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Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  9,623 ratings  ·  1,078 reviews
An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day.

In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real

Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published July 26th 2018 by Wildfire
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  9,623 ratings  ·  1,078 reviews

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Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Funny and depressing!
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humans is a book you will learn lots of new information from, and not only that but what you do learn is interesting and engaging, albeit a little depressing. To create a contrast between the darkness of most of what we are told, Phillips adds humour which lightens the mood somewhat. The style of writing is eminently readable and flows smoothly from one point to the next without trouble. This is such original non-fiction, and it appears the author has carried out extensive research to find these ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emma by: TS Chan
Shelves: novelnotions
For all that the humour provides the bulk of the content here, and is very enjoyable in itself, the real value of the book is in the bits where Phillips gets a bit more serious. There's some very pointed commentary on the kinds of things we just can't seem to learn and reading it in today's political climate gives these repeated failures an extra kick. However, I leave the book wondering whether the whole 'it's not just us' makes me feel better or worse. How a book can be so funny and so profoun ...more
Tanja Berg
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Did you have a bad day? Read this book. It will give you a multitude of examples, large and small, of people fucking it up a lot worse than you. At the same time that is absolutely horrifying, exemplifying time and again our incapability of learning from past mistakes, it is also entertaining and educational. A rare combination.

As an example of the list "fuck ups I have never heard about" is Mao Zedong's Fours Pests campaign. "The most disastrous entirely successful public health policy ever". T
Jun 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019
The story of human progress starts with our capacity for thinking and creativity. That's what sets humans apart from other animals – and it's also what leads us to make complete tits of ourselves on a regular basis.

Author Tom Phillips studied Archaeology, Anthropology and the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and has worked as a journalist, a humour writer, and as the editorial director of BuzzFeed UK. All of these skills and influences are apparent in Humans: A Brief
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At first what drove me nuts about this book is the total lack of referencing, apart from what feels like a tacked-on ‘Further Reading’ section at the end. Towards the beginning, the statement that “more people were killed by lawnmowers than by terrorism in the USA in the decade between 2007 and 2017” made me actually appreciate the Internet for a change.

A Google search lead me to the World Economic Forum website … and the equally bizarre fact that this statistic is attributed to none other than
TS Chan
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I first laid my eyes upon the cover of this book in the bookstore, I knew that it'll appeal to my dwindling optimism about humanity in general. It did not disappoint as I enjoyed reading this book tremendously. It was highly informative, written in a most engaging tone and pretty darn funny (although the topic in itself is actually really bleak). I even wished the book was longer.

Highly recommended for everyone. Even if you don't share my sentiments.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
Horrifying and entertaining look at human behavior. It's amazing we've hung around as long as we have w/o destroying ourselves (at the writing of this brief review humans were still alive on Earth, tomorrow may be another story) ;) ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reads
I loved how this book was written. Tom Phillips writes with such confidence and tells his points very bluntly - while being very entertaining and funny. I also like how the beginning of the book starts with creation and Lucy, and as the book goes on it discusses later things in history.

I marked it as a re-read because Tom Philips refers to things in history that I totally don't remember haha and he basically just discusses the things in history that we went wrong but I want the whole story.

Carolyn Walsh
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book told with wit, humour and sarcasm. It chronicles some of the colossal mistakes mankind has made throughout history to the detriment of their environment, their countries, the planet, the atmosphere and now outer space. Incompetent or deranged leaders, blunders in war, exploration, science, government and colonialism are all here. The mistakes made me shudder and cringe. Some had me laughing out loud. I frequently had both reactions at the same time.

What has mankind le
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Take a base of Guns, Germs, And Steel. Add a dash of Sapiens. Top with swearing and a cynical, snarky, funny look at humanity. How we got quite this far is a little amazing.

Is this entertainment - yes. Is there some honest-to-goodness history in here - absolutely. Do the dispiriting examples weave together into a serious lesson about how we learn, build cultures, and communicate - definitely.

So laugh with it. Laugh at it. But it's also real history worth taking a look at.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tom Phillips has my fucking cynical sadistic heart.. as I repeatedly tell my friends, "god, I hate humanity" which this book clarifies is a true statement. The book charted how history (and the historical figures involved) are fucking flawed as hell and make fucking shit decisions.

But, Tom Phillips is a babe, a funny as hell babe. This book may be my non-fiction pick of the year.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
A fun pop history book about how we sadly never learn. That said, don't look for something deeper here. It's essentially BuzzFeed in book form. It worked well as a palate cleanser. ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
P. 19- "But while the human brain is remarkable, it is also extremely weird, and prone to going badly wrong at the worst possible moment. We routinely make terrible decisions, believe ridiculous things, ignore evidence that's right in front of our eyes and come up with plans that make absolutely no sense. Our minds are capable of imagining concertos and cities and the theory of relativity into evidence, and yet apparently incapable of deciding which type of crisps we want to buy at the shop whit ...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This book's mission statement was to make me feel better about us humans being such colossal fuck-ups, by reminding me that it was ever so - but if anything that only made me feel more depressed. After all, if we've always been like this, then there's no chance that the current downhill road is just a trend, a brief dark hour we might one day cross and make better. It's not going to get any better. The only difference is, our fuck-ups are on a global scale now, meaning there's nowhere left to ru ...more
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this really interesting and full of fascinating facts. It is written in a lighthearted way that makes what is essentially depressing history fun! It’s quite sweary so if that bothers you give this book a wide berth (but I think the title gives it away already).

