Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
By Yuval Noah Harari
Why this book?
This is a brilliant and transformative book about the imaginary social components that constitute a worldview. I suppose you could quibble about the archaeological choices he made to illustrate his points, or disagree with a certain nuance of his interpretation on early theories on the evolution of our species, but that would be missing the point. This is a work of depth and understanding that should change your outlook on culture in general, and the internalized assumptions of own culture specifically, by placing it within a greater context of humanity and social evolution. I know it is a cliche, but this book really should be on your list if you want provocative insights into human culture, past and present – how the veneer of assumptions that keeps complex societies functioning (hierarchy, power and status) changes over time and place, but the underlying principles remain remarkably similar – how we as a species imagine our world – the taboos and the reasoning behind most of the institutions that we accept without question and how they could compare to other and past societies, showing the similarity of purpose and the profoundly different civilizational assumptions. Comparing a stone-age hunter gatherer witchdoctor to a besuited lawyer first made me laugh, then it made me think. If you want to be forced to really ponder our society and civilization and how it compares to others, this is vital and indispensable reading.
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