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Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide

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Charles Foster set out to know the ultimate other: the non-humans, the beasts. And to do that, he tried to be like them, choosing a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift. He lived alongside badgers for weeks, sleeping in a sett in a Welsh hillside and eating earthworms, learning to sense the landscape through his nose rather than his eyes. He caught fish in his teeth while swimming like an otter; rooted through London garbage cans as an urban fox; was hunted by bloodhounds as a red deer, nearly dying in the snow. And he followed the swifts on their migration route over the Strait of Gibraltar, discovering himself to be strangely connected to the birds.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 28, 2016

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About the author

Charles Foster

88 books86 followers
Charles Foster is a Fellow of Green Templeton College at the University of Oxford. He is a qualified veterinarian, teaches medical law and ethics, and is a practicing barrister. Much of his life has been spent on expeditions: he has run a 150-mile race in the Sahara, skied to the North Pole, and suffered injuries in many desolate and beautiful landscapes. He has written on travel, evolutionary biology, natural history, anthropology, and philosophy.

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5 stars
239 (16%)
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383 (25%)
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449 (30%)
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270 (18%)
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141 (9%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 297 reviews
Profile Image for Jess Sohn.
153 reviews8 followers
September 6, 2016
Oh, how I really hated this. It was difficult to accept any "naturalist" observations from a person who makes no attempt to hide his contempt for so many animals in the kingdom. He also doesn't have any respect for the natural environment and minimizing his presence while out and doing his "experiments", which were basically comprised of rolling around on the ground, being a disturbance, and pooping everywhere. I didn't find his antics charming or informative; I found him to be an annoying, disrespectful, casually informed hippie who was making no honest effort to break down his prejudices about animals.

What kind of person would think that putting a badger skull on a stick would demonstrate empathy for badgers? Despite the premise, how could he not have learned anything about the high intelligence of animals such as otters and foxes? With any small amount of research, who wouldn't understand how domestication of animals affects their behaviors? What kind of researcher thinks that any of these lazy circus acts of trespassing and vagrancy can be any measure of observing and relating to animals in the wild? Does he even understand or mention natural selection, survival of fittest, evolution, brain anatomy, neuroscience? Every single word was dripping with condescension and elitism and disrespect towards animals, and not once did I see him resist anthropomorphizing animals or fighting his childish biases. I found no evidence of him doing actual, extensive scientific research about animals, and only spouts off random, shallow trivia about animals to suit his silly narrative.

What a complete waste of writing talent. because occasionally, he did have some nice observations and turns of phrases. However, ultimately this book was a waste of my time and an abuse of my sincere interest in a person's potential to empathize with animals. It's hard enough to understand animals, and even harder so for someone so self-centered, disrespectful, and uninformed.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
474 reviews574 followers
April 17, 2017
"I want to know what it is like to be a wild thing."


This book is bonkers. Charles Foster, a veterinarian and barrister among other occupations, explains his frustration with traditional nature writing, saying that it has "generally been about humans striding colonially around, describing what they see from six feet above the ground." So he decides to get down and dirty. He proceeds to experience the world as a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer and a swift. Being a Beast is the chronicle of his madcap adventures.

And he doesn't do things by halves. In the book's longest chapter, his pal Burt digs out a chunk of a hill with a JCB. Foster and his young son Tom spend the six next weeks in this makeshift sett, living a badger's life. They venture out to eat worms and crawl through the forest undergrowth, sniffing vigorously as they go. In the Otter section Foster lies in a Devon river for hours at a time, trying to grab fish with his teeth. He mimics the urban fox by laying still in London parks and back gardens, and rifling through bins for leftover pizza.

Eccentric he may be, but this guy can really write. He describes badger setts as "tangled labyrinths which hollow out the hill so that it would ring like a bodhrán if one of the dark gods stamped." He tells of a moor that bleeds into a river: "A red earth cloud billows out like blood in a pub toilet after a fight." And I loved his account of a storm during the badger episode:
"Our sett was cradled in the interlocking fingers of tree roots: beech on either side, oak from above. The whole wood bent to the wind. There was no overground or underground: it was all just ground. We rocked in our cradle, the roots above us straining and creaking like the timbers of a rolling ship."

