: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years
Guns, Germs, and Steel is the widely read and well received book by Jared Diamond. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction In 1988. In summary, it sets out an explanation for why Eurasian civilizations have survived and conquered others, while critically, arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority.
In supporting his thesis, Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians — e.g., written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases — these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures; not because of genomes.
Sapiens, the 2014 book by Yuval Noah Harari, is written in a very readable way. It provides a very well thought out survey of the history of humankind from the evolution of our species of human in the Stone Age up to the 21st c. This is how the book begins:
About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. — The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.
About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into molecules. — The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.
About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. — The story of organisms is called biology.
About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. — The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.
On the Road is the novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. It has been described as, “one of the great American novels.” Above all else, it is a story about loss. Ted Gioia contends that it is a book of broken dreams and failed plans. It’s a book about the search for something meaningful to hold on to,” writes Meghan O’Rourke, “the famous search for ‘it,’ a truth larger than the self, which, of course, is never found.”
My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.
Today, Kerouac is considered a literary iconoclast, recognised for his method of spontaneous prose — covering e.g., spirituality, promiscuity, drugs and poverty — and continues to be something of an underground celebrity. As Hilary Holladay puts it, “Kerouac was this deep, lonely, melancholy man… [you read this] sense of loss and sorrow on every page.” According to John Leland, aspects of the book such as the tales of passionate friendships and the search for revelation, “are timeless.”
Happiness consists in realising it is all a great strange dream.