Take A Look At How Blinkist Explains The 400 Pages Of Sapiens In 19 Minutes
Yuval Noah Harari’s book, Sapiens: A Brief of Humankind, is a big deal. It’s been a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, frequently tops must-read lists, and has been recommended by big names like Barack Obama and Bill Gates.
The book is a deep-dive into the history of the human species and how we came to dominate the planet. It’s filled with interesting information on how systems like capitalism, religion and law came into being.
I recently read it and it took me over eight hours. I heard from a friend that he’d read the book’s key insights on Blinkist, an app that explains what nonfiction books are about in around 15 minutes. I’d heard of Blinkist before as it was mentioned on some of the podcasts I listen to, and I remember it was on the homepage of my app store once as an editors choice. I went on their website and apparently it won an award from the UN and has over 20 million users, but I had never got around to checking it out. Blinkist has explainers for thousands of books—not just Sapiens— they’ve got categories like productivity, psychology and personal development. I realized I can check out other titles on my reading list too like Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall or Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson.
As a writer and someone who studied English Literature at university, I’ve always been an avid reader, so I was skeptical of how much information you could really get in this short timeframe. I decided to put the app to the test with Sapiens and compare the full 443-page book to the 19-minute explanation on Blinkist. It turns out, you can learn more in 19 minutes than I thought.
I was worried that to fit the full book into a short space of time, you’d have to leave out huge sections. However, Blinkist is built around the same cornerstone ideas and has a similar structure to the book, just on a smaller scale.
The book has 20 chapters whereas the Blinkist explainer is broken into 13 sections. In both, each chapter covers a different aspect of human history. Some chapters are obviously left out from the app, but some sections of history span multiple chapters in the book, so readers still get a good overview of the content.
In fewer chapters, Blinkist mentions and explains the three major revolutions that shaped human history—the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution and the Scientific Revolution—and has sections on the key parts of history, like the development of language, how we became the only species of human, and the future of humankind.
If the structure is largely the same, what about the level of detail? Obviously, all 443 pages aren’t represented in 19 minutes, so what information has been left out?
I found that Blinkist discussed all of the main ideas, but as an overview. For example, the book goes into much more detail about capitalism. Blinkist shares how it started and what it looks like today, whereas the book dives into more specifics on how it works.
Even though it was an overview, I still found plenty of particular details in the app’s explanation, such as how if our arm span represented the history of the earth, you’d need a powerful microscope to see the length of human history on it. That’s how short of a time we’ve been around. Strong visuals like this helped me understand the big ideas, so I’m glad they were included.
Of course, you can’t include every interesting fact—the book is full of them after all—but you get the main ideas without the extended explanation, perfect for if you’re short on time.
If after reading or listening to the short explainer you want to learn more, you can buy the book in full. I even found the full audiobook on the app.
I thought anecdotes and illustrative stories would be first to go in the shorter explanation of the book, but I was surprised to find some on Blinkist.
Of course, there are even more anecdotes in the book—but again, this was to be expected. Overall though, I found that the anecdotes on Blinkist were well curated. The best ones made the cut and were included in the explainer.
There was at least one anecdote per section, adding more color to the content and making it really interesting and engaging.
For example, in the section about the rise of religion and empires, Blinkist shares the story about the Hammurabi Code in 1776BC, and how the king convinced people to follow these made-up rules.
Perhaps the most important thing: do you get the same takeaways from the book and the Blinkist explainer?
The app definitely focuses on the right things, like how language was one of the most important factors in human evolution. This is one of the main tenets of the book and Blinkist dedicates a whole section to explaining this idea. It also covers the three main revolutions and key points in history.
There’s less focus on science in the Blinkist explainer. For example, it doesn’t mention how our behavior is controlled by hormones and genetics, throwing into question the idea of free will. It also doesn’t cover Harari’s own theories, like how humans might not be around in 1,000 years.
Overall, the book’s takeaways are the same, they’re just spread out over the entire book whereas you get them in 19 minutes on Blinkist. Plus, you even get fun facts and quotes in the short explainer.
The takeaways are also highlighted clearly on the app. At the start of the explanation there’s a list of things you’ll learn. Then at the end, there’s a “Final Summary” sharing the key message. This is useful to cement what you’ve learned, especially if you’re listening on the go or while multitasking.
5. Other Features
I love that in each blinks pack, there is at least one important quote from the book. These profound, insightful quotes often hammer home the most interesting fact that I remember after I’m done.
Beyond the content itself, I discovered a few other features I didn’t know Blinkist had. Firstly, I was delighted to see the app has a sleep timer which lets you limit how long the audio plays for. I tried it before bed one night and found myself drifting off to the soothing, educational content. I’ve since started adding this to my evening routine, so I can listen to something worthwhile as I’m getting ready for bed.
I also loved that I could queue several explainers to play one after the other. I now use this every time I’ve got a long drive or when I’m out for a walk and want to listen to two or three explainers in one go.
Overall, I thought the Blinkist explainer included all of the key points, it had a similar structure, and there were even some anecdotes and specific details that helped me remember the information.
My final verdict? I think it’s a good alternative for those who don’t have time to read the full thing, or who want an overview of the book quickly. It would also be useful for those wanting to see if they’re interested in reading the full thing, or wanting to get a grounding in the topic, before diving in. I’d also use it in the future to go back and remind myself of the book’s main points.
After checking out Sapiens, I was interested to see what else Harari had to say, but didn’t have time to dive into his other books, Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Luckily, they were on Blinkist, too.
Together, it took me under 30 minutes to check them out and I got an insight into the author’s take on what will happen to humankind in the future. I haven’t read the books in full, so can’t compare, but I feel like I got all of the main arguments and a solid understanding of the books. It’s convinced me of the power of Blinkist and of just how much you can learn in 15 minutes.
If you want to check out Blinkist’s take on Sapiens for yourself, download the app to get started.