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Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  631 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
David Abram’s first book, The Spell of the Sensuous—hailed as “revolutionary” by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring and truly original” by Science—has become a classic of environmental literature. Now Abram returns with a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature.

As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2010)
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Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. HofstadterBecoming Animal by David AbramThe Outermost House by Henry BestonSpirited Away, Volume 1 by Hayao MiyazakiThe Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges
2nd out of 44 books — 3 voters
Desert Solitaire by Edward AbbeyPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardA Sand County Almanac by Aldo LeopoldRefuge by Terry Tempest WilliamsThe Journey Home by Edward Abbey
Best of Outdoor Literature
21st out of 91 books — 17 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 30, 2014 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Adam by: Melody Moberg
I'll use this article I wrote as a stand-in for a review:

If people took the science about climate change seriously, gas station attendants would turn off the pumps. Coal miners would put coal back in the ground — with shovels. The National Guard would occupy the refineries, confiscate the tankers and shut down the pipelines.

It would be an international state of emergency, with a response beyond any emergency mobilization we have had to muster before. Never before has the threat been so great, no
Amy Hannon
Nov 02, 2010 Amy Hannon rated it it was amazing
I didn't think I could love a book more than David Abram's first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, but this second book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, is like the flower of which that book was the bud. It reads like poetry in its constant evocation of sensible experience in nature whether the language of crows or the whispering of pine trees. It has a way of making it feel as if our senses can unfold and open as well as expand beyond our bodies into the whole living planet and its myriad ...more
Martin Keogh
Aug 26, 2010 Martin Keogh rated it it was amazing
The challenge in reading this book is that it kept making me go outside to take walks. To sit. To observe. Every time I read parts of it I felt more embodied and more part of the world around me. A must read!
Sean Wilson
A breathtakingly inspiring book about looking at the world we live in, and rekindling that natural animal connection we have with Earth. After about 200 pages, the book kind of drags on—still nonetheless interesting—but the conclusion is fantastic, leaving you with a newfound perception of this beautiful planet we live in.

However, there was a major flaw in the book that I didn't notice when I read this 2 years ago. David Abram seems to obviously have a fascination and deep connection with nature
Oct 04, 2010 jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
of the many books i have read in recent years, whether fiction or non, i cannot recall a single work written with more poetic elegance than david abram's becoming animal. nearly every one of abram's sentences shimmers with a melodious resonance that commands an unhurried pace. abram, cultural ecologist, anthropologist, philosopher, and accomplished sleight-of-hand magician, has a rich and varied background that seems to nurture the many complementary perspectives evident in his writing. becoming ...more
Apr 29, 2012 claire added it
Dave is a wonderful person and writer who has so much insight on what it means to be truly human in the world. This is a work to be savored.
Jul 31, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Very interesting. Not the kind of book you want to read in one swell foop. Take your time and chew on it as you go.
Andrea McDowell
Jun 05, 2013 Andrea McDowell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: green
This is a book that should be read in the spring.

Unfortunately, I first picked it up in the fall, and found the first fifty pages a tough slog. Where was the evidence, the statistics, the science? There is none, of course; this is a book of moral and environmental philosophy, and more of the felt-truth flavour than the chain-of-logic variety.

I had much better luck with it when I picked it up after a full day of hiking and gardening, with the dirt still under my fingernails and the songs of bird
Keith Swenson
Mar 19, 2012 Keith Swenson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The message of "Becoming Animal" is that we are unable to truly communicate with the written word, and this book serves as an excellent example. Calling it self indulgent seems to fit. David Abram obviously sees himself as a poet, yet writes as if he holds a thesaurus in his left hand and produces some of the most unnatural prose I have ever read. It is, however, ironic to read a book when the author believe that books are a wedge between us and the real world, and so lets look past the writing ...more
Apr 01, 2012 Cheryl rated it liked it
Shelves: mind-openers
This was hard to rate. I liked it and didn’t like it at the same time. Like many great nonfiction books about nature, this book makes me notice the world around me better, and differently than before, so in that way, it was good. There were little gems and pearls of genius sprinkled throughout that made pause, but maybe there weren’t enough of them. I want to read his first book, spell of the sensuous; he has a phenomenal descriptive talent and makes you more aware of all of your senses.

