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16 Must-Read Books Like Sapiens for History and Science Enthusiasts

Loved 'Sapiens' and want more insightful reads on human history and science? Check out our list of 16 enlightening books that explore our species' evolution and societal development.

Books like Sapiens

16 Must-Read Books Like Sapiens for History and Science Enthusiasts

Looking for books like Sapiens that dissect human history and offer profound insights into the big picture of our species' development? You’ve come to the right place. This list of 16 must-read books includes works that explore themes from human evolution and societal development to the future of humanity. Dive into these books to further your understanding of our journey through time.

Key takeaways

  • Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari chronicles the history and evolution of Homo sapiens from the Stone Age to the modern era, emphasizing the cognitive, agricultural revolution, and scientific revolutions that shaped human societies.

  • Books like ‘The Gene’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee, ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ by Jared Diamond, and ‘Homo Deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari provide in-depth exploration into genetics, environmental factors, and future human evolution, offering expanded perspectives on themes discussed in ‘Sapiens’.

  • The Headway app offers concise book summaries for readers interested in topics like human history, civilizations, and genetics but who have limited time, allowing easy engagement with key concepts from notable works such as ‘Sapiens’.

An overview of ‘Sapiens

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ provides a comprehensive look at human history, making it stand out from other books. Yuval Noah Harari’s famous work has changed the way many see our past since it was first published in Hebrew in 2011 and translated into English in 2014. With millions of copies sold, this bestseller takes readers on a journey through human history—from our earliest ancestors to today—highlighting key changes that have helped Homo sapiens rise from obscurity to dominance.

The book doesn't just list historical events; it looks at why Homo sapiens succeeded over other hominids like Neanderthals and how our advancements are leading to significant technological changes that could impact our future. It makes readers think deeply about where we come from, how we've evolved socially and culturally, and what the future holds for us.

If you enjoyed ‘Sapiens’ and its deep dive into humanity’s place in the world, you’ll love this list of similar books. They will satisfy your curiosity about our past, evolution, the complexities of civilizations, and our future.

Top books to read if you like ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari

If ‘Sapiens’ has sparked your interest in human history and our future, you're in luck. There are many books that echo the themes of Harari’s work. These 16 selected books share the depth and insight of ‘Sapiens’. They’re not just similar in topic—they’re also bestsellers that offer unique perspectives on humanity’s journey.

Gear up to embark on an exploration that traverses genetics, civilizations, the intricacies of the natural world—and much more—with this curated list of top reads tailored for admirers of ‘Sapiens.’

1. ‘The Gene’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee

books like sapiens - the gene

‘Siddhartha Mukherjee’s ‘The Gene: An Intimate History’ guides readers through the compelling narrative of genetic evolution, mapping its development from Gregor Mendel’s foundational experiments to the sophistication of CRISPR technology today. Interlacing personal stories with events from history, Mukherjee presents a comprehensive picture that underscores how genes have critically shaped human existence.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Exploration of human evolution, with ‘The Gene’ focusing on genetic evolution and ‘Sapiens’ covering broader aspects of human history.

  2. Both books discuss the ethical dilemmas that arise from scientific advancements—‘The Gene’ with genomic manipulation and ‘Sapiens’ with technological transformations.

  3. Both authors examine the profound effects of scientific and technological advancements on society, from gene therapy in ‘The Gene’ to the cognitive and agricultural revolutions in ‘Sapiens’.

2. ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ by Jared Diamond

books similar to sapiens - guns germs and steel

In ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel,’ Jared Diamond presents a counterargument to conventional historical narratives by emphasizing the significance of ecological rather than cultural or individual factors in forming human societies. By illustrating how the geographical spread of flora and fauna has influenced varying trajectories for societal development across civilizations, Diamond’s thesis aligns with the notion presented in ‘Sapiens’ that human history is frequently driven by unintended consequences and impersonal elements.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ and ‘Sapiens’ employ an interdisciplinary methodology, blending elements from anthropology, history, and biology to provide a comprehensive understanding of human history.

  2. These books emphasize how unintended consequences and impersonal factors, such as geography and environmental conditions, have shaped human societies and history.

  3. Both works look into the profound effects of agricultural advancements on human civilization, highlighting how the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural ones set the stage for the development of complex societies.

