November Book Review: Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Truly fascinating and unique, Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, is a detailed, engaging summary of the history of human beings.

Harari demonstrates how humans are the only species willing and able to believe what only exists in the imagination such as money, human rights, religion, and states. He brilliantly weaves the history of humans as far back as the Stone Age to modern day with the goal of discovering who we are and why we do what we do.

What fascinated me the most about Sapiens was the author’s viewpoint on the processes throughout history that shaped and influenced human thought: the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the creation of money, philosophical inquiry, the birth of science and the scientific revolution, capitalism and the industrial revolution, the creation of boundaries and states, the information age, genetic engineering, and more recently, artificial intelligence. Yuval also mentions how modern animal agriculture is one of the worst atrocities humans commit. His book bridges the gaps between biology, economics, history, and philosophy. It is a stunning read.

The culmination of Harari’s, Sapiens, is the conclusion regarding the upcoming artificial intelligence age. Harari argues that humans have not evolved and concludes that robots (or AI) will eventually eliminate most jobs, and that the rich will eventually be able to re-engineer bodies and minds. His book shows that humans pride themselves on their high intelligence, however most of us are not happier for it. I hate to state the obvious, but this reading provokes deep thought and emotions, and book clubs should definitely add this book to their reading list. Sapiens was received well by the general public but some scholars have criticized Harari’s assertions and conclusions.

I highly recommend Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari to those interested in a deeper examination of who we are as human beings. The book covers the relationship we have with science, religion, ecology, money, politics, our happiness, and our future. For students of world history, Sapiens is a must read!

A bit about the author, Yuval Noah Harari:download harariProfessor Yuval Noah Harari is a historian, philosopher, and bestselling author. Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976, Harari received his Ph.D. from the University of Oxford in 2002 and currently lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of History. He has written another book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, after writing Sapiens, and also authored 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide.

To learn more about Yuval Harari or to purchase Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, visit ynharari.com. 

October Book Review: Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah

“A human being is part of the whole, called [by us] “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us … Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

The above quotation from the brilliant Albert Einstein is found in the beginning pages of Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah because it encapsulates the author’s belief and mission.  Mr. Abdullah is on a quest to encourage and teach people how to create a world that works for every human being because presently the world only works for a few. His book details how and why shifting our individual and collective consciousness, followed with action, will accomplish this much-needed and urgent vision.

Abdullah Sharif divides his book into three parts: the envisioning of true inclusivity; the analysis of a new, humane society for all; and the practical advice on moving from a broken world to an inclusive one.  He thoughtfully terms and discusses the three types of people in today’s world: the “Keepers”– those who live in harmony with the earth and believe the planet was not created for any one species, we should not try to control life, and we should keep doing what works; the “Breakers”– those who believe the earth and everything in it was created for man, and man has the right and responsibility to control it all; and the “Menders”– those who work towards an inclusive, habitable planet that works for all human and nonhuman beings. Throughout this reading, Sharif very thoroughly analyses why a world that works for all is not achievable without restructuring our attitudes, our priorities, and our culture. In addition, he describes how exclusivity destroys and why inclusivity builds. He concludes with specific alternative actions for each of us to take that will create a sustainable, life-affirming world based on fundamentally different ways of thinking.

I found Creating a World That Works for All by Sharif Abdullah compelling. It was also sometimes arduous to read because Sharif’s words forced me to acknowledge how I sometimes participate in exclusivity (or in that which harms greater society) and how I could improve. I highly recommend this reading to anyone seeking a solution for all our social, political, and environmental problems worldwide and to those interested in an analysis of our collective denial. It is a very pertinent read at this time in history!

A bit about the author, Sharif Abdullah:

Sharif-LCL-01-219x300

Shariff Abdullah, J.D., is a consultant, speaker, author and advocate for societal transformation.   His mission is to bring currently dysfunctional systems and structures into alignment with our common human and spiritual values for the goal of creating a world that works for all living things. He consults with people and organizations on the leading edge of change including government agencies, businesses, and social service organizations.  As director of Commonway Institute, he has visited over forty-three countries and over 100 distinct cultures, giving him a unique perspective on our global human and spiritual issues.

Shariff Abdullah was raised in Camden, New Jersey, a formerly prosperous Industrial Era city, now devastated by poverty, violence, and hopelessness. His early life was a study in toxic relationships, and he experienced living on welfare in public housing, violence, and pollution. The deep desire to facilitate a world that works for everyone resulted from his childhood experiences.

To learn more about Sharif Abdullah, or to purchase a copy of Creating a World That Works for All, visit: Sharif.Commonway.org.

