• Being a Human

  • Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness
  • By: Charles Foster
  • Narrated by: Damian Lynch
  • Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A radically immersive exploration of three pivotal moments in the evolution of human consciousness, asking what kinds of creatures humans were, are, and might yet be.

How did humans come to be who we are? In his marvelous, eccentric, and widely lauded book Being a Beast, legal scholar, veterinary surgeon, and naturalist extraordinaire Charles Foster set out to understand the consciousness of animal species by living as a badger, otter, fox, deer, and swift. Now, he inhabits three crucial periods of human development to understand the consciousness of perhaps the strangest animal of all - the human being.

To experience the Upper Paleolithic era - a turning point when humans became behaviorally modern, painting caves and telling stories, Foster learns what it feels like to be a Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer by living in makeshift shelters without amenities in the rural woods of England. He tests his five impoverished senses to forage for berries and roadkill, and he undertakes shamanic journeys to explore the connection of wakeful dreaming to religion. For the Neolithic period, when humans stayed in one place and domesticated plants and animals, forever altering our connection to the natural world, he moves to a reconstructed Neolithic settlement. Finally, to explore the Enlightenment - the age of reason and the end of the soul - Foster inspects Oxford colleges, dissecting rooms, cafes, and art galleries. He finds his world and himself bizarre and disembodied, and he rues the atrophy of our senses, the cause for much of what ails us.

Drawing on psychology, neuroscience, natural history, agriculture, medical law, and ethics, Being a Human is one man’s audacious attempt to feel a connection with 45,000 years of human history. This glorious, fiercely imaginative journey from our origins to a possible future ultimately shows how we might best live on Earth - and thrive.

A Macmillan Audio production from Metropolitan Books

©2021 Charles Foster (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

2021, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year

"A magpie book full of intriguing anthropological sketches ... that fits neatly into the growing library of modern British natural history writing, alongside the best of Nan Shepherd, Robert Macfarlane, and Roger Deakin. A splendid assessment of the many ways there are to be a person, for good and ill." (Kirkus Reviews, starred)

"A wondrous and moving examination ... To get back in touch with the 'constant ecstatic contact' [with nature] he argues humans need, Charles Foster witnesses shimmering visions, eats roadkill, contemplates birdsong and language, and hypothesizes that consciousness exists beyond humans. Foster is a wonderful prose stylist, and knows how to build a case and support it with plentiful detail. This powerful account is a remarkable achievement." (Publishers Weekly starred)

"Dazzling and eccentric...Foster is a beautiful writer and an engaging companion throughout this strange, occasionally maddening book. The argument - that we as a species have lost something in our move from wandering animism to settled civilisation - is a powerful one, amply supported by learned quotations and dense footnotes ... A wonderfully fun if entirely bonkers read. (The Guardian

What listeners say about Being a Human

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Endless rumination, no science

I suppose if you are captivated by the author, this might be interesting— but for me it was tedious. I had hoped for more of a survey of the topic rather than The introspection of a nature writer.

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Finally! The book I didn’t know I was looking for.

Recommended for those who know we are missing something in our current way of life in the 21st century. Something that’s fundamental to being a full person.
Foster crystallizes “that funny feeling” that we get- that we’ve set up a safe world for ourselves by separating ourselves from what we evolved to be. Natural animals of the earth. And in doing so, in trying to control nature in order to feel more secure and predictable, we’ve completely flipped our priorities and ideals from what they should be as a race.
I highly recommend. If you earnestly listen with an open mind to what he’s trying to say, this book is probably the closest thing to a mushroom trip without imbibing any chemicals that I can think of. He’s a real free thinker. And it’s good to know that there are people out there like Charles Foster.
Also the narration was spot on. Damian Lynch captures the tone I think the author was writing in. 5 stars all the way.

1 person found this helpful