cover image Sapiens: A Graphic History (Vol. 1)

Sapiens: A Graphic History (Vol. 1)

Yuval Noah Harari, David Vandermeulen, and Daniel Casanave. Harper Perennial, $40 (248p) ISBN 978-0-06-305133-1

Humanity learns its relatively insignificant place in the universe in this witty graphic adaptation by Vandermeulen and artist Casanave with historian Harari of his popular 2015 anthropological examination of the human race. “Humans were just weak, marginal creatures for a good two million years,” claims Harari, who goes on to explain how humans jumped to the top of the food chain—causing ecological disaster along the way. Refreshingly, the co-creators don’t treat the original text as a sacred calf, and take risks as they transform the sprawling scientific history into an accessible visual narrative. Yuval narrates most of the science as a story told to his young niece, but some concepts are conveyed as old-timey advertisements, jokey “Prehistoric Bill” Flintstones–style comic strips, an imagined TV talk show, and a high-stakes trial of “Ecosystem v. Homo Sapiens.” While some panels are text-heavy, the storytelling and Casanave’s rich line drawings keep things zipping along. This appealing first volume elucidates often misunderstood basics of human evolution (i.e., that until 50,000 years ago, there used to be at least six species of humans) while also unraveling knotty existential questions about humanity’s role on this planet. Young science enthusiasts and adult philosophers alike will want to pick up this smart, snappy work. (Oct.)