If you fear the human race is spiraling toward barbarism and self destruction, this book might be your first glimpse of humankind's dawning new age of peace. Pinker uses fascinating historical examples and brilliantly illustrates research and facts to state his case that we are living in the most peaceful time in the history of the world.
Pinker's pace is as perfect as his storytelling. Beginning with the most damning and detailed history of human violence you might ever read, from the oldest known fossil records of our ancestors to today, the author examines the breadth and depth of our violent potential. Pinker enlightens and entertains the reader with shocking and revealing discoveries in human behavior, using stories, statistics and experiments. Finally pushing his conclusion, that our future is a hopeful one, with a plausible and extraordinary set of examples and explanations for the world's gradual trend toward less violent behavior.
I found this riveting. It's beautifully narrated, exquisitely researched and builds an incredibly nuanced and well-argued thesis. It challenged many of my assumptions and changed my views across a number of topics. He somehow manages to do this whilst maintaining an element of levity and humility that makes the 38 hours a pleasure.
After finishing it I bought a copy of the book for a friend and my father joined Audible just to listen to this. I couldn't recommend this more.
This book is absolutely GREAT, but it's very, very, VERY long.
By all means, you should read this book. The material presented here is fascinating and will revolutionize the way you look at history, and at current events.
However, you may have trouble (as I did) finishing it. It's very long. Did I mention that it's long? It's very, very long.
After a while you might start thinking "Ok, Mr. Pinker, I get it! You have transformed the way I think about history, and about current events as well! Your research is vast and deep and very much appreciated. Can I move on to the next book now?"
Retired software entrepreneur, caring for disabled wife (MS) keeping her well supplied with listening material.
Pinker is a great author, and this was well performed. It seems also to be his longest book by far. My interest started to peter out after about 20 hours. I will return to it in due course.
I'm a hardcore reader and art student. ;)
What I liked about the book was how the author explained in detail why violence has gone even when people think that is goes up.
I didn't have a favorite character. This is a non-fiction book.
Comparing the differences between now and then.
It made me laugh and I didn't cry.
This book is wonderful look at how far humans have progressed ethically. Steven Pinker eloquently tells the story of how we escaped the amoral, nasty, brutish Hobbesian state of nature to now be at a place ethically where we are considering the rights of other species. And of course the potency of the story comes from the myriad facts and statistics Pinker provides throughout. As a beautiful vindication of the idea of progress, the argument perfectly refutes the delusional Rousseauians' idea of the "good old days." I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's a true reason for optimism.
Bucking all of the 'common sense' misunderstandings of our time, Pinker mounts a flawless defense of modernity and enlightenment in a non-partisan, simple to understand, and very thorough manner. This book should be mandatory reading for all human beings; that way, we could skip past the time wasting pontifications on the good ol' days and get right to the substance. It's a LONG read, but a good one. The narrator does an excellent job of reading such a long and substantive book; I had zero complaints.
I am a voracious audiobook listener. I listen to everything: fiction, business, technology, politics...I need an interesting story, intriguing characters, and a fast pace to keep me interested.
No, it is far too long.
This is my candidate for the best book of the decade. It has a challenging premise that is fully documented with facts and data. I could not believe that a book of such detail, and scientific data could be so gripping in the audio format. I have quoted from the book over and over. I bought a print copy so I could get the charts and footnotes. I loved it!
Audible obsessed lifelong learner.
Excellent read that builds a solid case for why we are living in safer times than ever before. Pinker starts from the Old Testament stories of extreme carnage through the Middle Ages to modern times and builds on the dynamics he calls our better angels that have lead to a civil society throughout the world. Obviously we are not living in a utopian world bu far safer than the good old days.
Better listened to than read. So, ok, it went over my head at times, and the audio version does not come with the charts and tables, but these are minor and not even annoying. The fact is that it kept me coming back because I always knew there was more that I would find interesting, that would make me glad I stuck with it. There was always another moment when I'd say to myself, yes, this is worth coming back to.
The narration is perfect. I could believe it was the author speaking to me. Without sounding like a Harvard professor, he sounded like someone I can like. It would be all scholarly-like for a while and then I’d hear a quote from Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen or my personal Woodstock favorites, Country Joe and the Fish. There were also plenty of references to current pop culture but I just don’t remember them as much as those from my boomer culture.
I don’t think I would have appreciated this book in my twenties but after many discussions and disagreements over the question of where our society is headed, are we getting better or worse, I love that Steven Pinker has done the work for me. Because I have always believed it in my heart, I accept his research as the confirmation.
I give the audio version only 4 stars because (1) it lacks a downloadable file for charts and tables. (2) being such a long listen, I often had to switch devices and struggled to find my place more than once because of the different chapter counts between devices, and (3) I would so love an index and table of contents.
I am considering buying a print or eBook version to reread sections that were particularly enlightening. A very satisfying experience, it will not be my last from Steven Pinker.