EVERYONE Has Read This but Me - The Catch-Up Book Club discussion

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MODERN CLASSICS/POPULAR READS > Sapiens: A Brief History - *SPOILERS*

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Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1108 comments Welcome everyone to our November 2020 Modern Classic/Popular Group Read; this month we'll be reading through Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

Friendly reminder that this is the spoilers thread - if you're not yet ready for spoilers then head on over to the pre-read thread.

What did you think of this book? Did it meet your expectations? Was it relatable or did it help you gain a new perspective?


Joanna Loves Reading (joannalovesreading) | 1108 comments Note: Spoiled Threads will remain closed until November.


message 3: by Woman Reading (last edited Nov 04, 2020 12:58AM) (new)

Woman Reading  | 381 comments Given the timeline Harari covered, I'm going to comment as I go along, otherwise I'll forget too much. I've read the first 2 chapters so far.

From my visits to natural history museums, I knew that there had been overlap among the various humanoid types. But we know so little, and it was interesting to read the Interbreeding vs Replacement theories. Before I began reading this book, I had already heard that DNA testing has revealed that some people have Neanderthal DNA. And size isn't everything because Harari wrote that Neanderthals had larger brains than sapiens (though maybe a comparison of individual brain sections might be more significant). I'm glad that they can't say that the rise of sapiens was entirely due to the replacement theory because then genocide has been a looong constant in our make up.


message 4: by Allyson (new)

Allyson | 11 comments Aloha fellow readers/listeners... I'm listening to the audio version of this book and am enjoying it in small pieces. To date, I'm about halfway through (having listened to 2 books in between) and have learned a lot! I've already used the "our ancestors pillaged the fig tree" excuse as to why I finished the sweets before others in the house could enjoy them.... haha. ;)


message 5: by Woman Reading (last edited Nov 05, 2020 04:13PM) (new)

Woman Reading  | 381 comments Every issue has at least 2 sides -> so wheat domesticated humans during the agricultural revolution. Hah, but not untrue.


message 6: by Monique (new)

Monique | 159 comments Just finished the audiobook today!

I loved the early parts before the agricultural revolution, then it turned a little less interesting. By the time I got to the discussion of mythologies, I was already much more conscious of the subjective bias. Altogethere, a lot of information that wasn't necessarily true but that was connected in a way that made me think about some things I hadn't considered before.


message 7: by Korina (new)

Korina | 22 comments I absolutely love this book. I love that it made me more aware that our human societies are built upon narratives of myth and it reminded me that we have the power to create or destroy or alter myths as we see fit (money, laws, borders, etc). This book also cemented my atheism for me, something I'm not necessarily upset about. I also love this book because it gave me the opposite experience of the phrase "the more I learn, the less I know"; this book gave me such a wide-lense view of the history of humanity, and all the frustrating problems that we are currently facing not only make sense (as far as how we got here) but they also seem surmountable to me now, at least somewhat. This book, above all else, gave me hope and understanding.


message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1013 comments Korina, to get hope and understanding... I bet the author would love to know that they did that for you. I'm even more interested now.

I'm also having trouble figuring out what's a spoiler in a science book, so I'm going to keep it simple and post my thoughts here.

I've read several other prehistory/ origin of mankind books over the years, but never got the overview with the numbers made so clear as is done here.

2.5 myo = "animals much like modern humans first appeared" and first recorded tool use by humans

2 myo = the diaspora out of Africa leading to the evolution of disparate humans.

6 myo = "a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother."

400 kyo = "several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis"

100 kyo = "the rise of Homo Sapiens... man jumped to the top of the food chain."

70 kyo = the Cognitive Revolution

12 kyo = the Agricultural Revolution

10 kyo = the extinction of other humans than Sapiens


Woman Reading  | 381 comments Allyson wrote: "I've already used the "our ancestors pillaged the fig tree" excuse as to why I finished the sweets before others in the house could enjoy them.... haha. ;) "

I had recently finished Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage in which 28 men barely survived on penguins and sea lions in Antarctica. As their food inventory diminished, most of them found themselves obsessing about sugar-laden desserts. Sugar was a luxury, and now it's leading us to obesity and type 2 diabetes.


message 10: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1013 comments Oh, Endurance is an excellent book. Shows what people are really capable of. Good companion read to this in a way.

Another good companion read for the first section is The Kin by Peter Dickinson.


message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa White | 4 comments I’m gonna go against popular opinion and admit that I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The first third or so was pretty good, as it took the reader through the early history of humans which was so fascinating to me. But the rest of the book felt less of a history and more of a comparison of current humans vs past humans and critiquing everything about our current lifestyle. And maybe that was the intent of the book, but I went into it thinking it would be just a chronology of our actual history. There was definitely a lot of historical facts sprinkled in but just not what I was expecting. And it made me feel almost guilty for being alive right now...like should I go live in the woods? Would that make everything right again? LOL.


message 12: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 284 comments I’m 75% done this book. Loved the first section as I’m geeky about this stuff. The closer this gets to current day, the more depressing it is. I think there are truths here that don’t reflect well on current society.


message 13: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 284 comments Melissa wrote: "I’m gonna go against popular opinion and admit that I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. The first third or so was pretty good, as it took the reader through the early history of..."

