This historian asks weird questions you can't stop pondering

Example: Has progress made humans more content?

“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari is a book that has more ideas per rectangular page than anything I have read in years. I was lucky enough to have a long conversation with Harari for this week’s podcast.

Harari is a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Sapiens” was published in Hebrew in 2011 and has since been translated into 26 languages. It is a challenging, serious book, and it is a best seller all over the world. I suspect that is because the questions Harari asks are so unlike the traditional ones in history.

Harari isn’t so concerned with the rise and fall of civilizations, wars, great figures and discoveries but with how it all affected or changed the well-being of homo sapiens – not the species as a whole, but the daily lives and contentment of us humans. Did the invention of planting actually improve life? What about bridges, gunpowder or antibiotics?

These are weird questions for historians and they are what make “Sapiens” such an incredibly fun, almost mischievous book. It is a genre buster. I hope this podcast gives a good feel for this strikingly original thinker.

[Also by Dick Meyer: Justices feel weight of history in gay-marriage case]

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