Book Report: Human History
This is an ongoing series of recommendations on books I deem to be eye-opening or life changing. In Edition 1 I'm sharing a short list of books on Human History.
I recommend these books for a broad sweeping account of important periods and trends in history, and an assessment of how they've shaped our evolution and lives as human beings. These books will help illuminate current affairs, clarify the nature of man (individually and collectively), and provide some possibilities on how our future may unfold.
Day the Universe Changed, James Burke
Renowned historian and author James Burke had a 1985 documentary series and book that opens our eyes to the concept of Zeitgeist. We tend to be so confident in what we know, not realizing that knowledge is relative. History has shown that our beliefs and ways of life shift constantly as our body of knowledge changes. The takeaway for me is not to be so quick to disregard that which doesn't fit your limited view. What you think to be the "real" truth on how the universe functions will likely become obsolete. You can read a passage from the book here.
Lessons of History, Will & Ariel Durant
This is an outstanding distillation of key historical events that is incredibly useful in illuminating current affairs. It is a thoughtful survey of the human experience jammed packed full of insights that are sure to change the way you think about the world and its inhabitants. What I especially appreciated is that in each chapter the Durants injected a bit of philosophy and provided "lessons" to assist the reader in digesting the contents of the book. Whether you agree or disagree with their viewpoint, you'll be sufficiently challenged on both an intellectual and emotional level.
Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
Though taught briefly in grade school, most of us probably forget that our species – Home Sapiens – was one of several human species that walked the earth. Dr. Harari explores how Sapiens were able to dominant the earth, how we came to believe in myths (gods, nations, human rights), and how we ultimately became enslaved by the very breakthroughs (cognitive, agriculture, scientific) that have pushed our species forward. What resonated most with me was the idea that the very things that allow us to flourish as a collective species are often the source of individual unhappiness and hardship. But even more than that Dr. Harari's provocative book will leave you wondering what this all means for our future.