Harvill Secker editorial director Michal Shavit has bought a wide-ranging history of humankind set to be the imprint's lead title for autumn 2014.
Shavit acquired UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) for Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari in a "significant" deal done with Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein on behalf of Deborah Harris. The book has been a number one bestseller in Israel, and has deals confirmed in the US, Spain, France, Germany, China, Taiwan, Italy, Holland, Korea and Brazil.
Havari is said to put humankind into a "unique and excitingly fresh" perspective, by placing it into a larger ecological context and asking how homo sapiens managed to drive all other human species, plus half of the world's largest terrestrial mammals, to extinction.
The book also addresses issues such as when and why money and religion appeared, why nearly all societies considered women inferior to men, why monotheism become the most widespread type of religion, and whether history has a direction.
Shavit said of Sapiens: "Like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and Ernst Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, it is a book that takes on a huge span of history and a vast array of ideas and makes them at once incredibly accessible and thought-provoking; changing the way we view our world.’
Harari has a doctorate in history from the University of Oxford and lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently filming a programme in English for the online university Coursera, based on Sapiens, which is due to go online later this year. Harari was awarded the 2012 Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines.