Guns, Germs and Steel, Before the Dawn and even Das Kapital (no endorsement implied) for panoramic views of human history.
Big data meets big history with a surprisingly hopeful conclusion.
This book loving depicts every horrible torture and sadistic punishment in the history of humanity. The author does mention how nice it is that we do not approve of these things today. However he then goes on to depict these horrors in great detail -- hour after hour. He is clearly fixated on all the ways we can torture people to death and takes great pains to describe every detail. He wastes little time in explaining how these tortures fell out of fashion. I finally just turned it off and deleted it. Only a sadist would like this book
The narrator was amazing. He happened to be the only thing that was fully credible and delivered on promises in this book though. The main issue with the book was that it wasn't what it said it was. It wasn't an exploration on why the world has gotten less violent, per se. Sure there were great pieces of information strewn about. But mostly, it was PEDESTRIAN and served as the author's soapbox for pushing political viewpoints.
No. If the author had stuck to writing the first section and the last section (promises; conclusions) the reader would have saved 28 hours of their lives and gotten the gist of the book. Unfortunately, just as you thought Pinker was going to change your mind and have you thinking with his vision, he smacks you in the face with some one sentence "definitive proof" statement that was a lightly veiled progressive talking point.
This book had real potential. Mr. Pinker researched it well, but it could have been done in a third of the pages/time and it was difficult to share his "logical" conclusions, because they were ANYTHING BUT LOGICAL.
One of the best narrators, well researched, but if you don't already subscribe to blanket progressive views of the world, it's more of the same cliche one liners and lecturing on how we need to be like the author (tolerant?). As a final note: this book, regardless of political content, IS an excellent resource guide to many interesting psychology based experiments.
Game developer and VFX industry vet.
Yes, this book is so in depth and well researched that reading it once simply wouldn't do it justice. To understand the author's thesis you must understand the evolutionary and modern influences on violence, and that is exactly what Pinker explains in this book.
The chapter on the uptick in violence caused by the cultural revolution of the 1960's was told in a way that painted a vivid and nuanced vision of the author's thesis on the subject and was my favorite single moment of the book.
If I had to pick another "scene" it would be the chapter on the neuroscience of violence and the picture it painted of the brains wiring for violence.
Your Brain in 36 Hours....
This is simply put my new favorite book on evolutionary psychology and human anthropology. If you are on chapter three or four and disagree with something or feel something is not explained, just keep reading because nothing is left out of this book. I'm going to listen to all of Pinker's other books just to see what else could possibly be left to learn and am fully expecting to be pleasantly surprised.
An educator and senior who listens to his books from his phone through his hearing aids.
Reading this book was like taking a graduate course in the historical psychological and sociological causes of violence.
The title clearly summarizes what the book is about. The science was the most interesting part of the book. The statistical analysis of wars, the difference in perspective between victims and perpetrators, the explanation of reduction in violence using the framework of the pacifist's dilemma etc. were very interesting. The historical narrative was hard to listen to because it is hard to come to terms with the violence that is a part of our past. I am glad that violence is coming down, but wish it would decline more rapidly. I hope listeners will better understand how to alter payoffs in order to create conditions that favor peace and do what they can, after listening to this book. Understanding, reason, enlightened thinking and empathy will hopefully reduce unnecessary suffering faster in the future.
The narration was very good making it easier to finish this long book.
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.