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

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

Humans really can be absolute idiots sometimes.  Reading this had me alternating between giggling out loud and wondering how we ever managed to become the dominant species on our planet.  Phillips points out the many events in our history that could have gone entirely differently if the people involved hadn't been so deluded, misguided or just plain dumb as rocks.  History buffs will enjoy looking at events in a decidedly irreverent light, while others will want to learn more to see if it really did happen that way.
Was this review helpful?
A delightful Monty Python-like romp through the history of foolish and unintended consequences.  It can easily be read in multiple sessions warp or weft of history.
Was this review helpful?
I love this! It comes across honest and hilarious; stuffed full of examples of the terrible mistakes humans make. The author is clearly a seriously smart dude, and I appreciate his humor and academic mindset.
Was this review helpful?
We are screw-ups. My husband regularly says "we are just somewhat evolved monkeys" and he's completely right. Humans have a way of taking amazing opportunities and just pissing all over them. This well organized and often funny book gives a disheartening glimpse into some of our biggest historic missteps and the psychology behind them. I really appreciated his tongue in cheek glibness that made what could have been a super depressing book a bit easier to swallow. I think this is something everyone should read because it will hopefully open eyes to mistakes we don't want to make again (but probably will).
Was this review helpful?
"Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked it All Up" is a cherry picked survey of specific events in history which had consequences, some devastating, to the planet and the human race.  There were a number of events mentioned in the book which the generalized survey history course at many universities would have either overlooked entirely or would have only mentioned as a side note, possibly a funny side note.
The research was good, but there seemed to be an awful lot of 20/20 hindsight in the analysis and a great deal of "hand wringing" about events which may have had less of an impact than the author implies.
The book will be a decent non-fiction beach read with a provocative title.
Was this review helpful?
The next time you upgrade a perfectly good phone because of a rebate that is denied two months later, don’t feel bad. Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up will introduce you to much worse human errors in judgment.

We celebrated when our hunter-gatherer ancestors started farming. Wrong! That practice started class divisiveness and wars over land.

We romanticized the middle-class Shakespeare fan who brought Henry IV’s starlings to New York City. Wrong! The starlings ate our crops and spread disease like salmonella coast to coast. The starlings’ kinsfolk also killed 62 air travelers in 1960 while forcing a plane to crash land.

There are many more examples of unintended consequences here. If you enjoy irony, Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up is a gem. It also explains history with an eye to the human factor. Disneyland’s Cinderella’s castle is based on a Bavarian castle created by theatrical set designers at Mad King (really just homosexual) Ludwig’s behest as a tourist attraction. It is ironic that it worked for current and olden day Bavarian sightseers but also for copycat Disney. Killing Ludwig after he had built only three castles was the gaffe here.

Other reviewers characterize this book as funny and depressing. However, I think it is empowering knowing that everyone makes mistakes. 4 stars!

Thanks to Hanover Square Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. It was an excellent balance of dark/depressing and humor. The whole idea is that humans mess up things, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident, and sometimes in a completely unrelated way. It is a depressing thought that humans are really good at messing things up, but it is a sobering thought as well. We are here today because of all the mistakes our ancestors made, and the mistakes we make will change our world for future generations. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer. I would like to see a sequel of sorts.

5 out of 5 Stars.+
Was this review helpful?
This book began as a fun read full of interesting tidbits that I had no previously knowledge. I absolutely love when a book can teach me something new. I found the author's voice to be humorous and made this book seem lighter that it really is as well as a quick read. The last chapter of the book felt like doom and gloom and I agree with much of what he said I hope us humans can turn it around! 

I will say this one thing, and this is probably a personal preference as a person with a history masters,  I would have liked to see footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography of where his information came from. I love to read up on where authors get their information from so I can learn more about a topic I found interesting. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hanover Square Press for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Eh... I was excited for this book because of all the reviews I read, but I just couldn’t get into it. I enjoy satirical writing that teaches me something but the history discussed in this book just didn’t do it for me.  Maybe next time!
I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Did God know what He was doing when He created man? One has to wonder after reading this book. Chock full of facts, this book seems to prove that man has no clue what he is doing. But, each fact comes with a big chuckle. So, maybe there is hope for man...but I have my doubts.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. Not only was it entertaining to read, the history overview was eye opening at times. I would definitely recommend this book to others, especially to read as a group!
Was this review helpful?
3.75 stars

This is a (somewhat) humourous look at history and errors that humans have made in the realms of agriculture, science, war, international relations, etc. 

I quite enjoyed this. I originally expected there to be a lot of environmental stuff, and there was some, but there was much more. Some of the humour is sarcastic, but that’s ok. The funniest was the photo at the very end, after a paragraph of doom, then a paragraph of positive, then a photo (not going to say what it’s of – I don’t want to spoil it!). That photo really made me laugh after the positive words in the previous paragraph! 