It took
Apr 09, 2013 David rated it really liked it
A spellbinding edict for the de-familiarization of our Earthly habitation, Abram's Becoming Animal is equal parts poetic lyricism and paradoxical migrane. Because I have a taste for the phenomenological, and a penchant for the ornate, I lean toward the former: David Abram’s writing is both beautiful and instructive, even when it demands a leap of faith that he has a direction to his wandering and purpose to his probing. Sometimes I wanted to slow him down, to have him scale back his far-reaching ...more
Dylan Horrocks
An attempt to build a meaningful contemporary animism, this is the most deeply pagan book I've read this year, and I don't remember it using the word "pagan" once. At times the prose was too much: dense, verbose, overly rich and self-indulgent. But really, that's in keeping with what Abram is trying to achieve: an assertion of radical subjectivity and a call to immerse ourselves in the rich density of both sensuous language and physical reality. Occasionally cringe-inducing, but if you can get p ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
When Abram writes, I go into a trance. His writing is calming,hypnotic and educational. He challenges us to really look at the world, interact with the world differently.
He writes about different artists that made leaps in advancing their own evolution, and then luckily ours too as we have learned from them. I especially liked his write up on Van Gogh (p. 50)and the reason why his paintings are so captivating.
Abram believes that Vincent saw that Everything was alive! That was what he shows us in
Nov 10, 2010 Cate rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant, and a "must read" for those who care about this planet and all who live on it.
Bob Mustin
Oct 05, 2011 Bob Mustin rated it really liked it
This is an important book. I’ve long held, upon viewing social practices of the last thirty years or so, as well as the tack of intellectual disciplines over that time, that we’re entering an era in which our right brain activities predominate. That is, we’re more prone to passionate, emotional responses. We see things not discretely but in relationship to other observed phenomena. We demand rapid responses to everything; consequently change in our world is moving at an accelerating pace. We’re ...more
Miz Lizzie
Though I technically haven't read the whole book (having skipped over the middle essays), I have run out of renewals at the library and know that I won't have enough contemplative slow-reading time to take in the rest of it at this time. It is definitely a book I will return to, however, and spend more time with. This is not a book to rush through. Like poetry, it's best read a little at a time and then sat with quietly so that the words seep into your bones and heart. Though the opening essays ...more
Jan 20, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Susan Dallas Nimlin
Shelves: wishlist, to-complete
I set this one aside after reading the first few sections. I had borrowed it from the library and this is not one to be borrowed, but a book to own. Each essay was so involving that I wanted to read it in sweet little morsels and then savor it for awhile before going on. I'd like to own this book and keep it on my night table for a long time.

I agree with the author that developing a new relationship with one's place is vital -- an inevitable, given the progress we're making in destroying the ec
Aug 28, 2013 Wil rated it it was amazing
This is a book to read outside, preferably somewhere untouched by humans.

This isn't a book to rush though. Probably most of the time I spent with this book, I spent reflecting on each passage, going on short walks between chapters, and observing the nature around me as I read outside. The writing style in this book is an embodiment of his message about human nature, it flows poetically, yet everything is well placed.

At first, I was surprised that this book wasn't a strict archeological/biologica
Jan 15, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
A big proportion of this book recounts Abram's interaction with non-alphabetic nature--birds, rocks, water and is actually quite a good read. Even more to my liking and occurring mostly in the second half of the book is Abram's analysis of how phonetic literacy isolates us and makes us fear being part of the natural world. It is safer to retreat into a purely human self-reflective words leading to some kind of in-our-heads fundamentalism. It almost makes you guilty to be reading when you could b ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it
Though not the kind of book I would usually choose, Becoming Animal, at times difficult, was a wonderful, & enriching read. Abram is modern day Transcendentalist whose prose is overflowing with poetry.
Ran Prieur
Nov 20, 2015 Ran Prieur rated it really liked it
A few hundred pages of above average poetic language and occasional philosophical arguments to help the reader reframe reality: the world is not a remote lifeless place that we understand through mental abstractions, but a living thing in which we participate through sense experience.