I have mixed feelings about the book overall. Foster veers off on too many tangents for my liking and I didn't enjoy his tendency to stray into shamanist territory. But his passion for animals and the wild is abundantly clear, and beautifully documented. If you're tired of conventional nature writing that is composed from the comfort of a desk or a camera lens, give this strange and beguiling book a try.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,001 reviews217 followers
July 19, 2016
[New paragraph added to the end of my original review]

I never trusted this guy. Early on I was swept up in his language and his voice, and began to ask myself - Is this brilliant? Am I listening to a work of genius here? Because the audiobook was great on one level - Foster kind of sounds like Neil Gaiman, and I was tricked into thinking there might be profundity here. (I recently listened to countless hours of Gaiman's View From the Cheap Seats as he read about sci fi writers and graphic illustrators whom I couldn't care less about, because he reads everything as if it's a fairy tale and I'd fallen under his spell.)

But when I attended more closely to Foster's words, rather than his voice, I began to have serious doubts. I grew to dislike him intensely and become upset with the book and his insidious rhetoric that concealed his human-centered biases. He's not saying what it seems. He's making shit up just to be lofty (or beastly). His project is ill-conceived. He's frequently revolting, just to be gross. His stories of hunting were so disturbing I had to fast-forward. And what's with all the shaman crap? (Not that shamanism is crap but that he was probably misusing it.) His contempt for some animals was shocking (in light of his project): He thinks that otters are just nasty little "furry worms" - and he states that even before trying to "be" an otter. And CATS. Not only does he hate domestic cats, he wishes other predators would exterminate them, and he describes a scene in which he chases and torments a cat! (The cat kind of wins, though.) He's being human through and through, not a fox or whatever the hell he was pretending to be. He says he's trying not to anthropomorphize, but he cannot truly extinguish his human senses, not to mention his neocortex or bad sense of humor.

I don't know why I didn't think of Thomas Nagel while reading this, but it took Chuck Klosterman to remind me of Nagel's important essay "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" Here is CK's précis of Nagel's argument:
Nagel asks if it's possible for people to conceive what it's like to be a bat, and his conclusion is that it (probably) is not; we can only conceive what it would be like to be a human who was a bat. For example, bats use echolocation sonar to know what's in front of them. It's not difficult to imagine humans having echolocation sonar and how that would help us walk through a pitch-black room. That experience can be visualized. But what we can't understand is how that experience informs the consciousness of a bat. We can't even assess what level of consciousness a bat possesses, since the only available barometer for "consciousness" is our own. The interior life of a bat (or an octopus, or any nonhuman creature) is beyond our capacity [Italics mine].
This speaks to what I meant when I said I thought Foster's project was ill-conceived. By mimicking the mechanics of a badger or a swift (burrowing or flying) he thinks he can know what they think. He guesses at what they feel (sentience) but he cannot answer the consciousness question.

I'm glad that human beings are finally admitting that we don't/can't know everything about the consciousness of other life forms, and the questions have been asked by philosophers for centuries, for all time. The science is getting interesting, but logic tells me there will always be that gulf. (Maybe shamanism can cross it, but that's not science, and Foster 's book was messy conflation of the two.) I assume (and hope) that the answer to Frans de Waal's question, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, is no.
Profile Image for Baal Of.
1,181 reviews40 followers
December 6, 2021
2 days ago my little cat Shiva died.

