Contrary to what the title of this blog post may suggest, you will not find the book I am about to recommend under the ‘travel’ section of your local bookstore (or Amazon’s Kindle for that matter – this is 2017). Instead, you may want to take a detour to ‘history’.
In the past few months, I have taken a rather obsessive interest in non-fiction. For a long time it bored me, and I couldn’t convince myself to dedicate large chunks of time to reading what already was as opposed to what could be.
But then I picked up this book.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is everything you would expect it to be judging from its title. Originally written by Yuval Noah Harari in Hebrew (and later translated into English and an abundance of other languages), this provocative book walks you through the timeline of humanity, from our evolution from the great apes right up to the twenty-first century. Dealing with (and controversially interpreting) issues such as religion, bureaucracy, consumerism, economics, animal rights and happiness, it will challenge everything you thought you knew about being human. In his own words, Harari argues that, “Homo Sapiens rule the world because it is the only animal that believes in things that exist purely in it’s own imagination, such as gods, states, money, and human rights.”
Sapiens completely transformed the way I conceptualise our world. What I once perceived as being dull and irrelevant pages out of a history book, I now understand to be indispensable pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that furthered our evolution. If I could find a way to make it mandatory for everyone to read this book at some stage of their life, I would do so without a second thought.
So why do I insist so on reading this book before you travel?
Quite simply, I believe that understanding the world you explore enriches your experience exponentially. If your goal through traveling is to learn, then this book is the best place to start. Discovering the birth of different cultures, peoples and creeds introduces a whole new dimension of understanding that money just can’t buy; it’s one thing to take pretty pictures of ancient civilisations, but it’s another to appreciate how those civilisations came to be.
And that’s something your Instagram feed just can’t teach you.
Have you read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity? Which book have you read that you would recommend to fellow travellers? I would love to hear from you!