October 17, 2018
This is part four in a project to review/respond to one book per week (er, couple months). By and large it will only include books I am reading or have read recently enough that they’re still stacked in a currently-reading-pile. Everything will be high level, mostly first impression, and hastily written. This one I read a few months back, but as it happens I wrote most of this then, too.
This week’s book: Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens”.
I picked this up at the airport waiting for a long-haul international flight. It’s a book I’d heard mentioned in various circles, including a few podcasts. AngelList founder Naval Ravikant has gone so far as to call it a life-changing book. It’s a good book, a perspective changing book, even, but I wonder what kind of life one has to have for this book to change it so significantly.
Reading it reminded me of my experience watching several Marvel movies though, specifically Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther. Both were hyped by numerous fans and critics as being spectacular movies, some saying the best in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” for each, respectively, or for some folks their favorite movie. And each was… fine. I probably would have enjoyed them more without the unwarranted expectations.
Let me be clear, this is a good book, a better book than either Guardians of the Galaxy or Black Panther is a movie.
Sapiens is a survey of the history of Homo sapiens from start to finish, er, from start to possible future. It’s most interesting, and read more informatively and authoritatively (apologies to anthropologists everywhere) covering the earlier part of this history. Ironically this is the part we know less about.
Ultimately, however, this book isn’t so much a survey of human history as it is a story about several revolutions as inflection points in human history.
Another fine post by Ben Lopatin.
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