I've lived with her for 16 years, since she was a little tiny kitten I found on the side of the road. When I got out of the car to see if I could catch her, she stuck her tail up in the air and came right to me. She was deeply bonded to me. She followed me around the house to be in whichever room I was in. She slept next to me at night, sat on my lap when I read in the comfy chair, and would go back and forth with me when I switched computers while archiving CDs from my friends' collections. At her largest she was a trim 8.5 pounds, and she had been slowly losing weight as she got older. And then very suddenly, last Monday her behavior changed and I thought maybe something was wrong. The next day her weight had abruptly plummeted and I made an appointment to take her to the vet the next morning. Wednesday morning early, the day before thanksgiving, I learned she had acute renal failure, she was suffering, and there wasn't really anything that could be done. She only weighed 4.5 pounds. I had to make the tough decision to euthanize her.

I buried her beneath the old oak tree in my front yard. I cried over and over all day. I was a wreck. Today I am still grieving. I will continue to do so for some time. I loved that little cat, and even now as I type these words, I am crying. Charles Foster would deny me that love.

As I was reading this book, I initially anticipated that I would enjoy it given the startling premise and the seemingly open-minded spirit of inquiry. But as I progressed, I slowly saw the cracks, and my attitude toward the book and the author plummeted. The point at which I knew this going to one of my rare 1-star books for the year was this paragraph which I'm going to quote in it's full, ugly nastiness.

Nobody really likes cats as cats. They're intrinsically unlikable: vain, cold, and cruel. To like a cat you've got to turn it into something that it plainly isn't. You have to dress it up as a lover, a post-mistress, or an old school chum. Cats are at their best in the hands of a really bad taxidermist.

Do I really need anymore reason to hate this book? He had prefaced this paragraph by saying "I hate cats. Really hate them." and then he followed it with a story about how he deliberate lured, scared and tried to chase down a cat that had peed on the tarp that was his pretend fox den, where he pretended to be doing research into animal behavior. He talked about how he was disappointed that foxes don't typically hunt and kill cats. Now understand I don't think that cats should be magically protected out in the wild. Nature is what it is, and that's one reason my cats are indoor only. But this kind of outright hostility leaves me angry, and what's more Foster engages in falsehoods in attempt to deny other people their positive feelings towards their cats. I never dressed my cats up. Not even once. His description of their "intrinsic" nature is far too narrow. My own experience, and that of dozen of my friends, and of thousands of other people in the world shows otherwise. But all Foster has to do to hang on to his premise is use that little phrase that does so much heavy lifting "...as cats", which really shows just how little Foster has the ability to actually understand human viewpoints that run counter to his own. For all his grandiose claims and effort to try to understand animals from their own perspective, he ultimately fails to have sympathy, empathy, or understanding. He is mired in his own arrogant, judgmental world, and it comes through in spades with a deep reading of this book.

Going back to the beginning, when I started this book, I thought it was going to contain some actual serious science. That it would be a real investigation into animal behavior with a backdrop of attempting to live like the animals, and thereby gain some real insight. But Foster is not a scientist, and he doesn't really understand science and in fact exhibits a massive contempt for actual science which he disparagingly refers to as "reductionist" while presenting a straw-man portrayal of how scientific reductionism works. He repeatedly uses the creationist favorite term "Darwinism" to construct straw-man portrayals of evolutionary theory (all the while mostly accepting it as true). He presents straw-man portrayals of the way biologists and naturalist study various aspects of animal behavior, for example by gleaning clues from scat, and then, hypocritically, derives his own assumptions from... you guessed it... some animal scat.

Towards the end of the book, he presents a list of 21 "facts". Almost none of them were true. He perpetuates the claim that some dogs magically know when their owners are coming home even at unexpected times. This claim has been studied and shown to be false. He claims that "Many of us can tell when we are being stared at". This has also been tested and the well-designed studies came up negative. He presents the 100th monkey phenomenon, as if it were fact, when in fact it hasn't just been debunked, but it turns out that the original paper on which it was based demonstrates that it is not real. For a deep dive on that subject see for example: The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal: A Skeptical Inquirer Collection
Continuing with his list of fake facts, he writes "Sexual reproduction: a headache for neo-Darwinian orthodoxy... " and then spews some more straw-man bullshit. It is no such thing. And then he has facts such as "Altruism.", "Community.", and of all the gall "Love." the very thing he would deny me toward my cat. Stating those things as "facts" may be poetic, but really give the illusion of profundity while being essentially banal. Meaningless. They are deepity.