3. ‘The Invention of Nature’ by Andrea Wulf

books to read after sapiens - the invention of nature

Andrea Wulf’s prizewinning work, ‘The Invention of Nature,’ unveils the tale of Alexander von Humboldt. This trailblazing German naturalist fundamentally altered our perception of the world with his forward-thinking views on nature. His astounding endeavors took him from scaling fiery peaks to enduring the harshness of Siberia, and his influence persists in phenomena bearing his name such as the Humboldt Current. Linking closely with themes found in ‘Sapiens,’ Humboldt’s insights laid early foundations for understanding agriculture’s evolution while highlighting life’s interconnectivity and humanity’s footprint on Earth.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘The Invention of Nature’ and ‘Sapiens’ explore the profound relationship between humans and the natural world.

  2. Wulf highlights Humboldt's impact on notable figures like Charles Darwin and Henry David Thoreau, much like Harari discusses the influence of historical figures and events on modern human societies.

  3. Andrea Wulf and Yuval Noah Harari both use storytelling approach to make complex subjects accessible and engaging, drawing readers into the fascinating tales of human and natural history.

4. ‘The Silk Roads’ by Peter Frankopan

books to read like sapiens - the silk roads

Peter Frankopan’s ‘The Silk Roads: A New History of the World’ presents a refreshing angle on global history by focusing on the pivotal trade routes linking East to West. By retracing these pathways’ influence, Frankopan explores their foundational role in shaping civilizations throughout time—from ancient empires vying for control to their importance in disseminating major world religions. This book echoes themes found in ‘Sapiens,’ confronting traditional Eurocentric views and inviting readers into a more expansive understanding of our shared past. An article in the Wall Street Journal about the shadow war between Israel and Iran also provides valuable perspectives relevant to big history and human evolution.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘The Silk Roads’ and ‘Sapiens’ weave together history, anthropology, and economics to offer a comprehensive understanding of human societies.

  2. Each book challenges traditional Eurocentric views by providing a broader, more inclusive narrative of human history.

  3. Both authors use narratives that span vast periods and regions, making the history of humanity both educational and entertaining.

5. ‘The Sixth Extinction’ by Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert’s ‘The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History’ explores the ongoing mass extinction event, the Anthropocene, and humanity’s role in it. Kolbert provides evidence that human beings have been causing extinctions long before the dawn of industrialization, drawing parallels to Harari’s discussion of Homo sapiens’ impact on the environment and other species in ‘Sapiens’. As with ‘Sapiens,’ ‘The Sixth Extinction’ prompts readers to consider the long-term consequences of human life on the planet.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘The Sixth Extinction’ and ‘Sapiens’ examine the profound impact of Homo sapiens on the environment and other species, highlighting the significant role humans play in shaping the natural world.

  2. Each book provides a historical perspective on human activities, with ‘The Sixth Extinction’ focusing on the ongoing mass extinction event and ‘Sapiens’ covering broader aspects of human history and evolution.

  3. Both works emphasize the urgency of addressing environmental issues and the responsibility of humans as stewards of the planet, prompting readers to consider the long-term consequences of our actions on Earth's biodiversity.

6. ‘Metropolis’ by Ben Wilson

titles like sapiens - metropolis

Ben Wilson’s ‘Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind's Greatest Invention’ charts the rise and influence of cities throughout human history. From ancient Mesopotamia to modern megacities, Wilson examines how urban centers have driven cultural, political, and economic transformations. This aligns with Harari’s exploration of the development of complex societies and the role of cities in human evolution.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Metropolis’ and ‘Sapiens’ explore the development of human civilization, providing a historical perspective on how societies have evolved over time.

  2. Each book emphasizes the impact of environment and geography on human progress, with ‘Metropolis’ focusing on the rise of cities and ‘Sapiens’ exploring broader aspects of human history.

  3. Both works highlight the interconnectedness of human activities and their influence on cultural, economic, and social transformations, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of humanity's journey.

7. ‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake

books similar to sapiens by harari - entangled life

In ‘Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures,’ Merlin Sheldrake delves into the fascinating world of fungi and their profound impact on the planet’s ecosystems and human life. This book extends the biological themes explored in ‘Sapiens’ by examining the critical role fungi play in shaping environments and supporting life.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Entangled Life’ and ‘Sapiens’ explore the interconnectedness of life on Earth, emphasizing the intricate relationships between different species and ecosystems.

  2. Each book delves into the profound impact that seemingly small or hidden factors can have on the broader environment and human society, whether it's fungi in ‘Entangled Life’ or cognitive revolutions in ‘Sapiens’.

