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Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up

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An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real winners. But, frankly, it's not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes - just occasionally - we've managed to really, truly, quite unbelievably f*ck things up.From Chairman Mao's Four Pests Campaign, to the American Dustbowl; from the Austrian army attacking itself one drunken night, to the world's leading superpower electing a reality TV mogul as President... it's pretty safe to say that, as a species, we haven't exactly grown wiser with age. So, next time you think you've really f*cked up, this book will remind you: it could be so much worse


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An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real winners. But, frankly, it's not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes - just occasionally - we've managed to really, truly, quite unbelievably f*ck things up.From Chairman Mao's Four Pests Campaign, to the American Dustbowl; from the Austrian army attacking itself one drunken night, to the world's leading superpower electing a reality TV mogul as President... it's pretty safe to say that, as a species, we haven't exactly grown wiser with age. So, next time you think you've really f*cked up, this book will remind you: it could be so much worse

30 review for Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up

  1. 5 out of 5

    F

    Funny and depressing!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lou (nonfiction fiend)

    Humans is a book you will learn lots of new information from, and not only that but what you do learn is interesting and engaging, albeit a little depressing. To create a contrast between the darkness of most of what we are told, Phillips adds humour which lightens the mood somewhat. The style of writing is eminently readable and flows smoothly from one point to the next without trouble. This is such original non-fiction, and it appears the author has carried out extensive research to find these Humans is a book you will learn lots of new information from, and not only that but what you do learn is interesting and engaging, albeit a little depressing. To create a contrast between the darkness of most of what we are told, Phillips adds humour which lightens the mood somewhat. The style of writing is eminently readable and flows smoothly from one point to the next without trouble. This is such original non-fiction, and it appears the author has carried out extensive research to find these unique stories that I have not encountered in any other books previous to this. Each of the stories are varied and intriguing enough that I am still thinking about some of them, even long after I turned the final page. They range from stories about the fails of our earliest ancestors right through to ones we are currently making right now! Well worth picking up, especially for history buffs and those who enjoy factually correct stories that teach us valuable lessons about how fallible we really are as a species. However, whether we learn from them or not is a different matter entirely and as this book illustrates, it's not always as easy or black and white as it seems. Many thanks to Wildfire for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    For all that the humour provides the bulk of the content here, and is very enjoyable in itself, the real value of the book is in the bits where Phillips gets a bit more serious. There's some very pointed commentary on the kinds of things we just can't seem to learn and reading it in today's political climate gives these repeated failures an extra kick. However, I leave the book wondering whether the whole 'it's not just us' makes me feel better or worse. How a book can be so funny and so profoun For all that the humour provides the bulk of the content here, and is very enjoyable in itself, the real value of the book is in the bits where Phillips gets a bit more serious. There's some very pointed commentary on the kinds of things we just can't seem to learn and reading it in today's political climate gives these repeated failures an extra kick. However, I leave the book wondering whether the whole 'it's not just us' makes me feel better or worse. How a book can be so funny and so profoundly depressing, I don't know... My thanks to the best kind of friend, the lovely TS, who bought me this book, instinctively understanding how much I would enjoy both the history AND the ranting. Good call.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    Did you have a bad day? Read this book. It will give you a multitude of examples, large and small, of people fucking it up a lot worse than you. At the same time that is absolutely horrifying, exemplifying time and again our incapability of learning from past mistakes, it is also entertaining and educational. A rare combination. As an example of the list "fuck ups I have never heard about" is Mao Zedong's Fours Pests campaign. "The most disastrous entirely successful public health policy ever". T Did you have a bad day? Read this book. It will give you a multitude of examples, large and small, of people fucking it up a lot worse than you. At the same time that is absolutely horrifying, exemplifying time and again our incapability of learning from past mistakes, it is also entertaining and educational. A rare combination. As an example of the list "fuck ups I have never heard about" is Mao Zedong's Fours Pests campaign. "The most disastrous entirely successful public health policy ever". The Chinese dictator decided that mosquitoes, rats, flies and sparrows to this list. He figured that sparrows ate grain and that that without sparrows "60000 extra people could be fed for every millions sparrows that were eliminated". A billion sparrows died. Locusts came at the harvests. Sparrows weren't eating grain as much as pests. This caused a famine that killed between 15 and 30 million people. "You'd hope that the basic lesson of this - don't fuck with nature unless you're very, very certain what the consequences will be, and even then it's probably still not a good idea - would have stuck. But that seems unlikely. In 2004, the Chinese government ordered the mass extermination of mammals from civet cats to badgers in response to the outbreak of the SARS virus, suggesting that humans' capacity for learning from their mistakes remains as tenuous as ever." Don't worry, people from all walks of life get a bashing in this book. It's definitely readable and no matter how much else you've covered on the subject, you're likely to find something new here. And if you have a shitty day, you can take comfort in the fact that you did not invent leaded gasoline or freon and kill millions by pollution and further with increased radiation through the ozone hole. That was just the one guy by the way, Thomas Midgley Jr. If your looking for hope, well, I'm not sure this is the book to read. However, to be able to do anything about the current state of the world you really need to know how incredibly large our capacity for screwing things up really is, in order to be able to circumvent some of it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    The story of human progress starts with our capacity for thinking and creativity. That's what sets humans apart from other animals – and it's also what leads us to make complete tits of ourselves on a regular basis. Author Tom Phillips studied Archaeology, Anthropology and the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and has worked as a journalist, a humour writer, and as the editorial director of BuzzFeed UK. All of these skills and influences are apparent in Humans: A Brief The story of human progress starts with our capacity for thinking and creativity. That's what sets humans apart from other animals – and it's also what leads us to make complete tits of ourselves on a regular basis. Author Tom Phillips studied Archaeology, Anthropology and the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and has worked as a journalist, a humour writer, and as the editorial director of BuzzFeed UK. All of these skills and influences are apparent in Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up, and if you're the kind of reader who thinks you might enjoy a chronology of humanity's biggest mistakes, told with ironic humour and f-bombs, then this pop-history just might be a perfect fit for you. As for me, the humour here didn't actually make me laugh out loud, I was familiar with many of the stories, and I'd prefer more of a connecting thesis than, “Humans are stupid and selfish and always have been; probably always will be”. Still, Humans is very readable – an ultralight version of Jared Diamond or Yuval Noah Harari – and it's always the right time to stand humble before humanity's many flaws. To begin, an example of the humour: Australia's rabbit problem is one of the most famous examples of something that we've only figured out quite late in the day: ecosystems are ridiculously complex things and you mess with them at your peril. Animals and plants will not simply play by your rules when you casually decide to move them from one place to another. “Life,” as a great philosopher once said, “breaks free; it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers – painfully, maybe even dangerously. But, uh, well, there it is.” (Okay, it was Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park who said that. As I say, a great philosopher.) (And incidentally, this scourge of rabbits [and cane toads] unleashed on Australia is also an example of the kind of story most people have heard before; if the tone in a nonfiction work isn't academic, isn't attempting to support some new theory with long-accepted facts, I think all of the information should at least be new and surprising.) Humans is divided into chapters on our brains (going over confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and other ways that we convince ourselves we're right when we're wrong), the mistakes of the Agricultural Revolution and the domestication/resettling of animals, the rise of leaders (and all the horrible ways they have taken advantage of their positions, no matter the political system), the evils of colonisation and war, mistakes of diplomacy, and the unintended consequences of technological breakthroughs. Along the way, there were many stories that were new to me – Scotland's attempt to build an empire in Panama, Kessler syndrome (that could see us “trapped on our planet by a prison we've made from our own trash”), or the avoidable decimation of the Khwarezmian Empire – and I liked these bits very much; the brand of humour didn't speak to me but Phillips is an excellent storyteller. If there was a theme running through this book, it would be throwing shade at Donald Trump without ever once mentioning him. One chapter is titled “A Dummies' and/or Current Presidents' Guide to Diplomacy”, a parenthetical note in the prologue states, “at the time of writing this, there's a broad awareness that the only thing that stands between us and annihilation is the whim of one petulant man-child or another”, and after a passage that outlines how “Hitler was actually an incompetent, lazy egomaniac and his government was an absolute clownshow”, Phillips concludes: Many of the worst man-made events that ever occurred were not the product of evil geniuses. Instead, they were the product of a parade of idiots and lunatics, incoherently flailing their way through events, helped along the way by overconfident people who thought they could control them. And if that level of subtext is too understated, Phillips concludes the bit about Scotland's doomed empire-building with: As a tale it lends itself to metaphor. I mean, it's the story of a country turning away from a political union with its closest geographical trading partners in favor of a fantasy vision of unfettered global influence promoted by free-trade zealots with dreams of empire, who wrapped their vague plans in the rhetoric of aggrieved patriotism while consistently ignoring expert warnings about the practical reality of the situation. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything that could be a metaphor for right now. So, that running theme is either interesting to the reader or not – I found it a little juvenile; a distraction from any legitimate connections Phillips might have been trying to draw between the failures of the past and the dangers of the present. Whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in the next year, the next decade and the next century, it seems likely that we'll keep on doing basically the same things. We will blame other people for our woes, and construct elaborate fantasy worlds so that we don't have to think about our sins. We will turn to populist leaders in the aftermath of economic crises. We will scramble for money. We will succumb to groupthink and manias and confirmation bias. We will tell ourselves that our plans are very good plans and that nothing can possibly go wrong. Or...maybe we won't? As a collection of anecdotes about human failure, Humans is trivia-rich and easy to read (even when describing horrible abuses or modern threats, the tone is light but respectful). I understand the truism that history is repeated by those who fail to study and understand it, but also know that we humans are wired the same way today as we were the first time someone murdered, lied, or stole to advance a selfish cause – who knows what the future holds for us? Unlike Diamond or Harari, Phillips doesn't even hazard a guess.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gerhard