© 2017, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com

March Book Review: Lying by Sam Harris

As a young, impressionable girl in elementary Catholic school in sunny California in the 1970’s, I learned to lie. Yes, you read that correctly: I learned to lie.

Every week, I was required to attend confession, where I was to tell a priest what my sins were for the week. As a very shy youth, I hated confession because I did not like having to tell a stranger what I did wrong. One time, I could not think of a single sin to disclose, so I lied and told the priest I had lied to my mother when I actually had not. I believe I did this to avoid embarrassment (as silly as it was). Ridiculous it was, but confessing our sins was a weekly, unavoidable occurrence, and I felt I had to say something, so I lied. This blog, however, is not about my adventures as a Catholic school girl. My point is that telling a lie, like Sam Harris succinctly explains in Lying, can sometime be arduous. I should have told the priest I could not think of a sin instead of lying to him, and we all might agree that lying is wrong, but is it wrong in all circumstances? Read Lying to find out!

Lying by Sam Harris is a short summary of the lies people tell and how they can and do negatively affect us on personal and societal level. Harris explains the two different types of lies: acts of commission and acts of omission, the differences between the two and how they affect us and the people we hurt with these lies. Sam discusses white lies, giving false impressions, false praise, keeping secrets, extreme lies, living a life of lies, when corporations or governments lie, and more. In his short book, he also includes an interview with his former professor from Stanford University, Dr. Ronald A. Howard, in which he discusses very thought-provoking, difficult questions regarding the act of lying. Harris sees lying as a refusal to cooperate with others and finds the act very detrimental to the health of the individual and our society at large. I agree with him.

I found Sam Harris’s Lying, very stimulating, and I recommend it to anyone who is a student of philosophy or ethics. A personal reflection or an introspective discussion with friends will ensue after this read!

A bit about the author, Sam Harris:

Sam Harris is an author, lecturer and neuroscientist with a degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in neuroscience. He is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. His other books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz). The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His writing and public lectures cover a wide range of topics including neuroscience, moral philosophy, religion, meditation practice, human violence, and rationality. Harris’s work has been published in more than 20 languages and has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. Mr. Harris is also cofounder of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values.

To learn more about Sam Harris, or to purchase Lying, visit his website: SamHarris.org.

 

 

July Book Review: Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light by Valerie Tarico

“Rigid beliefs that are above question often inhibit or even prohibit the sublime objectivity needed for truth-seeking.” – Valerie Tarico

Trusting Doubt, Valorie TaricoValerie Tarico in Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light relays her personal thought-journey from a born-again, fundamentalist Christian to an unapologetic atheist. She examines the authenticity of the bible and the Christian’s assumption and unwavering belief that the bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God. She points out some of the bible’s many errors and contradictions and blatant violence while explaining the historical and cultural context in which the “good book” was compiled. Tarico demonstrates how without this examination and understanding, the bible can be seen by the individual as well as by groups of people as the “timeless, perfect word of God” and rigid adherence to its commands can provide a substitute for nuanced moral judgment.

What makes this book different than the many other books that thoroughly explain the irreconcilable problems with the character of the god of the bible and with the bible’s textual errors and contradictions is the author’s education, experience and unique perspective. As a counseling psychologist, Valerie Tarico examines the reasons we believe what we believe and how that pertains to Christian beliefs specifically. Each chapter of this book begins with an explanation of basic Christian doctrines and is then followed by a “to consider” section, a short recap of the elements in the chapter and very thought-provoking questions for further study and contemplation. I found the organization in this book easy to follow and the author’s voice enjoyable.  In addition, it is well researched.

Essentially, Tarico, in Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, asks the question (as it pertains to religious belief) that all of mankind needs to answer in order to create more workable and congruent communities, and I quote, “Where is our greatest loyalty – to our ideology or to our shared ideas? And which wins when the two are in conflict?” How do we build upon the philosophical wisdom from those before us while remaining vigilant about the (sometimes very tragic) errors of our past? This book is a logical, very thought-provoking exploration of these questions.

Valerie Tarico

A bit about the author, Valerie Tarico:

Valerie Tarico, Ph.D., is a former fundamentalist Christian and graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois. She holds a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa and has completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Washington. Dr. Tarico writes for ExChristian.net, for The Huffington Post, and also hosts a television series in Seattle, Washington, on “moral politics.” She promotes interfaith and shared values that link all humanity and speaks to churches and groups on topics such as moral development, the psychology of belief and wisdom convergence.

To learn more about Dr. Valerie Tarico, visit: ValerieTarico.com.

To purchase Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, visit: Amazon.

© 2015, Vilma Reynoso, vilmareynoso.com, Inspiration for Abundant Living for all Beings From One Creative Being