Historian Yuval Harari on the Books That Shaped Him

Photo: Jake Fabricius

Last Tuesday night, Nicolas Berggruen and Craig Calhoun, the Chairman and Director of the Berggruen Institute, hosted an intimate salon for Yuval Noah Harari, the bestselling Israeli historian who has earned praise from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama. Bill Gates has mentioned Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind as one of the books he would bring to a desert island.

We couldn’t resist asking Harari what books he’d take to a desert island. Here’s what he told us:

1. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World 

The best and most prophetic science fiction book of the 20th century, and also one of the most profound discussions of suffering and happiness that I know.”


2. Discourses of the Buddha

“A very profound collection of texts with a lot of influence on my thinking.”


3. Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics—Power and Sex Among Apes 

“It not only completely changed the way I understand chimpanzees, but above all, humans”


4. Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel

“It was kind of an epiphany in my academic career. I realized that I could actually write such books.”