    At first what drove me nuts about this book is the total lack of referencing, apart from what feels like a tacked-on ‘Further Reading’ section at the end. Towards the beginning, the statement that “more people were killed by lawnmowers than by terrorism in the USA in the decade between 2007 and 2017” made me actually appreciate the Internet for a change. A Google search lead me to the World Economic Forum website … and the equally bizarre fact that this statistic is attributed to none other than At first what drove me nuts about this book is the total lack of referencing, apart from what feels like a tacked-on ‘Further Reading’ section at the end. Towards the beginning, the statement that “more people were killed by lawnmowers than by terrorism in the USA in the decade between 2007 and 2017” made me actually appreciate the Internet for a change. A Google search lead me to the World Economic Forum website … and the equally bizarre fact that this statistic is attributed to none other than Kim Kardashian in a January 2017 tweet. (Apart from lawnmowers, apparently the number of Americans killed by ‘armed toddlers’ was 21 for the same period, and 31 by lightning, which admittedly is far more prosaic.) It seems that Kim obtained her facts from the Huffington Post, which also admittedly is not a font of infinite wisdom. The beginning of the book, ‘The Dawn of Fuck-Ups’, also had me scurrying for the Internet, in order to read more about our famous fossilised ancestor Lucy actually dying from falling out of a tree, of all things. This is something of a running joke throughout the book, about how the unexpected can put a spoke in the wheels of the best-laid plans. Indeed, BBC News reported in 2016 that “CT scans have shown injuries to her bones similar to those suffered by modern humans in similar falls.” So why didn’t Tom Phillips include references? I think the main reason is that this is by no means an academic book, but rather the work of a raconteur, who doesn’t want to interrupt the flow of his story by having readers squint at reams of footnotes. Hence it is best to just ‘go with the flow’ and enjoy what is an immensely entertaining read, given the rather grim subject matter. Phillips does state politely near the beginning: “A gentle warning: if you’re not really into Schandenfreude, now might be a good time to stop reading.” He notes that “at the time of writing this, we’re a few weeks away from a nuclear summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un. “I’m going to work on the assumption that if you are in fact reading this book, then we made it …” This ties in quite nicely with the ending, which is (as one would expect) a pitch-perfect black joke that resonates perfectly. Kirkus Reviews describes this book as “Al Gore by way of Monty Python”, which is a perfect encapsulation of the balancing act that Phillips has to engage in, who not only wants to make us chortle in horrified mirth at how dumb humans can be, but also to warn us that, like COVID-19, stupidity can often be fatal.