So where does Foster get all this nonsense? It turns out that he is enamored of Rupert Sheldrake who came up with the moronic Morphic field hypothesis which has gained zero traction in science, because it turns out there is zero evidence for it, and yet Foster claims that Sheldrake is "doing more science a lot more satisfactorily" than actual scientists. Sheldrake is a terrible researcher whose crappy research has been shown, repeatedly, to be utterly worthless. Which comes back around to the fact that Foster does not understand science at all. He is a fuzzy-headed mystic blinded by pseudoscience and utterly incapable of applying any form of critical thinking to his own ramblings.

I could easily spend many hours deconstructing more crap in this book, but I've already spent far more time on it than this book deserves. this could have been a good book. Foster does have a poetic sensibility to his writing. Unfortunately he uses it in the service of propagating nonsense, boosting his own ego, and pretending that he has some kind of special insight because he slept naked in a dirt cave (dug out using technology) with his son and ate worms.
Profile Image for Callum McLaughlin.
Author 4 books83 followers
February 6, 2017
I almost never DNF a book, and if I did I normally wouldn't want to rate it because I would think it unfair, but having suffered through 100 pages of this, and found so much of it verging on offensive, I just can't help myself.

Perhaps it was a mistake for me to even pick this up, since the concept alone had my eyes ready to roll, but it was such a strange and intriguing notion that I had to give it a go. Alas, my back was up from the very opening when he professed to having been a boastful trophy hunter and contributor to a hunting magazine for many years. So began a slippery slope that proved every one of my fears about this book to be true.

I'm sorry to break it to Foster, but you can't possibly understand what it's like to be a badger just because you've eaten worms and lived in a hole for a while (especially when you dug it using a JCB). It was downright laughable when he tried to excuse accepting the likes of fish pie, lasagne and chorizo from a friend whilst 'living wild' because badgers are 'opportunistic' animals that wouldn’t turn down a free meal...

Propping a badger's skull on a stick for no good reason and filling his home with taxidermy doesn't exactly convince me that he's learned compassion for animals, and the fact that he dragged his eight-year-old son into this madness was also somewhat disturbing. I was infuriated when he himself more or less said the boy was starting to become slightly feral by the end and didn't stop sneezing blood for a week because he inhaled so much dust whilst living underground.

When the section on otters opened with him unashamedly saying he doesn't even like them, before having his children defecate outside and hold a sniffing contest to compare faeces, I had to call it a day with this lunacy. It reeks (if you'll pardon the pun) of someone who is desperate to prove how 'quirky' they are, relying on ridiculous shock-factor behaviour to draw people in.

I'm all for the concept of learning more about other species so that we may better understand human beings, but this is pretentious waffle dressed up with frilly writing to fool us into thinking that's what it's about. Watch any documentary that David Attenborough has made throughout his career and not only will it be far more interesting, enlightening, factual and entertaining, but it will teach you a heck of a lot more about understanding and empathising with animals than this ever will. In fact, go and read one of the Beatrix Potter books he so clearly demonises as well; they have 100x more heart, not to mention a far greater amount of respect for animals in them than this book.

*And breathe*
Profile Image for Carlos.
586 reviews285 followers
August 14, 2016
If you love philosophy or mysticism related to animals , please disregard my review. I'm sorry but this book left me completely disappointed and made me feel like I wasted my time. I got this book because I though it would be filled with scientific research helped along by the method of cohabitation with the animals that were being explored by the author , but what I got was a write who thinks too highly of himself spouting cheap philosophical musings that have little to do with animals , mixed in with a rhetoric that didn't make sense the more you read on , I tough the act of Lying on the floor eating garbage to get to know the animals who do that could be saved by the scientific research attached to it , but since there Is no scientist method at all being observed In this book , all I got was a man eating garbage in the floor because he thinks it makes him closer to urban animals .... Extrapolate your conclusions from there .....
Profile Image for Paul.
2,100 reviews
May 3, 2016
Have you ever wondered just what it would be like to be an eagle soaring on thermals or a stag surveying your territory? Some of us may have whilst walking in the countryside or over a contemplative drink, but Charles Foster wanted to know what it was like. Really, really wanted to know… So he chose five different animals; swift, deer, fox, otter and badger, and would try to live their lives as best he could.

