In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari challenges everything we know about being human: who we are, how we got here and where we’re going. Harari’s bold and provocative writing has made its impression on millions of people worldwide, including Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Russell Brand and Michaela Coel.
For curious minds keen to learn even more about humankind and the world we inhabit, here are our recommendations for what to read next, from seminal works on biogeography, genetics and religion to urgent writing on race, democracy and food production in the face of climate change.
In the last two hundred years, stunning advances in health, wealth and lifespan have fundamentally transformed the experience of being human – at least for some. But this was no accident of history.
Drawing on a lifetime’s investigation, Oded Galor (Herbert H. Goldberger Professor of Economics at Brown University and the founding thinker behind Unified Growth Theory) identifies the universal forces behind these changes. The Journey of Humanity is a landmark account of our journey from the dawn of human existence to the present, with vital lessons for our future.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Guns, Germs and Steel is a popular science classic, named as one of TIME’s best non-fiction books of all time. In this ambitious synthesis of history, biology, ecology and linguistics, Jared Diamond sets out to discover what has caused human history to unfold so differently across the globe. The key factors? Geography and biogeography, argues Diamond.
Yuval Noah Harari once wrote that Guns, Germs and Steel ‘turned me from a historian of medieval warfare into a student of humankind’ – what higher recommendation is there?
The changes made by humans in recent decades have altered our world beyond anything it has experienced in its 4.6-billion-year history, bringing on a new epoch: the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans.
In Adventures in the Anthropocene, environmental journalist and broadcaster Gaia Vince explores our world at the start of this new age, to see what life is really like for the people on the frontline of the planet we’ve made. From artificial glaciers in the Himalayas to painted mountains in Peru, electrified reefs in the Maldives to garbage islands in the Caribbean, Vince finds people doing the extraordinary to solve problems that we ourselves have created. These stories show what the Anthropocene means for all of us – and they illuminate how we might engineer Earth for our future.
The story of one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in our history begins in an Augustinian abbey in 1856, leading to Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution, to the horrors of Nazi eugenics, to the present day and beyond as we learn to ‘read’ and ‘write’ the human genome. This is the story of The Gene.
Cancer physician and biologist Siddhartha Mukherjee traces this epic quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humanity, painting a fascinating vision of both our past and future.
How we search for, make and consume food has defined human history. It transforms our bodies and homes, our politics and our trade, our landscapes and our climate. But by forgetting our culinary heritage and relying on cheap, intensively produced food, we have drifted into a way of life that threatens our planet and ourselves.
In Sitopia, Carolyn Steel, winner of the 2021 Guild of Food Writers Award for Best Food Book, draws on the stories of the farmers, designers and economists who are remaking our relationship with food, to look towards a more sustainable nutritional future.
In Talking to My Daughter, world-renowned economist Yanis Varoufakis writes a series of letters to his teenage daughter, explaining what economics is and why it is so dangerous.
Why is there so much inequality? How is debt connected to profit? How does banking work?
Drawing on pop culture and favourite family stories – from Faust to The Matrix – to answer these big questions, Varoufakis provides ‘a provocative, challenging, yet non-patronising analysis of the global economy…[and] makes the text intimate and accessible’, according to the Observer.
What does society owe each of us? And what do we owe in return?
Our solution to these questions is the social contract – an implicit agreement that shapes our politics, economic systems and every stage of life, from raising children and going to school to finding work and growing old. Yet today, many believe that this contract is not working for them.
In this vision-changing book, economist Minouche Shafik shows us the way to a new model that heals division, providing mutual security and opportunity – a social contract fit for the twenty-first century.
From the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning is a game-changing reappraisal of anti-Black racist ideas. Drawing on research and historical examples, Kendi chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America, revealing that they did not arise from ignorance or hatred, but in fact were intentionally devised and honed to justify – and to perpetuate – existing racial disparities. This redefining work won the US National Book Award and was included in Barack Obama’s Black History Month reading list.
The idea of a single divine being has existed for over 4,000 years, but the history of God is also the history of human struggle. In this fascinating, extensive and original account of the evolution of belief, Karen Armstrong – former Catholic nun and one of our foremost commentators on religion – examines Western society’s fidelity to this idea of One God and the many conflicting convictions it engenders.
A controversial, extraordinary story of worship and war, A History of God is a seminal work that confronts one of the biggest topics in existence.
How was human evolution in East Africa driven by geological forces? Did Ancient Greece’s mountainous terrain lead to the development of democracy? Why does voting behaviour in the United States today follow the bed of an ancient sea?
Lewis Dartnell tells the ultimate origin story in his ‘sweeping, brilliant overview of the history not only of our species but of the world’, as Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads, describes it. Blending science and history, Origins reveals the Earth’s awesome impact on the shape of human civilisations, helping us to see the challenges and opportunities of the future.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning David Casanave and David Vandermeulen’s graphic adaptation of Sapiens.
In Volume 1, ‘The Birth of Humankind’, discover how six different species of humans became the single modern-day homo sapiens. Volume 2, ‘The Pillars of Civilization’, sees Yuval Noah Harari and his companions including Prof. Saraswati and Dr Fiction travel the length and breadth of human history to investigate how the Agricultural Revolution changed society forever.
With gorgeous, full-colour illustrations, this series is perfect for existing fans of Sapiens, or for visual learners who are entirely new to Harari’s ideas.
Very rarely does a book come along that truly transforms the way we understand humanity. Books like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Thomas Piketty’s Capital. Oded Galor’s remarkable The Journey of Humanity
In an age where trust in politicans is constantly contested, we asked 21 Lessons for the 21st Century author Yuval Noah Harari where they have gone wrong, and what might come next.