  7. 4 out of 5

    TS Chan

    When I first laid my eyes upon the cover of this book in the bookstore, I knew that it'll appeal to my dwindling optimism about humanity in general. It did not disappoint as I enjoyed reading this book tremendously. It was highly informative, written in a most engaging tone and pretty darn funny (although the topic in itself is actually really bleak). I even wished the book was longer. Highly recommended for everyone. Even if you don't share my sentiments. When I first laid my eyes upon the cover of this book in the bookstore, I knew that it'll appeal to my dwindling optimism about humanity in general. It did not disappoint as I enjoyed reading this book tremendously. It was highly informative, written in a most engaging tone and pretty darn funny (although the topic in itself is actually really bleak). I even wished the book was longer. Highly recommended for everyone. Even if you don't share my sentiments.

  8. 5 out of 5

    WendyB

    Horrifying and entertaining look at human behavior. It's amazing we've hung around as long as we have w/o destroying ourselves (at the writing of this brief review humans were still alive on Earth, tomorrow may be another story) ;) Horrifying and entertaining look at human behavior. It's amazing we've hung around as long as we have w/o destroying ourselves (at the writing of this brief review humans were still alive on Earth, tomorrow may be another story) ;)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I loved how this book was written. Tom Phillips writes with such confidence and tells his points very bluntly - while being very entertaining and funny. I also like how the beginning of the book starts with creation and Lucy, and as the book goes on it discusses later things in history. I marked it as a re-read because Tom Philips refers to things in history that I totally don't remember haha and he basically just discusses the things in history that we went wrong but I want the whole story. You I loved how this book was written. Tom Phillips writes with such confidence and tells his points very bluntly - while being very entertaining and funny. I also like how the beginning of the book starts with creation and Lucy, and as the book goes on it discusses later things in history. I marked it as a re-read because Tom Philips refers to things in history that I totally don't remember haha and he basically just discusses the things in history that we went wrong but I want the whole story. You will think after this book that humans are really stupid but in fact Tom Phillips gas gathered all the really ridiculously stupid moments into one book. It's like calling humans totally stupid from reading the The Darwin Awards for all the stupid ways humans have died. Are some of us very dumb? Yes. Do the smart ones also have their moments of stupidity? Yes. We're definitely not perfect. But this book takes all those stupid moments and compiles it together. So just remember that we're not THAT stupid and hopefully through history and through Tom Phillips writing about all the mistakes we can go forward and not makes the same mistakes again lol but... history repeats itself so *shrugs*