He spent six weeks with his son living as a badger inside a hill in Wales in a sett that a friend of his with a JCB had excavated. His friend would leave meals for them to scavenge; but they went for it, eating earthworms and other things that the forest provided, trying to move around on all fours to get a badger’s eye view of the woods they were in. Trying to mimic what an otter does, meant that he spent quite a while splashing around in rivers failing to catch fish, and leaving his own spraints along the banks. Living as an urban fox was easier, sleeping rough in back gardens and scavenging for food in bins, but it did nearly get him arrested! He spends time deep in woods being a deer, imagining what it would be like to be tracked by hounds. Becoming a swift was possibly the hardest, as flying unaided has evaded humans., but he did have a go with a parachute to get a feel of the wind in his hair, and the flies in his teeth.

The human view of the world has some parallels to these creatures; we share the same senses; sight, smell, taste and sound, but their adaption has made them specialists in very particular ways, enhancing their senses so that they survive and thrive. This book is very different to the usual ones that you will read on wildlife. By making the effort to see things from the animal point of view, he has given us a very, very different perspective on the natural world. That and he is a little bit mad… But it works; drawing on neuroscience and psychology his efforts to emulate the lives of the five animals, give him an insight to their daily struggle for survival. There are some amusing moments, and there were parts that I found revolting; but it was refreshing to read something with a very different perspective to the usual natural history books. 3.5 stars overall.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,544 reviews2,930 followers
May 6, 2016
DNF-ing this as it just felt really pretentious to me and I wasn't feeling like I wanted to read it or as if I would actually get anything from it. Oh well.
Profile Image for Ben Thurley.
429 reviews23 followers
May 31, 2016
This book – and I hesitate to box it in with so insipid-sounding a genre as nature writing is crazy beautiful. A stunning, vertiginous, odd, outrageous, academically rich, and personally challenging work.

Charles Foster – a vet and academic –takes us on a mind-altering, shamanistic, trip into the wild as he sets out to discover (as far as the limits of the human mind and body will allow) what it is to be a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer, and a swift.

Foster packs his analytical toolbox with probes and scalpels forged in neuroscience, biology, sociology, mythology and anthropology and takes us on a journey rich with insight and learning. I learned how far a swift might fly in its brief lifetime (2.6 times the distance to the moon over twenty-one years), the difference in sociability and behaviour between badgers where wolves still predate them and those where wolves have long since disappeared from the landscape, and how a fox calibrates the intersection between the earth's magnetic field and the resonance of its prey's muffled movements to calculate its hunting leap in "an explosive unfolding of hamstrings and about a hundred or so other muscles filled with blood, lymph and hunger."

But for all these contemporary academic resources and findings, he's more interested in piercing the veil and trying to enter into the experience, and even the inner life, of these creaturely others.

To be a badger, he and one of his sons live underground and go on all fours through a forest for weeks, eating worms and sheltering from storms. He scavenges the dustbins of London's East End and sleeps in drains and hedges (before being moved on by police) to be an urban fox. He sojourns Scotland's highlands and is hunted by bloodhounds to be a deer. Swims and scrambles England's rivers by night as an otter. Obsessively traces the path of the swifts between England and Africa.