I read this book across about a week. It’s not a book I would read in one sitting. I found it best to read a chapter, put the book down and do something else (read another book even) and then come back to it for a daily chapter.

Darcia Helle
I loved this book! What could have been a depressing overview of how badly we humans have screwed up instead made me laugh out loud most of the way through.

Tom Phillips writes with a combination of humor, sarcasm, and academic honesty. He's clearly an incredibly smart guy, but he doesn't take himself too seriously, and so we readers get to sit back and enjoy ourselves. Along the way we learn a few things and should probably be horrified by some of it, and yet the tone keeps us from sinking into
A Reader's Heaven
"An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day.
In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real winners. But, frankly, it's not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes - just occasionally - we've managed to really, tru
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tom Phillips has a superbly dark and cutting sense of humour that really comes through in this book, the topic of which really needs it as it chronicles how we repeatedly and consistently screw things up even when we're trying not to. Phillips shows that from our earliest days we were able to fail in bigger and better ways than we ever succeeded, a trend that continues to this very day, and something that we clearly have never managed to learn from. This makes one wonder whether it's too late to ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it

I really liked both the beginning and the end, but the middle was very repetitive. Not that it didnt do what it was supposed to do, he talked about lots of weird things during our history. I'm just more of a science guy, so the same concept the entire book was a bit much for me. I wish he wouldve talked more about climate change and what we're doing now etc. Sitll good tho, if you like history you'll like this. His humour is great, and the narrator of the audiobook makes it even better
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dear Everyone:

You should read this book. It pulls together history, science, politics, pop culture and everything else and ties it all together with the Best. Snark. Ever.

Try to read it where your snorting and snickering and giggling won't disturb others.

You won't be sorry! 😄
Feb 10, 2021 rated it liked it
This is an irreverent, opinionated and somewhat funny book about the failures and mistakes humans have made. Some historical incidents covered are general knowledge, but some were new to me. Short and entertaining.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gen-nonfiction
a wry, relentlessly hilarious tour through humanity's follies and fuck-ups, tom phillips's humans mixes history and humor to grand effect. wending his way through politics, science, war, exploration, nature, diplomacy, technology, and more, phillips amply demonstrates that our species continues to manifest new and nearly unbelievable ways to exhibit the depths (or is it heights?) of utter individual and collective stupidity.
whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in t
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Extremely entertaining and deeply depressing in equal measure. Packed with eclectic examples from across human history and the planet of humanity's ongoing propensity to make seriously disastrous mistakes by getting sucked into a whole range of cognitive biases, it reads like a hybrid of Daniel Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond - but with jokes and pop-culture references galore.

The simple message? Don't be like the rest of humanity - learn from history. (Even if that's also incredibl
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Less a book about the science behind why we do dumb things than a collection of epic humanity fails and how/why they happened. (if you wanted hard science, you should at least read the first chapter because that's where the info is and it's excellent).
I actually felt better about the world after listening to comedian Nish Kumar read this book. As bad as it can feel, humans have been just as stupid and awful throughout our history—and frequently we have been much, much worse. Hilarious, conversa
Andrea McDowell
Entertaining and packed full of fun facts. Basically it's 280 pages making the point that when straight old white men with too much money trust straight young white men with too much confidence and not enough skill, terrible things happen to the world. And also, that we've shown no capacity from learning from thousands of years of similar mistakes.

(Not all of the men in the book are white, so neo-nazis can chill the fuck out; but it is largely a book about men fucking up because, as the author s
Victoria Williamson
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
LOVED this. It was fab. Loads of facts and history but very humorous too....I listened to this on audible. Nish Kumar narrated, which also helped.
Azita Rassi
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To present this gloomy subject matter with such fine sense of humor is no small feat. I listened to this audiobook with combined joy and dismay. Great writing and fantastic audio presentation.
Векослав Стефановски
This is a great companion piece to Sapiens. While Sapiens gives a fundamentally progressive and hopeful version of the history of mankind, this one takes a bleaker (and funnier) take on events.

Starting with an ape that fell from a tree and entered history, it's a comedy of errors and incompetence that shaped the world as we see it today. The book does not take sides, and it has hilarious and harrowing stories of how kings f*cked up, and how elected officials f*ucked it all up, how scientists f*c
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5 Stars.
This is a book for those who love to learn about History; especially of said History is really really terrible.

Basically: between 300-1000 years ago, there were some certain people/persons who committed/were a part of some really bad events that fucked up the world in some way(including one event that still effects people to this day)no spoilers.

Tom Phillips did a really good job at putting a lot of detail in to each chapter(10 simple chapters) however; some of the details tend to
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Tom Phillips is the editor of the fact-checking organisation, Full Fact.

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“We tend to assume that when something awful happens there must have been some great controlling intelligence behind it. It’s understandable: how could things have gone so wrong, we think, if there wasn’t an evil genius pulling the strings? The downside of this is that we tend to assume that if we can’t immediately spot an evil genius, then we can all chill out a bit because everything will be fine. But history suggests that’s a mistake, and it’s one that we make over and over again. Many of the worst man-made events that ever occurred were not the product of evil geniuses. Instead they were the product of a parade of idiots and lunatics, incoherently flailing their way through events, helped along the way by overconfident people who thought they could control them.” 9 likes
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