Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens is highly recommended and praised right now, and I understand why. With the rise of AI people have become interested in what it means to be people. Modern man is disillusioned with modernity, and so he is interested in decrying the “benefits” of progress. Paleo diets are interesting, and so Harari’s description of pre-history man is interesting as well.

I struggle with many parts of this book. The first 90% of it is written in a style that masquerades as historicism, but that is greatly historical fiction. Harari slips his beliefs and arguments into chapters upon chapters that are presented as fact, which I think is a cheap way to convince the reader of his various theses (religion is a farce and so is culture, and progress is possibly bad). This writing style, combined with Harari’s tendency to repeat himself made reading most of this novel a slog for me.

The ending, however, I thought was fantastic. There, Harari admits his ignorance and provides the reader with several hypotheses about human happiness. The reader, therefore, can look forward to the future with a skeptical, but informed, eye. I would recommend that everyone read the last few chapters of this book, but a summary of the rest will do.