Although deeply odd, often disturbing, and occasionally deranged, the resulting work is a meditation on humanness, our need for the wild, and the deep toll civilisation exacts from us all in return for its undeniable gifts. Foster lovingly brings to speech the glory and wonder and strangeness of our animal companions – whose flourishing we need to be truly human, and whose continued existence is increasingly bound up in the choices we, who are so often alienated from soil and sky and stillness, make. And not just their strangeness, but our mutual relatedness. "I" and "Thou" but also "Us".

He acknowledges the limitations of his work and openly – often gleefully – owns up to what we may know, what we don't know, and what we may never know about the lives and consciousness of his animal interlocuters, constantly probing as well at how much (and indeed whether at all) we are truly able to know our own kind, or even our own selves. For example, he postulates, a strong (if ambiguously accessible) inner life for badgers. While of otters, "jangling, snarling, roaming, twitching bundles of ADHD" he writes,
There are no prolonged ascents or descents in an otter's life, because there is no prolonged anything. These animals inhabit the instant, but not in a way that redeems it. There is a wretched, desperate, hypertensive, hungry moment. Then there is another such moment. And another. The dots are not connected, in that flattened head, to form a personality. Anxiety, when it is severe, erodes the self. If it is constitutional it precludes a self. Otters are circuit boards. There's nothing else there.

Foster strains language with a marvellous intensity. He piles metaphors up one upon another, presses nouns into new and evocative service as verbs, stretches description synaesthetically into our less-utilised senses. He pitches us into what he thinks, imagines, or hopes might be the savour of actually being that other beast, rather than our beastly selves.

Their experience of time. Of emotions such as fear, joy, grief and anxiety. The way velocity shapes the world. The significance of sensing with ears and noses and mouths and whiskers and internal magnetically-sensitive compasses more than with eyes.
When I raised my head I could see bats flickering in and out of the lacework of the oaks, and a barn owl ghosting over the walls in the field across the river, and wood pigeons settling fussily in for the night. These had no place in the badger's night. Badgers trade these airy pleasures for darker, stickier, mucousy, damper, rougher pleasures. Dropping my head was like going from Schubert in the conservatoire to a candle-lit bordello where you wade through beer to the bed. If I had to pick one word for the badger's experience, it would be intimate. Grass and bracken stems brush your face. When you're forcing a new path, every step is like a birth. Water shudders off grass into your eyes. Things slide away. Slide; hop; rush. You don't just absorb the world; you make it. You make the fear that rustles away on every side.

And he does all this with a brash vigour and playful verve that often left me gasping or laughing out loud. He is a very funny writer.
Earthworms taste of slime and the land. They are the ultimate local food, and as the wine people would say, have a very distinct terroir. Worms from Chablis have a long, mineral finish. Worms from Picardy are musty; they taste of decay and splintered wood. Worms from the high Kent Weald are fresh and uncomplicated; they'd appear in the list recommended with a grilled sole. Worms from the Somerset Levels have a stolid, unfashionable taste of leather and stout. But the worms of the Welsh Black Mountains are hard to place: they would be a serious challenge on a blind tasting. I'm not quite pretentious enough to have a go at describing them.

Foster is clearly a hippy who was taken his love of nature entirely too far. An academic whose full immersion study has unhinged him. A mystic who spends an unhealthy amount of time with shit – observing it, smelling it, depositing it – and sometimes leaves you wondering how much of what he has written comes from the same source.

I'm so glad to have read this book. It's a call to live more richly, to love and be loved by, the land which is home to me and all my fellow creatures. While I might never want to be a beast the way Foster clearly does, I'll happily learn the paths towards a richer, fuller, simpler way of living in the world, in my place, and among God's much-loved creatures, receiving them as the gift they are.
Learn old tunes; eat food that comes from where you are. Sit in the corner of a field, hearing. Put in wax earplugs, close your eyes and smell. Sniff everything, wherever you are: turn on those olfactory centres. Say, with St Francis, 'Hello, brother ox', and mean it.
Profile Image for Josh.
245 reviews27 followers
September 6, 2016
I really wanted to like this. I appreciated the idea of trying to "be a beast" by living and behaving as particular animals do. But it just didn't work out.