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    This is a fascinating book told with wit, humour and sarcasm. It chronicles some of the colossal mistakes mankind has made throughout history to the detriment of their environment, their countries, the planet, the atmosphere and now outer space. Incompetent or deranged leaders, blunders in war, exploration, science, government and colonialism are all here. The mistakes made me shudder and cringe. Some had me laughing out loud. I frequently had both reactions at the same time. What has mankind le This is a fascinating book told with wit, humour and sarcasm. It chronicles some of the colossal mistakes mankind has made throughout history to the detriment of their environment, their countries, the planet, the atmosphere and now outer space. Incompetent or deranged leaders, blunders in war, exploration, science, government and colonialism are all here. The mistakes made me shudder and cringe. Some had me laughing out loud. I frequently had both reactions at the same time. What has mankind learned from the errors of the past? The final page says it all. Recommended to history lovers, those who enjoy bizarre trivia and facts omitted from history texts, and those who want a good laugh despite some startling accounts of stupidity leading to miserable results. I have only one complaint. It is with the partially blanked out word in the title. I am seeing many new books using this attention getting tactic. Well, if it works to sell books I shouldn’t complain.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Take a base of Guns, Germs, And Steel. Add a dash of Sapiens. Top with swearing and a cynical, snarky, funny look at humanity. How we got quite this far is a little amazing. Is this entertainment - yes. Is there some honest-to-goodness history in here - absolutely. Do the dispiriting examples weave together into a serious lesson about how we learn, build cultures, and communicate - definitely. So laugh with it. Laugh at it. But it's also real history worth taking a look at. Take a base of Guns, Germs, And Steel. Add a dash of Sapiens. Top with swearing and a cynical, snarky, funny look at humanity. How we got quite this far is a little amazing. Is this entertainment - yes. Is there some honest-to-goodness history in here - absolutely. Do the dispiriting examples weave together into a serious lesson about how we learn, build cultures, and communicate - definitely. So laugh with it. Laugh at it. But it's also real history worth taking a look at.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Tom Phillips has my fucking cynical sadistic heart.. as I repeatedly tell my friends, "god, I hate humanity" which this book clarifies is a true statement. The book charted how history (and the historical figures involved) are fucking flawed as hell and make fucking shit decisions. But, Tom Phillips is a babe, a funny as hell babe. This book may be my non-fiction pick of the year. Tom Phillips has my fucking cynical sadistic heart.. as I repeatedly tell my friends, "god, I hate humanity" which this book clarifies is a true statement. The book charted how history (and the historical figures involved) are fucking flawed as hell and make fucking shit decisions. But, Tom Phillips is a babe, a funny as hell babe. This book may be my non-fiction pick of the year.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Juho Pohjalainen

    This book's mission statement was to make me feel better about us humans being such colossal fuck-ups, by reminding me that it was ever so - but if anything that only made me feel more depressed. After all, if we've always been like this, then there's no chance that the current downhill road is just a trend, a brief dark hour we might one day cross and make better. It's not going to get any better. The only difference is, our fuck-ups are on a global scale now, meaning there's nowhere left to ru This book's mission statement was to make me feel better about us humans being such colossal fuck-ups, by reminding me that it was ever so - but if anything that only made me feel more depressed. After all, if we've always been like this, then there's no chance that the current downhill road is just a trend, a brief dark hour we might one day cross and make better. It's not going to get any better. The only difference is, our fuck-ups are on a global scale now, meaning there's nowhere left to run. It feels like it's going to be Easter Island all over again. The world is fucked, not nearly enough folks realize it or are willing to do anything about it, and just like they couldn't make any boats to escape, we don't yet have the technology to leave our world - and Kessler Syndrore's going to make sure we'd never go away even if we did. Still, on the whole the book didn't tell me too much that was new, nor suggest any kind of feasible solution to our problem nor any way for me to help out in preventing or delaying the inevitable. It mostly just reminded me that the world is shite. But it's still an important message and this particular installment doesn't deliver it all too badly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Isabel

