Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens is an incredible work of erudition, all the more wonderful for how amazingly comprehensible it is. Non-fiction buffs have been raving about this book to me since it came out, and it did not disappoint in the least. Harari is a lecturer in history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the breadth of his knowledge and insight is truly remarkable. What starts out as pure archaeology and history slowly morphs into a frank philosophical discussion about what it means to be human and how that might evolve in the future. The scope of Sapiens follows the development of homo sapiens from merely one among many human species, through the Cultural (organizing ourselves into social groups bound together by gossip), Agricultural, Scientific, and Industrial Revolutions, within which we still find ourselves. And all of this is written in easily understandable, utterly engaging language. There is also no bias (other than the purely scientific), with many different viewpoints explained along with their strengths and weaknesses. Harari acknowledges that there is so much we don't know, but does his best with the tools at our disposal to synthesize as many different fields as possible into a coherent, ordered and logical presentation of our past - distant and recent - and our possible futures. This very brief review cannot hope to do justice to a splendid piece of scholarship that also happens to be tremendously readable. Bravo, Dr. Harari!