The opening is promising, the badger chapter. Charles lives in a badger sett and crawls around on all fours and tries to orient himself mostly by smell. He eats worms. He muses on the nature and relationships of badgers to their environment in a
philosophical way.

Unfortunately it's all downhill from there. The literal "being a beast" experiments take a back seat to both facts on the featured animals (foxes, otters, red deer, swifts) and philosophical musings. Charles writes in a flowery way and includes a lot of himself and his biases in the book — unashamedly, I'd say. And I'm into that when I'm getting what I signed up for. But in the later chapters, the book may as well have been titled "Not Being a Beast (But Let Me Tell You a Related Anecdote)". The chapter on swifts contains only passing mentions of attempting to be one. Fair enough, it's not possible — pick something else then! Ditto with otters, whose chapter should have been titled "Why I Dislike Otters".

I feel bad rating it so low as it is written proficiently, and is quite personal. I've nothing against his personal musings, they were often interesting.

It just doesn't do what it says on the tin.
Profile Image for Georgia.
108 reviews12 followers
January 14, 2021
quite a hard one to rate - how do you begin to judge a man who chose to live as a badger, eating worms and snuffling around in the soil, apart from simply being surprised that someone agreed to sleep with him? the premise of the book is on one hand beautiful but on the other, fatally flawed - the answer to the question of knowing what it's like to experience the world as another animal being: 'you can't'. however, he probably would have got closer if he didn't have his mate on speed dial bringing him lasagne when he got hungry in the warren.
the prose is very nice though.

p.s. charles fucking hates cats and otters and i think this clouds his judgement.

p.p.s my sister and i think the title would be more striking if it was just 'Being Beast'.
Profile Image for Anna.
129 reviews19 followers
March 19, 2019
Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope.

I wanna punch author in his face for writing that people suffering from depression are so selfish in focusing on themselves that they lack empathy for others. And I am writing this review in English so that more people can see how disgusted I am.

Good side of this book is the language, Polish translation is quite smooth and easy to read. But if we are talking about its core, what's inside, new informations: there is none. I don"t trust any word printed between these covers, cause I am not able to verify it the way my life verifies depression-related shit. I feel disgusted reading how Foster shits where he sleeps to feel like a fox; and it is not the shit itself I am disgusted with. It reminds me about polish journalist covering himself in brown paint (no pun intended) and going to nationalist demonstration to know how is it to be black and experience racism.

I don't know now why I have thought that it will be a book about animals; it's about its selfish author sending his kids to shit by the river, so he can have something to smell.

And: really? Trying to scare the shit out of cat cause you hate cats so much and want them to be exterminated? SERIOUSLY?

One star only for use of words, not for what they bring.
Profile Image for Kerri Anne.
469 reviews35 followers
August 18, 2016
This is undoubtedly one of the strangest literary journeys on which I've ever embarked, and after finishing this book, I'm left feeling both strangely inspired* and noticeably annoyed. There are parts of this book I wholly disagree with, based on my own knowledge of the wild animals in question, and based on my own experiences with them. (E.g. Foster's chapter on otters seems wholly misinformed, short-sighted, small in scope, and wholly misrepresentation of otters as a whole. He's dealing with a very specific river otter in a very specific region of the world, and his "truths" about them should be taken with a vat of salt. I've seen otters play, exhibit wit and cunning, and be altogether amusing and ingenious creatures.) There are parts of this book that are beautiful and interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the chapters on foxes and swifts, though I'm left thinking that's due in large part to particularly enjoying foxes and swifts in general, and not necessarily due to any true gift of Foster's.

There are also far too many parts of this book that feel wholly doused in upper-middle-class white privilege (e.g. sleeping on private property while appearing both homeless and slightly crazed, and having a conversation with a police officer wherein the author feels safe enough to be a sarcastic smart-ass, and wherein if that had been a minority person, or even someone of lesser class status - especially in the U.S. - they would have been arrested, or worse). One could argue the entire premise of this book is the product of upper-middle-class white privilege/disenchantment/ennui. And that's pretty gross.

