i‑Learner Education Centre

Teacher Diaries

Teacher Diaries: Mr. Adam – Non-Fiction

Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

While on my three-month Study Leave in Europe, I had much more time to catch up on books that I had fallen behind with due to my busy life in Hong Kong. Sapiens is a book I had wanted to read for some time, but standing at (a ‘brief’) nearly 500 pages and tackling the rather vast subject of ‘the history of humankind’, it was a book I had decided deserved more focused attention than I could give it in Hong Kong.

To my surprise however, Sapiens was a very approachable read, which presents big, abstract ideas in simple and concrete ways. I felt that in the comfort of my own armchair, I was able to travel from the dawn of human history, right through the early emergence of what could be described as civilisation, up to the world we see today. Along the way, you see how primitive societies formed from migrant tribes, how early humans domesticated (were domesticated by?) the crops around them, and how such human congregations snowballed into larger and larger societies, leading right up to the complex, global world we live in today.

The book roughly splits the journey into three revolutions: cognitive, agricultural, and scientific. This makes it very easy to compartmentalise some of the bigger ideas, some of which were entirely new to me, and some of which presented novel connections between apparently unrelated areas of knowledge and civlisation.

While I couldn’t call Sapiens a light read, I would certainly not classify it as prohibitively heavy. For anyone who wants to understand more of what it means to be human, more about where we come from, and more about the big ideas that tie us all together, I would recommend this book without hesitation.