A Reading List for Yuval Noah Harari

In my article, Yuval Harari: Please Recognize Your Own Unacknowledged Fictions, I identify four implicit stories that underlie Harari’s own view of reality, and urge him to acknowledge them.

I invite Harari (and others who are interested) to consider works of scholarship that could help reveal his unacknowledged fictions. Here is a selection of these works.

Fiction #1: Nature Is a Machine

Harari repeatedly states that human consciousness is nothing other than a set of digital algorithms, based on an implicit belief that, ultimately, nature is a machine. These books powerfully and comprehensively expose this fiction.

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). — A comprehensive and deeply insightful review of the systems view of life and its social and philosophical implications.

Evan Thompson, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). — A profound and thoughtful investigation into the philosophical and spiritual implications of systems thinking.

Antonio Damasio, The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (New York: Pantheon 2018). — In this deep investigation of the biological source of life, feeling and culture, Damasio explicitly uncovers the misconceptions underlying Harari’s view of “nature as an algorithm.”

Brian Goodwin, How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). — A thoughtful review of how systems thinking transforms our understanding of biology.

Steven Rose, Lifelines: Life Beyond the Gene (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Fiction #2: “There Is No Alternative”

Harari offers a caricatured version of political history, based on the myth that, after the collapse of communism, the only story left was liberalism, and that we are now “left without any story.” In fact, there are a plethora of visions that, together, synthesize a new story that celebrates our shared humanity and emphasizes our deep connection with a living earth. Here is a small selection.

Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2017) — Offers a comprehensive and radically alternative foundation for economics.

David C. Korten, Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth (Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2015). — A visionary blueprint for a new way of thinking and living on earth for a flourishing future.

Daniel Christian Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures (Axminster, England: Triarchy Press, 2016) — Offers a comprehensive cartography of the different elements of the “new story” being crafted in different domains and disciplines across the world.

Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme, Journey of the Universe. — A multimedia epic story of cosmic, Earth, and human transformation, weaving a tapestry that draws together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, and biology with humanistic insights concerning the nature of the universe.

Andreas Weber, Enlivenment: Towards a Fundamental Shift In the Concepts of Nature, Culture and Politics (Heinrich Böll Foundation, 2013) — Describes the new scientific paradigm of “Enlivenment,” showing how it can form the basis for how our civilization can provide a life of dignity for all human beings, and live in coexistence and respect with the natural world. Summary: Enlivenment Manifesto.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions, 2015) — A profound and deeply insightful blend of modern findings in biology with the mythic understanding of Native American indigenous traditions.

Fiction #3: Life Is Meaningless—It’s Best to Do Nothing

Harari offers a distilled version of Buddhist insight, declaring “Life has no meaning, and people don’t need to create any meaning.” Harari claims the Buddha told people to: “Do nothing. Absolutely nothing.” In contrast to this view, a number of prominent Buddhist scholars have shown how Buddhism offers a foundation structure for active, political engagement in the world. Here is a selection.

Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self: A Guide to Living Fully in Turbulent Times (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1991)

Matthieu Ricard, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2015)

David Loy, A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World (Wisdom Publication, Somerville MA, 2015)

Fiction #4: Humanity’s Future Is a Spectator Sport

Harari offers a morally detached view of his predictions about the future, as though human society exists in a system from which he is separate. These books, among many others, demonstrate how we all create the future through our collective actions, leading to a moral imperative for each of us to step up and play our part in shaping that future.

Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999). — A penetrating and visionary account of the enormity of the challenge and opportunity facing humanity in the future.

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World (New York: Penguin, 2007).

Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2008).

Joanna Macy, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012).