What We Are Reading Today: Sapiens

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Updated 16 August 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Sapiens

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  • The book explains how these revolutions impacted the relationship between human beings and other species of flora and fauna

“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” is a non-fiction history and social philosophy book written by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari and published in 2011.

Harari based this book on a history class he was giving to undergraduate students. The contents of the 20 chapters reflect what is being taught in each of the 20 lectures during the semester.

Sapiens discusses world history from the inception of Earth 4.5 billion years ago to modern-day human footprint. Harari divides the timeline of history into four sections: the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the unification of humankind, and the scientific revolution.

The book explains how these revolutions impacted the relationship between human beings and other species of flora and fauna.

In section one, titled “The Cognitive Revolution,” there are four subcategories, with the first being “An Animal of No Significance,” that presents the reader with concise definitions of physics, chemistry, biology and history.

Section two, titled “The Agricultural Revolution,” discusses human beings’ domestication of plants and animals and explains that this revolution of interfering with naturally growing plants and wild animals started from western Iran, south-eastern Turkey and the Levant.

Section three, titled “The Unification of Humankind,” mentions that as agriculture required uniformity and cooperation between humans, the concept of collective rules and norms created the first structure of culture.

“The Scientific Revolution,” the final section, brings to light how human inventions and breakthroughs in the last 500 years catapulted humanity into a larger, more complex sphere of existence.

To put it into context, Harari highlights the first detonation of the atomic bomb — Oppenheimer’s weapon of mass destruction — in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16 1945.

Harari holds a Ph.D in history from the University of Oxford and is now a world history professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

He was awarded the Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in 2009 and 2012. His bestseller and most remarkable publication Sapiens sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System

What We Are Reading Today: Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System
Updated 02 October 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System

What We Are Reading Today: Portuguese Merchants in the Manila Galleon System

Author: Cuauhtaemoc Villamar

In this book, the writer examines the role of Portuguese merchants in the formation of the Manila Galleon as a system of trade founded at the end of the sixteenth century.

The rise of Manila as a crucial transhipment port was not a spontaneous incident. Instead, it came about through a complex combination of circumstances and interconnections that nurtured the establishment of the Manila Galleon system, a trading mechanism that lasted two and half centuries from 1565 until 1815.

The writer analyses the establishment of the regulatory framework of the trade across the Pacific Ocean as a whole setting that provided legality to the transactions, predictability to the transportation and security to the stakeholders, according to a review on goodreads.com

The writer looks both at the Spanish crown strategy in Asia, and the emergence of a network of Portuguese merchants located in Manila and active in the long-distance trade.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment

What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment
Updated 01 October 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment

What We Are Reading Today: Eco-Types; Five Ways of Caring about the Environment

Edited by Emily Huddart Kennedy

When we picture the ideal environmentalist, we likely have in mind someone who dedicates herself to reducing her own environmental footprint through individual choices about consumption—driving a fuel-efficient car, for example, or eating less meat, or refusing plastic straws.

This is a benchmark that many aspire to—and many others reject. In Eco-Types, Emily Huddart Kennedy shows that there is more than one way to care about the environment, outlining a spectrum of eco-social relationships that range from engagement to indifference.

Kennedy argues that when liberals feel they have a moral monopoly on environmental issues, polarization results. If we are serious about protecting the planet, we must acknowledge that we don’t all need to care about the environment in the same way.


New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
Updated 01 October 2022

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
  • ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of publisher’s range of ‘anti-guidebooks’
  • It offers ‘really diverse experiences for visitors,’ contributor Tharik Hussain says

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which stretches back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, “Experience Great Britain” is part of the publisher’s range of “anti-guidebooks,” so-called because of the unique local perspectives they offer travelers.

The guide to Britain has sections and essays titled “Legacies of Empire,” “Bristol’s Black History,” “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain,” all of which seek to shine a light on the nation’s marginalized cultures and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe,” which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

 

 

“I think it is wonderful to see mainstream guidebooks like this finally going out of their way to include such really diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often, writers like me are brought onto such projects to tick a box and create the impression there are diverse perspectives in it, but actually we’re often asked to just write about the same things covered by the previous writers. What’s diverse about that?

“To achieve truly diverse perspectives commissioning editors must select writers from different backgrounds and then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if that goes against the editor’s expectations.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the “Hidden Muslim Britain” chapter, which focuses on Woking — home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan — Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the country’s most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery — the final resting place of convert lords, ladies and Muslim royalty — and Brighton Pavilion, where injured Muslim (as well as Sikh and Hindu) soldiers fighting for Britain in World War I were treated.

The guide also tells of cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘oriental rooms’ modeled on famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and the Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam that reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the 8th century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the Muslim declaration of faith in Arabic.”

The essay also tells of how Britain’s first real Muslim community “were a group of white, convert Victorians who worshipped at the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a solicitor called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam,” he added.

The section on empire tells visitors where they can go to learn about “the horrors of British imperial rule,” and how to experience more positive post-colonial legacies like the stunning Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, Hussain said.

The guide also tells of the cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London, like the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as the Muslim History Tours and the Open City walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.


What We Are Reading Today: Can’t Hurt Me

What We Are Reading Today: Can’t Hurt Me
Updated 30 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Can’t Hurt Me

What We Are Reading Today: Can’t Hurt Me

Author: David Goggins

In Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins shares how he transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a US Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes.

Goggins reveals that most of us tap into only 40 percent of our capabilities which he calls The 40% Rule, and his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full potential.


What We Are Reading Today: American Psychosis

What We Are Reading Today: American Psychosis
Updated 29 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: American Psychosis

What We Are Reading Today: American Psychosis

Author: David Corn

David Corn’s American Psychosis is a fast-paced, rollicking, behind-the-scenes account of how the Republican Party since the 1950s has encouraged and exploited extremism, bigotry, and paranoia to gain power, offering readers a brisk journey through the netherworld of far-right irrationality and the party’s interactions with the darkest forces in America.

Corn reveals the hidden history of how the party forged alliances with extremists, kooks, racists, and conspiracy-mongers and fostered fear, anger, and resentment to win elections — and how this led to Donald Trump’s triumph and the transformation of the party into a Trump personality cult.