    P. 19- "But while the human brain is remarkable, it is also extremely weird, and prone to going badly wrong at the worst possible moment. We routinely make terrible decisions, believe ridiculous things, ignore evidence that's right in front of our eyes and come up with plans that make absolutely no sense. Our minds are capable of imagining concertos and cities and the theory of relativity into evidence, and yet apparently incapable of deciding which type of crisps we want to buy at the shop whit P. 19- "But while the human brain is remarkable, it is also extremely weird, and prone to going badly wrong at the worst possible moment. We routinely make terrible decisions, believe ridiculous things, ignore evidence that's right in front of our eyes and come up with plans that make absolutely no sense. Our minds are capable of imagining concertos and cities and the theory of relativity into evidence, and yet apparently incapable of deciding which type of crisps we want to buy at the shop whithout five minutes' painful deliberation." P. 275- "Everything seems to be constantly new: and yet, at the same time, it's hard to escape the feeling that we're just replaying the mistakes of our past at an ever-increasing rate. Somehow we consistently fail to see them coming."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I found this really interesting and full of fascinating facts. It is written in a lighthearted way that makes what is essentially depressing history fun! It’s quite sweary so if that bothers you give this book a wide berth (but I think the title gives it away already). I read this book across about a week. It’s not a book I would read in one sitting. I found it best to read a chapter, put the book down and do something else (read another book even) and then come back to it for a daily chapter. Ove I found this really interesting and full of fascinating facts. It is written in a lighthearted way that makes what is essentially depressing history fun! It’s quite sweary so if that bothers you give this book a wide berth (but I think the title gives it away already). I read this book across about a week. It’s not a book I would read in one sitting. I found it best to read a chapter, put the book down and do something else (read another book even) and then come back to it for a daily chapter. Overall an enjoyable and amusing read, albeit it with some sad life lessons (that we won’t ever learn from it seems). If you are looking for serious history this isn’t really the place, yes it is history and yes he is writing about events that we believe are accurate but it’s not high brow at all or in any great detail. It is however very accessible for your average know nothings, like me. It also encouraged me to read up further on some of the subjects within this book that were only briefly discussed - so I guess that’s good. Worthy of a very respectable 4*/5 and I think I would read other books of his - I like his down to earth style. N.B. One point worth noting is that although I thought there were lots of interesting points made here it is of course all the authors interpretation of the facts, and I found myself agreeing with him, but (as he mentions in the book) it’s easy to get sucked into confirmation bias, so I have to remind myself to keep an open mind and think about what he is saying, and that there might be a margin of error here.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    I loved this book! What could have been a depressing overview of how badly we humans have screwed up instead made me laugh out loud most of the way through. Tom Phillips writes with a combination of humor, sarcasm, and academic honesty. He's clearly an incredibly smart guy, but he doesn't take himself too seriously, and so we readers get to sit back and enjoy ourselves. Along the way we learn a few things and should probably be horrified by some of it, and yet the tone keeps us from sinking into I loved this book! What could have been a depressing overview of how badly we humans have screwed up instead made me laugh out loud most of the way through. Tom Phillips writes with a combination of humor, sarcasm, and academic honesty. He's clearly an incredibly smart guy, but he doesn't take himself too seriously, and so we readers get to sit back and enjoy ourselves. Along the way we learn a few things and should probably be horrified by some of it, and yet the tone keeps us from sinking into hopeless misery. In a weird way, this book made me feel better about our situation in the world. It's not that we're better off now than I previously thought; it's that we have a long history of making a mess of things, which makes current events seem less perilous. I highly recommend this book to every human out there. *I received a review copy from the publisher, via Amazon Vine.*

  17. 5 out of 5

    A Reader's Heaven

    "An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real winners. But, frankly, it's not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes - just occasionally - we've managed to really, tru "An exhilarating journey through the most creative and catastrophic f*ck ups in human history, from our very first ancestor falling out of that tree, to the most spectacular fails of the present day. In the seventy thousand years that modern human beings have walked this earth, we've come a long way. Art, science, culture, trade - on the evolutionary food chain, we're real winners. But, frankly, it's not exactly been plain sailing, and sometimes - just occasionally - we've managed to really, truly, quite unbelievably f*ck things up. From Chairman Mao's Four Pests Campaign, to the American Dustbowl; from the Austrian army attacking itself one drunken night, to the world's leading superpower electing a reality TV mogul as President... it's pretty safe to say that, as a species, we haven't exactly grown wiser with age. So, next time you think you've really f*cked up, this book will remind you: it could be so much worse..." This is a hard book to review, to be honest. "Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up" is a great mix of history, politics, science and humor - all blended together with modern language and a ton of swearing (the title does make that seem obvious, I grant you!) to deliver a book that is strong on anecdote and brief descriptions of events but very weak (for me) on any real substance. What did I love about it? This book is as funny as anything I have read in quite a long time. The author has presented each incident in such a way that the reader can't help but laugh at the stupidity of humans. That was fantastic. The other thing I did like was the inclusion of some photos relating to the text. This could have been a very boring presentation without it. The downsides: The writing style is very "now" - lots of abbreviations, slang and all-caps which I think is fun for a while but does tend to get a little annoying after 50 pages or so. There isn't a great deal of depth to the examples given, no real back story/history of what led to the incident so there was no real investment in time - nor was there any urgency to read to see what happened next. I wasn't compelled to keep going at any point. While I did enjoy reading this book for the hilarious descriptions, I think the style and depth was a bit of a let down for me. Paul ARH