If you want to learn this, but you struggle with it, you might have to read the whole book. I've read other books with the same idea, like Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous, and Morris Berman's The Reenchantment of
Leslie Patten
May 29, 2015 Leslie Patten rated it liked it
I just discovered David Abram. His communication is in the right place. He celebrates the ways of native peoples and notes that before there was the written word, there was only oral communication which we are all fitted to that. Oral communication, through story, is what we've evolved to respond to. As well as all of our senses. The book describes Abram's 'magical' entrance into the world of the senses in nature. Some inspired writing, some story,

For his sensibilities and message alone, I'd gi
Darla Graves
Mar 31, 2013 Darla Graves rated it it was amazing
This is one of my Top Twenty books of non-fiction. I couldn't say enough great things about this book if I tried forever. There are so many phrases highlighted in my Kindle version that it really pops! I even bought a hard copy of it after reading the digital because I knew that I would return to it over and over. Even if you're already in tune with Nature, this book will shift your perceptions further. LOVE IT!
Dec 12, 2011 Yogodot rated it it was amazing
This is the most inspiring book I have read in a long time. Abram's descriptions take my breath away. He possesses an amazing personal access to "the language of direct experience," producing images as poetically beautiful as they are philosophically powerful. Writing like this restores my faith in the human soul.

Nov 04, 2011 Duff rated it really liked it
Seriously slow going. Well worth it, but I sometimes found that I would read a page, or a paragraph, and then go off the page into contemplating what he had written. New approach to many of my old ideas. Like that, however!
Sep 10, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
David Abram's work is to reinvent language, or to repurpose it to take us places we may not even have known about and certainly haven't dared to go (yet). This book is luscious, imaginative, and important. It changed me.
Aug 01, 2015 T rated it really liked it
Ground-breaking and heart-opening. Abrams can sometimes be given to an arrogance that is distracting and can detract from his otherwise beautiful and timely argument.
Michael Beaton
Apr 12, 2014 Michael Beaton rated it it was amazing
A meditation as much as a book to read.

I doubt there is a way to summarize the book in any conclusive way. But what stands out to me about David Abrams work is his focus upon this realm that we have access to in our own sensuous abilities . Which are the spirituality of our lived experience, with all its possibilities.
The mystical meaning of the "sensuous" experience.
As opposed to the mystical meanings that necessitate priests in religion, or the scientific mysticism also beyond the reach of o
Jennifer Louden
Dec 27, 2010 Jennifer Louden rated it liked it
well, this man can over write yet worth reading to enter into his world; he becomes nature and you do too while reading
Feb 10, 2015 Jeannette rated it did not like it
How many words does David Abram write about not liking written words? Many, too many and what a waffle... This book was extremely hard for me to read because it was so tortured and twined with Abram's personal views and background mixed with historical, philosophical, modern, pre modern tangents and explorations of nature. Incredibly boring through most parts except for a few highlights with his magic tricks and wholesome insights of the whole of nature. But I've heard it all before and learned ...more
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David Abram (born June 24, 1957) is an American philosopher, cultural ecologist, and performance artist, best known for his work bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology with environmental and ecological issues. He is the author of Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, published in 2010 and of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, for which he ...more
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“To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.

Nor is this power restricted solely to animals. The whispered hush of the uncut grasses at dawn, the plaintive moan of trunks rubbing against one another in the deep woods, or the laughter of birch leaves as the wind gusts through their branches all bear a thicket of many-layered meanings for those who listen carefully. In the Pacific Northwest I met a man who had schooled himself in the speech of needled evergreens; on a breezy day you could drive him, blindfolded, to any patch of coastal forest and place him, still blind, beneath a particular tree -- after a few moments he would tell you, by listening, just what species of pine or spruce or fir stood above him (whether he stood beneath a Douglas fir or a grand fir, a Sitka spruce or a western red cedar). His ears were attuned, he said, to the different dialects of the trees.”
“Such reciprocity is the very structure of perception. We experience the sensuous world only by rendering ourselves vulnerable to that world. Sensory perception is this ongoing interweavement: the terrain enters into us only to the extent that we allow ourselves to be taken up within that terrain.” 18 likes
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