By Yuval Noah
$29.99, 464 pages
Originally published in Israel, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari's brilliant history of humankind has already become an international bestseller. A specialist in world history, Harari undertakes a daunting task in Sapiens: to examine the rise of our species and discern the reasons behind our remarkable success.
"How did we manage to settle so rapidly in so many distant and ecologically different habitats?" Harari asks. "How did we push all other human species into oblivion?"
Harari is clear about the most likely answer: our unique language. And the author's own command of words and ideas is part of what makes this account so engaging.
Harari traces the rise of human language, focusing on a period about 70,000 years ago he calls the Cognitive Revolution, which led to the extinction of the Neanderthals.
Harari's scope is both deep and broad, yet while immersing the reader in the sweep of history, he also presents fascinating information about the roles money, science and religion have played.
Finally, Harari speculates about the future, wondering whether we will continue to improve the human condition while wreaking havoc on our planet and the plants and animals that share it with us.