Some of the anecdotes were short and some were longer and went into more detail. I did lose a bit of interest in a couple of the longer ones, but mostly it was interesting. Some of it was history I (broadly) knew about and some of it was stuff I either didn’t know about, or just didn’t know much about (i.e. Ghengis Khan – no, he wasn’t he one who make the stupid mistake…). Overall, though, quite enjoyable!
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed reading this book.  It is hilarious, but at the same time offers history-as-metaphor for our current age, only everything is about screwing up.  The ideas in this book are really sticking with me. Recommended!
Was this review helpful?
My mother said that if I couldn’t express myself with proper language, I didn’t really have anything to say. This is a fun book to read, but I found myself focusing more on the colorful language (and being annoyed by so much of it) than I’d like to have been. Cleaned up of the f-bombs it’s very interesting. As a librarian, I would never recommend it to a patron for fear of offense. Even among staff, someone will object to the title. This is all too bad. A grown up version of the book would be amazing.
Was this review helpful?
A delightful history of some of humanity's greatest screw-ups. Thoroughly depressing, but with a helpful level of humor spread throughout--I laughed out loud several times and had to read sections aloud to whoever was nearest.
Was this review helpful?
A fascinating compendium of how we have managed to make things worse by trying to make them better.  The illustrations cover a magnitude of areas and are told in an irreverent, humorous, and sometimes laugh out loud way.
Was this review helpful?
Humorous, sarcastic look at many of humanity’s less than finer moments (and there are a lot) 

I loved this book. Tom Phillips writes with a conversational tone and with great humor. He covers everything from science to politics in a clear and conversational manner. Every chapter ended with humorous yest scary snippets. I most appreciated that while sarcasm can come across as jaded and bitter, in this book it was just plain funny.
Was this review helpful?
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not regurgitate the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it.


Modern humans have come a long way in the seventy thousand years they’ve walked the earth. Art, science, culture, trade—on the evolutionary food chain, we’re true winners. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and sometimes—just occasionally—we’ve managed to truly f*ck things up.

Weaving together history, science, politics and pop culture, Humans offers a panoramic exploration of humankind in all its glory or lack thereof. From Lucy, our first ancestor, who fell out of a tree and died, to General Zhou Shou of China, who stored gunpowder in his palace before a lantern festival, to the Austrian army attacking itself one drunken night, to the most spectacular fails of the present day, Humans reveals how even the most mundane mistakes can shift the course of civilization as we know it. Lively, wry and brimming with brilliant insight, this unique compendium offers a fresh take on world history and is one of the most entertaining reads of the year.

The only great thing about chicken pox at age 52 (and being a super- speed reader) is you can easily read and review four+++ books a day..and this was an excellent book to have spent an hour or two (or many more on your side) with

Humans as we know them have only been around the 70,000 years that the author presents (If you want "more on that ", read SAPIENS)  Yes, 70,000 years of the BILLIONS that the earth is aged - thank god we, humans, have not been around more as this book shows we are amazing at f*ing up our world on a personal and global level.  (Oh, this book will make the bible crowd sh*t their f*ng pants when and if they read about Lucy!)

The book made me laugh out loud and is so freaking entertaining that I swear that I read half the book aloud to my husband while he was trying to sleep!  As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it ☕☕☕☕☕ (caffeine overload) as you will want to stay up late and finish it in one fell swoop!
Was this review helpful?
With a gigantic amount of dry wit and colorful language, Phillips touches on some of the "greatest hits" of failures during the course of humanity's reign as the preeminent species upon the planet. 

We're informed of screw-ups in terms of the environment, ones regarding animals, war, politics, inventions, and the list goes on; concluding with a few words on what we're messing up now, it's not the biggest pick-me-up you'll ever reach for, but at least the book's aiming to be proof that we're at least aware of *some* mistakes and a few of us are trying to keep away from repeating them. Approaching our massive shortcomings from the angle of light-heartedness balms the wound, so to speak. 

It's a legitimate page-turner, as, thanks to the author's writing style and biting humor, everything seems balanced---not too many snide remarks, and not too bogged down with the copy/paste historical re-tellings that end up rolling along more akin to a term paper than someone in front of you woefully laying out why we suck so much. 

If you're looking for a book that's going to allow you to just back up from it all and have an easy, hilarious read (wherein I'm sure you'll learn something, too: I mean, did you already know how the U.S. acquired Guam as a territory? Phillips will tell you), then put this in your queue.

Is there an audiobook of this? If not, might I suggest one of the following to do the reading: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Billy Connelly, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Richard E. Grant, Timothy Dalton, Helen Mirren, Tilda Swinton. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin, and Hanover Square Press for the advance read.
Was this review helpful?
Somewhat left-leaning diatribe. Not as funny as i expected.  Makes a few good points but too much a polemic.
Was this review helpful?