Being a Beast
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2016
Charles Foster wanted to know what it was like to be a beast: a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, a swift. What it was really like. And through knowing what it was like he wanted to get down and grapple with the beast in us all.
So he tried it out; he lived life as a badger for six weeks, sleeping in a dirt hole and eating earthworms, he came face to face with shrimps as he lived like an otter and he spent hours curled up in a back garden in East London and rooting in bins like an urban fox.
A passionate naturalist, Foster realises that every creature creates a different world in its brain and lives in that world. As humans, we share sensory outputs, lights, smells and sound, but trying to explore what it is actually like to live in another of these worlds, belonging to another species, is a fascinating and unique neuro-scientific challenge. For Foster it is also a literary challenge. Looking at what science can tell us about what happens in a fox’s or badger’s brain when it picks up a scent, he then uses this to imagine their world for us, to write it through their eyes or rather through the eyes of Charles the beast.
An intimate look at the life of animals, neuroscience, psychology, nature writing, memoir and more, it is a journey of extraordinary thrills and surprises, containing wonderful moments of humour and joy, but also providing important lessons for all of us who share life on this precious planet.
Transcendentally eccentric nature writing of the first order. Charles Foster digs deep under the skin of other animals, uncovering gems of wisdom that our usually superficial gaze will otherwise miss -- Hugh Warwick Gleefully lascivious in its physical curiosity, Being a Beast advocates for our highest animality by expanding our sensory intelligence. A flabbergasting, thunderstriking, stupendous, brilliant book -- Jay Griffiths Thrilling, brilliant, bonkers... a strange kind of masterpiece: the song of a satyr, perhaps, or nature writing as extreme sport. Financial Times Charles Foster's chronicle of the sensory lives of beasts and his own forays into self re-wilding is like nothing you have ever read. Deeply serious and at times laugh-out-loud funny, this is an extraordinary book. -- Caspar Henderson Unimaginably different from any book you have ever read - an exploration of our deep kinship with animals that is thought-provoking, funny and full of adventure all at once, brilliantly written, and sparkling with ideas -- Iain McGilchrist Foster is funny and profound and his empathic mission shows our kinship with other species -- Patrick Barkham Guardian Extraordinary... very funny... Foster is well read and writes beautifully. The Sunday Times A wild and whimsical memoir. The Times Takes nature writing to new levels... his work is a triumph. -- Kate Green Country Life Very funny... hones senses long neglected... Mr Foster is the real thing, going truly feral and in the process discovering a whole new world. It is not a midlife crisis so much as a lifelong passion. Economist Funny, exuberant and courageous, nudging closer and closer to how it might feel to enter the non-human world. Guardian, readers' BOTY 2016
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