Yuval Noah Harari

Nonfiction 2015 | 443 pages


We all know we are Homo sapiens, but did you know that there were multiple species of humans, as few as six, and perhaps as many as 14?  Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, and Homo neanderthalensis are three that might seem vaguely familiar to you.  What happened to the other species?  We do not actually know.  We DO know that Homo sapiens managed to rid the world of thousands of species of other animals.

And Home sapiens really began to dominate the planet with the development of fiction.  As far as we know, Home sapiens are the only animals that have the brain capacity to create fiction.  Fiction changed everything.  It is fiction that creates religion, corporations, countries, cultures, the economic system, capitalism.  It is all made up, and only because we agree about what we imagine, does it carry any weight or have any power.  A corporation, for example, is not a physical entity you can touch.  It is only an imagined agreement we have ...

“…today the very survival of rivers, trees, and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.” (page 32)

I was fascinated to begin this book, but started to skim just over halfway in.  Some of you who have a keener interest in history may find this anthropological history fascinating all the way through.  I made it through the hunter-gatherers and through the Agricultural Revolution, but then my interest simply waned as we arrived at the Scientific Revolution (500 CE).   But still, what I learned and retained is fascinating.  I eventually made it through the entire book, and the last couple of chapters were fascinating to me again.

By the way, if you choose to try Sapiens on for size, I recommend you put your hands on a hard copy.  The book itself is beautiful. It is heavy (literally as well as figuratively), with glassy two-color print and many photographs, drawings, and maps that elucidate what you are reading.

Joanne, I hope you complete it!  Post a comment if you do, please ... anyone!

February 2023


One response on “Sapiens

  1. Rene Smith

    Ron and I listened to his lecture series of the same name. It was excellent. From The Teaching Company.