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    2.5-3 I really liked both the beginning and the end, but the middle was very repetitive. Not that it didnt do what it was supposed to do, he talked about lots of weird things during our history. I'm just more of a science guy, so the same concept the entire book was a bit much for me. I wish he wouldve talked more about climate change and what we're doing now etc. Sitll good tho, if you like history you'll like this. His humour is great, and the narrator of the audiobook makes it even better 2.5-3 I really liked both the beginning and the end, but the middle was very repetitive. Not that it didnt do what it was supposed to do, he talked about lots of weird things during our history. I'm just more of a science guy, so the same concept the entire book was a bit much for me. I wish he wouldve talked more about climate change and what we're doing now etc. Sitll good tho, if you like history you'll like this. His humour is great, and the narrator of the audiobook makes it even better

  19. 4 out of 5

    Corin

    Dear Everyone: You should read this book. It pulls together history, science, politics, pop culture and everything else and ties it all together with the Best. Snark. Ever. Try to read it where your snorting and snickering and giggling won't disturb others. You won't be sorry! 😄 Dear Everyone: You should read this book. It pulls together history, science, politics, pop culture and everything else and ties it all together with the Best. Snark. Ever. Try to read it where your snorting and snickering and giggling won't disturb others. You won't be sorry! 😄

  20. 4 out of 5

    Toni Meter

    Not really “my type” of a read since I don’t like history that much. But it was okay.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Masson

    "Whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in the next year, the next decade and the next century, it seems likely that we'll keep on doing basically the same things. We will blame other people for our woes, and construct elaborate fantasy worlds so that we don't have to think about our sins. We will turn to populist leaders in the aftermath of economic crises. We will scramble for money. We will succumb to groupthink and manias and confirmation bias. We will tell ourselves "Whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in the next year, the next decade and the next century, it seems likely that we'll keep on doing basically the same things. We will blame other people for our woes, and construct elaborate fantasy worlds so that we don't have to think about our sins. We will turn to populist leaders in the aftermath of economic crises. We will scramble for money. We will succumb to groupthink and manias and confirmation bias. We will tell ourselves that our plans are very good plans that nothing can possibly go wrong".

  22. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    a wry, relentlessly hilarious tour through humanity's follies and fuck-ups, tom phillips's humans mixes history and humor to grand effect. wending his way through politics, science, war, exploration, nature, diplomacy, technology, and more, phillips amply demonstrates that our species continues to manifest new and nearly unbelievable ways to exhibit the depths (or is it heights?) of utter individual and collective stupidity. whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in t a wry, relentlessly hilarious tour through humanity's follies and fuck-ups, tom phillips's humans mixes history and humor to grand effect. wending his way through politics, science, war, exploration, nature, diplomacy, technology, and more, phillips amply demonstrates that our species continues to manifest new and nearly unbelievable ways to exhibit the depths (or is it heights?) of utter individual and collective stupidity. whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in the next year, the next decade and the next century, it seems likely that we'll keep on doing basically the same things. we will blame other people for our woes, and construct elaborate fantasy worlds so that we don't have to think about our sins. we will turn to populist leaders in the aftermath of economic crises. we will scramble for money. we will succumb to groupthink and manias and confirmation bias. we will tell ourselves that our plans are very good plans and that nothing could possibly go wrong.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nosemonkey

