> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  26 May 2020

 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century book club notes

Challenge your reading group to consider the biggest questions of our times.

In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari explores what it means to be human in an age of bewilderment, taking us through today’s most urgent issues. Nuclear war, ecological cataclysms, technological disruptions, fake news, the threat of terrorism, the future of education, understanding ourselves – all topics perfect for dissection in what’s sure to be a memorable book club discussion. Here are some talking points to get you started.

Discussion points and questions:

  • Look at the section on ‘Hacking Humans’ (chapter 19, ‘Education’). Do you think we control technology or has technology come to control us? Think about some of the apps and websites that you use. Have you ever consciously felt manipulated by them?
  • We ‘trust Netflix to recommend movies and Google Maps to choose whether to turn right or left. But once we begin to count on AI to decide what to study, where to work and who to marry, human life will cease to be a drama of decision-making’. What kind of life would this be? Will human lives and decisions still have meaning?
  • ‘If you are willing to pay for high quality food, clothes and cars – why aren’t you willing to pay for high quality information?’ It is commonly said we are living in a ‘post-truth’ era. How do you obtain and verify your information? What sources do you use and do you trust them? Do you agree that we should be willing to pay for truth in the same way we pay for quality products in other areas of our lives?
  • In chapter 5, ‘Community’, Harari looks at the ways in which social media, and Facebook in particular, connect people in some ways and disconnect them in others. In sharing experiences, ‘people are encouraged to understand what happens to them in terms of how others see it’ and their ‘gut instinct’ is to share it online via a photo or video. Do you think feelings and experiences have become too determined by online reactions and therefore lessened? Does the online world disconnect us from our bodies too much? Or do the benefits of social media and connections forged or maintained online offer an equalising positive?
  • What would you name as the top three lessons for the 21st century so far? Which would you prioritise in passing to the next generation?

21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari

The bestselling phenomenon returns with 21 bite-sized lessons to help us understand our troubled times.

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Book clubs
Homo Deus book club notes

Transport your reading group to our not-too-distant future.

Book clubs
Sapiens book club notes

Take your reading group on a journey of self-discovery.

Article
Informing our future

Yuval Noah Harari contemplates the importance of today’s education in tomorrow’s world.

Article
The Freedom Circus photo album

Sue Smethurst on five of the remarkable images she discovered while researching the story of her grandmother-in-law.

Article
Tall stories

Garry Linnell reveals how a childhood fascination led to his exploration of the life, and love, of an oft-forgotten bushranger.

Q&A
James Rebanks Q&A

The English Pastoral author reveals some lessons learned on and from the land.

Article
Introducing Vida Goldstein

Advocate for women's rights, campaigner for peace and genuine trailblazer for equality.

Article
Discovering Vida

Jacqueline Kent on the inspiration behind her book about an extraordinary woman, Vida.

Article
Power grapple

Nick Bryant reveals the unlikely start-point of Donald Trump’s first ‘semi-serious’ presidential bid.

Article
Carbon-sucking machines

In Who Cares Wins Lily Cole unpacks reasons for optimism in the face of enormous challenges.

Article
Classic of the month: Dark Days

In July we explored racism, identity, education and love in James Baldwin’s searing essay collection Dark Days.

Q&A
Pandora Sykes Q&A

The co-host of The High Low and author of How Do We Know We're Doing It Right? discusses modern life, millenials and motherhood. 

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes