims to keep it logical and concise. The only area where his assertion seems to be substituted by hyperbole and becomes kafkaesque is when he shares his thoughts on the future where he expects man to have control over death, or clone another person or delay a calamity. In other words, man will become so powerful that he can have control over nature.

There are some difficult concepts, but I would suggest that prospective readers avoid rushing through the pages.

Written by Farrukh Kidwai

Love to read Non-Fiction, Auto biographies, A software programmer but not a very good one, an adventurist

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