Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind has a couple of major flaws, it’s title being one of them. Rather than a brief history, it’s more of Yuval Noah Harari’s not so brief musings on the human condition. I can see why some people feel cheated or disappointed after 80-90 pages, because by then the books second flaw become apparent.
Harari tend to go into lengthy tirades to make points about our social, economic, and political constructs. I am sure his wordy expositions are meant to be inclusive and make sure the reader understands his viewpoint. The result, however, is that he loses the reader along the way. Either because the reader thinks “Get to the point!” or “This is not ‘a brief history’, it’s a tedious rant!”
This is frustrating, because his points are often interesting and sometimes provocative. But I can’t help but feeling Harari could benefit from a more harsh editing of his text.
With all that said, I don’t mean to sound overly negative. Because all in all, this is a good book. Harari possesses both detailed knowledge and the ability to make Big Picture connections from it. He is persuasive – if a bit wordy – in making good arguments for the conclusions. You learn from this book and it requires the readers engagement from time to time. So I can see some might get disappointed if light entertainment is what you’re after.
Harari does not shy away from letting his own opinions shine through. I was not at all surprised to learn that he’s a vegan after reading his detailed accounts of the cruelty exerted on domesticated animals even at the early stages of human farming society. It’s not a bad thing that the author’s worldview shines through from time to time. It gives us a glimpse of Harari’s dry academic humour to lighten up the sometimes dense flow of information.
I skipped some parts that didn’t tickle my interest and that’s fine, I wouldn’t slate the book on that account, but naturally that lowers my overall impression.
It’s definitely worth a read.