Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Last Thursday, or about 100,000 years ago, ten ancient Sapiens gathered around the corner of the canyon with their clubs to consider hunting/gathering, and opted instead for the breakfast menu, with a few eggs and some pig's meat.  It led to an interesting conversation.

Karl:  This book needed to be studied, not read.  A good 200 page book, not 415 pages!  When the reader was brought into the current era, the author introduced lots of soap box issues - it should have been two books!  I liked the history, not the speculation.  Grade B

Keith:  Sensationalism of war was the dominating theme, as opposed to past history.  See poem below (captured on Country Club napkin).  Grade:  B-

      Briefer Future of Humankind

   Our Earth is fueled by fear and greed,
   And warning signs we seldom heed.
   Most rape and pillage Mother Earth,
   Exhuming all resources of any worth.

   Four sins stand out at this time,
   And for each I'll make a rhyme:

   We're poor stewards of our spinning sphere,
   Spreading our scat both far and near

   And our pols say Climate Change ... a big Ho-Ho,
   While most science and research says its so.

   We treat underlings as a sub-standard class,
   Failed humans ... worthless.  Alas, alas -

   And our #1 human Law: ... Conservation of War.
   Finished one?  Let's have one more!

   Finally, governments tell us what to do -
   That ain't Democracy - oh, well, boo-hoo.

   In summary, our Planet is rolling pell-mell
   Towards the fiery, demonic Gates of Hell.

Tom:  I echo Karl's remarks:  I liked the history, disliked the speculation.  150 - 200 pages would have worked.  I had trouble with Harari calling everything a "myth."  There are three forms of humanism defined, but the author does not mention secular humanism, which seems to be omitted.  Grade:  B+

Ron B:  Lots of interesting ideas, worthy of discussion, lots of speculation and wordy:  B+

Charlie:  I like the book, it raised lots of ideas.  Too much speculation even though I agree with it mostly.  Still not sorted out the difference between historic facts and speculation.  A for ideas, B+ overall.

Bob W:  A stream of consciousness, unifying principle as chronology over time.  Not original except the way ideas were put together, creatively.  I did not learn much new but gained new perspectives.  B+

Ken:  I would tend to agree - it was interesting, thought provoking; however other sections tended to put me to sleep with the read.  B+ is reasonable grade.

Rob E:  I vote "Present."  I didn't get the book but did get the Executive Summary on Kindle.  That was the right length.  There is an old canard:  Evil Crusaders - that irks me!  Christian crusaders kill people.  Iris DeMent sang a good summary thought, "Let the Mystery Be":

        Let the Mystery Be

    Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from
      Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
    When the whole thing's done.
    But no one knows for certain
    And, so it's all the same to me
    I think I'll just let the mystery be

Bob S:  I enjoyed it; brings back the story of a hotel in Oslo.  A-

Mike:  Professor Harari wrote a book based on his desire to tell the history of the world, and then, like many of us writing our own books, decided to add in 'other stuff' he was interested in or passionate about.  Should have left those passions out if he wanted a good grade from this bunch of Sapiens.  The book could be a B+ or an A-.  Since I chose it, and I really love the clever early history:  A-

and from well beyond the African homeland:

From:  Richard Jensen 
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is a very impressive book. The author has an impressive knowledge of the history of humankind. The book is well written and I was particularly impressed with his use of examples to explain his points. I am not a scientist but he was able to explain science in a way that I could understand. This is the kind of book that a person could read several times and learn something new every time. Grade A

 Alas I'm allowing my daydreaming sparked by this book to delay me from sending you my remarks regarding this month's LTBC selection.

  I found the first two parts of Sapiens fascinating, not knowing, for example, that several distinctive human species existed at the same time on our planet and that they did not evolve one from another.  Why aren't there more featherless bipeds around? 

 Granted that was several hundred thousand years ago, but nevertheless mind boggling to me.  

  Harari obviously did an extensive amount of research and did a good job in organizing a tremendous amount of information and putting it all together in a very readable form.  I found his writing style crisp and easy to follow.  I appreciated his touch of humor. I was not taken in as much in the last half of the book by his interpretation of history and cultural development.  This parting of ways probably reflects my own prejudices and beliefs rather than the strength of Harari's researched arguments about the direction of human development.  I am glad I read it.  B+