“This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come” – Yuval Noah Harari, Financial Times, March 20, 2020.
Following the trend of escaping the coronavirus information overload and trying against all the odds to avoid falling into “Cabin Fever,” we bring this proposal: If you, like Yuval Noah Harari and I, are intrigued by humankind, these may be the books to read to keep our hopes up by exploring the past, present, and future of humanity.
Harari, a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published his first book in 2008, exploring the evolution of humankind through the cognitive, agricultural, and scientific revolutions. His style appeals to a broad public, being a general and refreshing approach than a dense history lesson.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, is a guided tour of events that have shaped humanity from the very beginning of the species. It also encourages readers to ponder philosophical questions (a trend that he maintains throughout his later published books), keeping them engaged and reflective throughout. It is not a traditional history book; hence, it doesn’t have a lot of details or a full-fledged scholarly apparatus — if what you are looking for is a history textbook, this may not be your cup of tea. This book has been compared to a novelization of the history of humankind: easy to read, compelling, and thoughtful.
In 2017, continuing the story of Sapiens, Harari published Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow, an innovative vision of humanity’s future. He touches the provocative topic of the transformation of humans into gods, inviting readers to reflect upon society today and the course of humanity. With new innovations expanding (or potentially supplanting) human consciousness, Harari makes us wonder: where will we, as self-proclaimed “gods”, take the world after the famine, plague, and war?
21 Questions for the 21st Century
Harari’s most recent book is 21 Questions for the 21st Century (my personal favorite), which examines the most pressing matters of our time such as why is liberal democracy in crisis? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? And what does nationalism and the rise of a certain line of politicians mean? He emphasizes the uncertainty of these matters and the possibility of taking different paths to change our destiny. It is definitely a book to make us reflect upon the times we are living, and hopefully gives us some reassurance for the days to come.
His whole collection reminds us that this, too, shall pass. After all, isn’t that what this moment is? A minimal point in the immensity of the universe.
Read *Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus (Free from the Financial Times, March 20, 2020).
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