  3. Both books challenge readers to rethink their understanding of the natural world and humanity's place within it, encouraging a deeper appreciation for the complexity and interdependence of life.

8. ‘The Anarchy’ by William Dalrymple

anarchy - books like sapiens

William Dalrymple’s ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company’ chronicles the history of the world’s first global corporate power, the East India Company, and its impact on India and the world. This book provides a case study of the economic and political forces that shaped modern history, echoing the themes of power, conquest, and globalization discussed in ‘Sapiens’. Notably, 'Open Veins of Latin America' is the only book on the list by a non-American and non-European writer, emphasizing its unique critique of Latin America's exploitation and impoverishment over centuries.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘The Anarchy’ and ‘Sapiens’ examine the impact of powerful entities on societal development and governance. While ‘The Anarchy’ focuses on the East India Company, ‘Sapiens’ explores broader historical forces that have shaped human societies.

  2. Each book delves into the consequences of colonialism and imperialism, highlighting how these historical events have left lasting legacies on modern governance, trade, and societal structures.

  3. Both books provide a critical perspective on the ethical and moral implications of historical events, prompting readers to consider how past actions influence contemporary issues and future trajectories.

9. ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

books like sapiens - wind sand and stars

Wind, Sand and Stars’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a memoir of the author’s experiences as a pioneering aviator. This lyrical and philosophical work reflects on the human spirit, the beauty of the natural world, and the connections between people and places. Saint-Exupéry’s reflections on humanity and our place in the universe resonate with the existential questions posed in ‘Sapiens’.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ and ‘Sapiens’ delve into the human condition, exploring the essence of human existence and our place in the world.

  2. Each book uses a narrative style that combines introspection and philosophical reflection, making complex themes accessible and engaging for readers.

  3. Both works highlight the fragility and wonder of life, encouraging readers to ponder profound existential questions about humanity and the natural world.

10. ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’ by Yuval Noah Harari

books like sapiens - homo deus

Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’ is a natural follow-up to ‘Sapiens’. In this book, Harari explores the future of humanity, examining how technological advancements might shape our evolution and society. He delves into themes such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and the quest for immortality, building on the historical foundations laid out in ‘Sapiens’.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Homo Deus’ and ‘Sapiens’ delve into the evolution of Homo sapiens, with ‘Sapiens’ focusing on our past and ‘Homo Deus’ projecting into our future.

  2. Each book challenges readers to consider the ethical and philosophical implications of human advancements, whether it’s the cognitive and agricultural revolutions in ‘Sapiens’ or the potential technological transformations in ‘Homo Deus’.

  3. Both works explore how technological advancements have and will continue to shape human societies, with ‘Sapiens’ examining historical impacts and ‘Homo Deus’ speculating on future possibilities.

11. ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined’ by Steven Pinker

books like sapiens - the better angels of our nature

In ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,’ Steven Pinker argues that, contrary to popular belief, human violence has decreased over time. Pinker provides an in-depth analysis of historical trends and the factors contributing to this decline, including the influence of the Enlightenment, the spread of democracy, and improvements in communication.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both books provide a comprehensive analysis of human history, focusing on the evolution of societies and the factors that have contributed to their development over time.

  2. Each book explores the ethical and moral progress of humanity, highlighting the advancements that have led to more peaceful and cooperative societies.

  3. Both works challenge readers to consider the broader implications of human actions and the forces that have shaped our moral and ethical evolution, offering a compelling narrative for understanding the progress of humanity.

12. ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ by Jared Diamond

books like sapiens - collapse

Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’ investigates the factors that have led to the downfall of past civilizations and what modern societies can learn from these failures. Diamond’s analysis covers a range of case studies, from the collapse of Easter Island to the environmental challenges faced by contemporary societies.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Collapse’ and ‘Sapiens’ analyze the impact of environmental factors on the development and sustainability of human societies.

  2. Each book provides detailed case studies to illustrate broader themes, making complex historical and ecological concepts accessible to readers.

  3. Both works emphasize the importance of learning from historical patterns to address contemporary global challenges, encouraging readers to reflect on the lessons of the past.

13. ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion’ by Jonathan Haidt

books like sapiens - the righteous mind

Jonathan Haidt’s ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion’ explores the psychological underpinnings of moral and political divisions. Haidt examines how evolutionary psychology, cultural influences, and individual experiences shape our moral reasoning and societal conflicts.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both books delve into the cognitive and emotional factors that drive human behavior, offering insights into the psychological underpinnings of societal evolution.

  2. Each work explores the root causes of social and political divisions, providing a thought-provoking analysis of how evolutionary psychology and cultural influences shape our moral reasoning and conflicts.

  3. Both authors emphasize the importance of understanding human nature to address contemporary societal challenges, encouraging readers to reflect on how historical and psychological insights can inform our present and future.

14. ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’ revolutionized the field of evolutionary biology by introducing the concept of genes as the primary units of natural selection. Dawkins argues that genes drive evolutionary processes through their influence on behavior and survival strategies.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘The Selfish Gene’ and ‘Sapiens’ explore the fundamental aspects of human evolution, with Dawkins focusing on the genetic level and Harari providing a broader historical perspective.

  2. Each book delves into the impact of evolutionary processes on human behavior and societal development, offering insights into how our genetic makeup and historical milestones have shaped who we are today.

  3. Both works challenge readers to rethink their understanding of human nature and evolution, encouraging a deeper appreciation for the complex interplay between biology and history.

15. ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson

books like sapiens - a short history bill bryson

Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ offers a comprehensive and entertaining overview of scientific discoveries that have shaped our understanding of the universe and life on Earth. Bryson covers a wide range of topics, from the Big Bang to the rise of human civilizations, in a style that is accessible and engaging.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ and ‘Sapiens’ provide an expansive overview of human history and our understanding of the world, making complex topics accessible and engaging for readers.

  2. Each book combines scientific and historical perspectives to offer a comprehensive narrative about the development of human societies and our place in the universe.

  3. Both works are written in an engaging and informative style, making them suitable for readers who are new to the subjects of history and science, while still offering deep insights for more knowledgeable audiences.

16. ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ by Niall Ferguson

books like sapiens - niall ferguson

Niall Ferguson’s ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ examines the rise of Western civilization and its impact on the world. Ferguson explores the factors that contributed to the dominance of Western societies, including technological innovation, economic systems, and cultural values.

Similarities between the books:

  1. Both ‘Civilization’ and ‘Sapiens’ provide a broad overview of human history, emphasizing the interconnectedness of global events and their impact on societies.

  2. Each book challenges conventional narratives by examining the underlying factors that have driven historical developments, such as economic systems and cultural values.

  3. Both works use interdisciplinary approaches, blending insights from history, anthropology, and economics to offer a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped the modern world.

Explore more books similar to ‘Sapiens’ with Headway

If you’re fascinated by the concepts in ‘Sapiens’ but have a tight schedule, the Headway app is a perfect solution. It offers quick summaries so busy people can easily grasp the main points of many books on topics like human history and self-improvement. With audio summaries, personalized learning paths, and features to track your progress, Headway makes it easy to stay informed and engaged.

Headway offers a wide range of book summaries across various genres, tailored to your interests and reading history. If you're keen to explore the natural world, trace humanity's evolution, or explore genetics and biology, you'll find plenty of relevant content. With Headway, you can easily access key insights from seminal texts like ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.’ Embark on a journey of discovery and expand your knowledge with bestsellers curated by Headway.


What makes ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ stand out from other history books?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ distinguishes itself as a work that encapsulates the full span of Homo sapiens’ history while employing an interdisciplinary methodology, blending elements from fields such as anthropology and biology along with historical analysis.

The book invites its readers to deeply consider pivotal issues pertaining to the evolution of humankind, our capacity for working together, and what lies ahead for our species.

How do the books recommended in this list compare to ‘Sapiens’?

The suggested readings echo the motifs found in ‘Sapiens,’ delving into human history, examining how human actions have shaped the world, and tracing the evolution of societies. These books provide distinct viewpoints and deepen understanding by building on the concepts introduced in ‘Sapiens.’

Why is it important to read books like ‘Sapiens’ and those recommended in this list?

Diving into texts such as ‘Sapiens’ along with suggested readings can enhance our comprehension of human history, enabling us to engage more thoughtfully with current challenges and develop a richer understanding of the intricacies inherent in the story of Homo sapiens.

Are the books listed suitable for readers who are new to history and science?

Indeed, numerous books on the list have been crafted in an approachable manner, rendering them appropriate for individuals who are newcomers to the realms of history and science.

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