Obama Recommends Israeli Historian's 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind'

'It’s a sweeping history of the human race, from 40,000 feet,' U.S. president tells CNN's Fareed Zakaria. His fiction recommendation: Colson Whitehead's 'The Underground Railroad.'

Richard Stanton

Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari's "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind," which has topped best-seller lists in the U.S., now has a presidential stamp of approval.

The book, which summarizes the history of Homo sapiens since man started talking some 70,000 years ago, is "interesting and provocative," Obama told CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who asked him to recommend books that he read while on vacation in Hawaii.

"It’s a sweeping history of the human race, from 40,000 feet," Obama said. "It talks about some core things that have allowed us to build this extraordinary civilization, that we take for granted." 

Obama also recommended Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad," a work of fiction which tells the story of two slaves who make a bid for freedom.

Harari, a senior lecturer in history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, first published “Sapiens” in Hebrew in 2011. It has been translated into dozens of languages, and came out in the U.S. in 2015.