I totally see where you’re coming from Melissa. I’m not done but I wonder if this is a book current people SHOULD read. It might not be pleasant.


message 14: by Renata (new)

Renata (renatag) | 691 comments Mod
Wow, what a book! Having just finished, I feel like I want to re-read it again. It's so packed with interesting data, clearly explaining some very complicated subjects across a broad array of topics. It's almost too much to take in on one reading alone.


message 15: by Renata (new)

Renata (renatag) | 691 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "Korina, to get hope and understanding... I bet the author would love to know that they did that for you. I'm even more interested now.

I'm also having trouble figuring out what's a spoiler in a sc..."


Could you explain what MYO and KYO mean?


message 16: by Woman Reading (new)

Woman Reading  | 381 comments Hmm, Harari's book could turn people into vegetarian atheists. I wonder whether he is one.

" The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum.

In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist–consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do.

Following Homo sapiens, domesticated cattle, pigs and sheep are the second, third and fourth most widespread large mammals in the world. From a narrow evolutionary perspective, which measures success by the number of DNA copies, the Agricultural Revolution was a wonderful boon for chickens, cattle, pigs and sheep...

Domesticated chickens and cattle may well be an evolutionary success story, but they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived. The domestication of animals was founded on a series of brutal practices that only became crueller with the passing of the centuries.

...the vast majority of domesticated chickens and cattle are slaughtered at the age of between a few weeks and a few months, because this has always been the optimal slaughtering age from an economic perspective. But the price is subjugation to a way of life completely alien to their urges and desires. It’s reasonable to assume, for example, that bulls prefer to spend their days wandering over open prairies in the company of other bulls and cows rather than pulling carts and ploughshares under the yoke of a whip-wielding ape."



message 17: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1013 comments Renata wrote: "Could you explain what MYO and KYO mean?

..."

million years ago, thousand (as in kilo-) years ago.

But now I see that it should be mya and kya... I wonder where I learned this... apparently I learned it wrong? Thanks for alerting me; I need to go fix my review!


message 18: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1013 comments Yes, I dnf'd, too. I loved the first part, but yes the 'prehistory' is much better than the history... so many other books and sources have told us plenty about why we should use our consciousness to overcome our genetic programming and become vegetarian atheists who use science to understand how to live in the world without ruining it that I felt that I was being preached at.

I particularly did not like his dismissal of science fiction. He's completely wrong about what the best works of speculative fiction do... I read a lot of it precisely because it does explore the What If questions.

Anyway, a good companion to the last parts of the book would be the trilogy that begins with WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer.


message 19: by Woman Reading (last edited Nov 22, 2020 09:46AM) (new)

Woman Reading  | 381 comments I'm glad that this group finally nudged me into reading this book. I've had it on my radar for a while but I became reluctant because I managed only to skim his other book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. And then the other thing is that despite my library having 39 ebooks, this 6-year old title still has a wait time of 3-4 months.

I liked it more than I had expected. My review - www.Goodreads.com/review/show/3626501629


message 20: by Megan (new)

Megan | 386 comments I agree with Melissa and Cheryl. I had to force myself to finish this book. While he does make some insightful and intelligent observations, it’s a very Eurocentric book that makes a lot of gross oversimplifications, makes mistakes, uses some inappropriate analogies regarding the American slave trade and Indigenous peoples response to European colonialists and, like Cheryl said is totally wrong about sci-fi failing to address androids, cyborgs and the evolutionary future of humanity. That’s what a large portion of sci-fi is about, not just space ships and ray guns.


message 21: by Allyson (new)

Allyson | 11 comments Well friends, I hate to admit it, but I've moved this book to my abandoned shelf. Like some of you have mentioned, I really enjoyed the first third of the book, but found the later chapters to be a slog.


message 22: by Robin (new)

Robin Redden | 130 comments I enjoyed this book a great deal. I thought it was original, creative and thought provoking with a lot of interesting ideas that made me think deeply about things I hadn't thought about before. I didn't think the analogies were inappropriate or that Harari was dissing sci-fi. I didn't feel "preached" at but I also don't think humans make good decisions a lot of the time and Harari brought some of those bad decisions to light. We should be critical of ourselves. I don't rate a lot of books a 5 but I rated this one a 5. It's an important read.


message 23: by Samuel (new)

Samuel (kaisserds) | 90 comments I'm afraid finished past the deadline. I agree with what you said, Robin. I rated this book a 5 as well, mainly because the questions if forces us to think about. I actually preferred the later chapters over the beginning. The first part didn't cover much school doesn't already.

I went into the book expecting aa "essay", so to speak, so I didn't find it preachy, more like an author discussing some points. I agreed with some, disagreed with others, but I didn't feel at anytime like he was pulling ideas out of thin air, they were argumented and while maybe true, maybe false, that makes for an stimulating book


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