    Extremely entertaining and deeply depressing in equal measure. Packed with eclectic examples from across human history and the planet of humanity's ongoing propensity to make seriously disastrous mistakes by getting sucked into a whole range of cognitive biases, it reads like a hybrid of Daniel Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond - but with jokes and pop-culture references galore. The simple message? Don't be like the rest of humanity - learn from history. (Even if that's also incredibl Extremely entertaining and deeply depressing in equal measure. Packed with eclectic examples from across human history and the planet of humanity's ongoing propensity to make seriously disastrous mistakes by getting sucked into a whole range of cognitive biases, it reads like a hybrid of Daniel Kahneman, Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond - but with jokes and pop-culture references galore. The simple message? Don't be like the rest of humanity - learn from history. (Even if that's also incredibly difficult due to our tendency to spot patterns and assume similarities that may not be there, and our near-impossible-to-shake assumption that this time it's different, because - well - it's *us*...)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Tom Phillips has a superbly dark and cutting sense of humour that really comes through in this book, the topic of which really needs it as it chronicles how we repeatedly and consistently screw things up even when we're trying not to. Phillips shows that from our earliest days we were able to fail in bigger and better ways than we ever succeeded, a trend that continues to this very day, and something that we clearly have never managed to learn from. This makes one wonder whether it's too late to Tom Phillips has a superbly dark and cutting sense of humour that really comes through in this book, the topic of which really needs it as it chronicles how we repeatedly and consistently screw things up even when we're trying not to. Phillips shows that from our earliest days we were able to fail in bigger and better ways than we ever succeeded, a trend that continues to this very day, and something that we clearly have never managed to learn from. This makes one wonder whether it's too late to change species...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Less a book about the science behind why we do dumb things than a collection of epic humanity fails and how/why they happened. (if you wanted hard science, you should at least read the first chapter because that's where the info is and it's excellent). I actually felt better about the world after listening to comedian Nish Kumar read this book. As bad as it can feel, humans have been just as stupid and awful throughout our history—and frequently we have been much, much worse. Hilarious, conversa Less a book about the science behind why we do dumb things than a collection of epic humanity fails and how/why they happened. (if you wanted hard science, you should at least read the first chapter because that's where the info is and it's excellent). I actually felt better about the world after listening to comedian Nish Kumar read this book. As bad as it can feel, humans have been just as stupid and awful throughout our history—and frequently we have been much, much worse. Hilarious, conversational, witty, richly detailed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    Entertaining and packed full of fun facts. Basically it's 280 pages making the point that when straight old white men with too much money trust straight young white men with too much confidence and not enough skill, terrible things happen to the world. And also, that we've shown no capacity from learning from thousands of years of similar mistakes. (Not all of the men in the book are white, so neo-nazis can chill the fuck out; but it is largely a book about men fucking up because, as the author s Entertaining and packed full of fun facts. Basically it's 280 pages making the point that when straight old white men with too much money trust straight young white men with too much confidence and not enough skill, terrible things happen to the world. And also, that we've shown no capacity from learning from thousands of years of similar mistakes. (Not all of the men in the book are white, so neo-nazis can chill the fuck out; but it is largely a book about men fucking up because, as the author says, for most of history they're the only ones who have been given a chance to fail.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Williamson

    LOVED this. It was fab. Loads of facts and history but very humorous too....I listened to this on audible. Nish Kumar narrated, which also helped.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Hitler limited his hate to only a few races. Stalin and Mao were more forward looking and felt limited only by the social class. Phillips is ready to kill anybody, because.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Azita Rassi

    To present this gloomy subject matter with such fine sense of humor is no small feat. I listened to this audiobook with combined joy and dismay. Great writing and fantastic audio presentation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Векослав Стефановски

    This is a great companion piece to Sapiens. While Sapiens gives a fundamentally progressive and hopeful version of the history of mankind, this one takes a bleaker (and funnier) take on events. Starting with an ape that fell from a tree and entered history, it's a comedy of errors and incompetence that shaped the world as we see it today. The book does not take sides, and it has hilarious and harrowing stories of how kings f*cked up, and how elected officials f*ucked it all up, how scientists f*c This is a great companion piece to Sapiens. While Sapiens gives a fundamentally progressive and hopeful version of the history of mankind, this one takes a bleaker (and funnier) take on events. Starting with an ape that fell from a tree and entered history, it's a comedy of errors and incompetence that shaped the world as we see it today. The book does not take sides, and it has hilarious and harrowing stories of how kings f*cked up, and how elected officials f*ucked it all up, how scientists f*cked it all up, and how not listening to scientists f*cked it all up... So, in a nutshell, a very funny story of how we always managed to f*ck things up and most likely always will...

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