Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Book Review

28 Feb / James Eastham

The Blurb

Fire gave us power. Farming made us hungry for more. Money gave us purpose. Science made us deadly. This is the thrilling account of our extraordinary history – from insignificant apes to rulers of the world.

Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it: us.

In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going.

‘I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species’ Bill Gates

Taken from Amazon UK 

5 Key Quotes

“Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.”

“Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.”

“This is especially relevant to the large animals of the oceans. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, the large sea animals suffered relatively little from the Cognitive and Agricultural Revolutions. But many of them are on the brink of extinction now as a result of industrial pollution and human overuse of oceanic resources. If things continue at the present pace, it is likely that whales, sharks, tuna and dolphins will follow the diprotodons, ground sloths and mammoths to oblivion.”

“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.”

“Some scholars compare human biochemistry to an air-conditioning system that keeps the temperature constant, come heatwave or snowstorm …. On a scale from one to ten, some people are born with a cheerful biochemical system that allows their mood to swing between levels six and ten,”

Plus one more for good luck

“It is like a man standing for decades on the seashore, embracing certain ‘good’ waves and trying to prevent them from disintegrating, while simultaneously pushing back ‘bad’ waves to prevent them from getting near him. Day in, day out, the man stands on the beach, driving himself crazy with this fruitless exercise. Eventually, he sits down on the sand and just allows the waves to come and go as they please.”

Want my quick 2 cents?

In the blurb, Bill Gates states that:

“I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species”

I would go as far as to say that this book is so much more than that. Anybody who is interested in learning more about the human constitution. Why humans do the things they do, should go and pick this book up right now. Even if you’re not that interested go and buy it anyway. If there is one book that will change your opinion on why humans are the way they are and the ‘right’ we have to be on the planet, this is it.

Plus, it’ll tell you how wheat is the master of the human race!

Interested to read more…

Homo Sapiens is a great book, that is a fact. You only need to look at the rave celebrity reviews and the rating on Amazon to find that out. It explores the scientific route of how humans in their current form came to be. From monkeys, through Neanderthals and all the way to today’s homo sapiens.

It explores how we developed and what helped us to become the all-conquering, planet-trashing species that we are today. From how we managed to spread around the world to have capitalism developed and what that meant for the world economy, There is no subject matter that really goes untouched. Religions, agriculture, wars, genetics! It’s all in there.

One of the bigger points I took away from the book is that most things we know and believe in today’s world are simply figments of our imagination. Stock markets, money, human rights? All completely made up by humankind to allow us to function as one single entity. It does kind of shake your beliefs in your investment strategy knowing that every foundation it is built on is simply the figment of another homo sapiens imagination.

I would say, if you are religious, then this book may be hard reading. For the most part, religion is completely discounted and this book focuses purely on the scientific route. He even goes as far as to discount religions as falling into the ‘figments of our imagination’ category. Whilst Yuval does always back his points up with hard evidence (fossils, archeological finds etc.) it may still not be an enjoyable read.


The book is structured in a broadly chronological manner, with each chapter focusing on a different topic. This really helps the book flow in a logical manner, from pre-historic to the Romans to the present day. Whilst also tackling the key developments of each time period as he goes.

Some people I know have told me they found the book boring and never actually finished it. I can see that if you don’t have a slightly scientific mind and science interests you. I would say the book sits more in the science camp than in history.

The Author

Yuval Noah Harari has a Ph.D. in History from Oxford University and currently lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (taken from Amazon). His writing style is good, but as I mentioned the book has a large science focused as well as focusing on human history. He sets his beliefs out early on and continues to back them up throughout the book. Whilst he does jump around a little bit (referring back to earlier chapters/ages) this does help to add a lot of context to a lot of his points.

In Summary

If you’re interested in a science-based history of us and discovering how we went from the lower half of the food chain right up to the very stop, pick up this book right now. Simples!

Buy now on Amazon

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