I don't like the pretentious, WASPy parts of the book at all (and oh, there are many). I don't like the part of the book where, in his attempt to be more like x, y, z wild animal, the author himself engages and instructs his children to engage in unsustainable, detrimental, and altogether poor outdoor/wilderness ethics (e.g. instructing his children to take literal shits next to a flowing, functioning river). Foster either seemingly doesn't understand Leave No Trace, and/or doesn't care/doesn't think it applies to him and his mighty journey into the great unknown of becoming a beast. I happen to care a great deal about people traipsing out into the natural world and being completely idiotic about the type of footprints they leave and the type of long-term damage they could do.

I also don't for a second believe love has to be reciprocal to be felt, especially when it come to wilderness, and wild animals. (Which is the final, strange premise with which Foster closes this book). Parents can love an unborn child for a great deal of time before that child can even think about loving them back. Humans all over the globe can love other people that don't love them back, not yet and not ever. I can love each and every fox I see, and I do - my heart verily skips each time, and I feel an instant and intense sense of kinship and adoration for them - while completely understanding foxes, both individually and collectively, care nothing for me, and nor should they, save for taking care to steer clear of humans (sometimes driving vehicles) like me who might do irreparable damage to them, either accidentally or wholly intentionally.

The one piece of Foster's book (and his misguided but potentially well-intentioned process in writing it) that stands true and valid to me: There is a worth in seeking to see parts of this world from other vantages, no matter how literal and bizarre, in seeking to view our natural and contrived worlds via altogether "other" points of view. He did that. I just don't think he was altogether too successful. And maybe that's the entire point. Maybe some points of view just exist outside of our tangible purview, and that's more than okay: it's necessary.

*Inspired to tell better stories, to do better by our wild creatures, and to learn much more about foxes, swifts, otters, badgers, and all the rest.

[Two stars for foxes and for swifts, and for thinking outside the box, however misguided, pretentious, and WASPy the thinking may have been.]
Profile Image for Sarah Ames-Foley.
485 reviews68 followers
May 15, 2017
I wouldn't dissuade others from reading this book, but I wouldn't recommend it either. I wasn't sure what I expected from a book detailing a man's efforts to live like animals, but I found this to be a rather underwhelming read. The writing itself was respectable, but I just didn't get sucked into the material like I'd like to. I was constantly rolling my eyes and waiting for the book to end. Foster is constantly using odd metaphors to describe his experiences, and I sort of get lost in figuring out what he's trying to say. He gets really preachy about the way humans live and, while I agree with certain points he makes, he puts off a holier-than-thou vibe that I don't really appreciate. It seems like his goal is less education, and more bragging about his own state of mind while criticizing others. He's also very biased in his views of certain animals. For instance, he mentions more than once how he wishes foxes would eat cats. This is relevant, how? This book felt more like a chance for him to ramble on about himself and why he's superior than any sort of actual learning experience. I mean, to be fair I did learn a few things, but for the most part I was just trying to push through everything. Also: who brings their eight-year-old into a hole in the ground to eat earthworms for weeks? Maybe that's just me, but whatever.
Profile Image for Yukari Watanabe.
Author 20 books153 followers
March 27, 2017
I couldn't get into it. It was like listening to a harmless but boring uncle chatting to himself at a dinner table.
Profile Image for Kathrin Passig.
Author 45 books382 followers
March 14, 2017
Einige Stellen sind sehr gut, vor allem die paar, an denen es tatsächlich um das versprochene Thema geht. Das Benehmen von Würmern im Mund! Schon im ersten Teil über Dachse deutet sich aber an, dass der Autor sich lieber über andere Wichtigtu- und Esoterikthemen auslassen möchte, und das wird in den Folgekapiteln immer schlimmer. Außerdem viele unangenehme Stellen, die davon handeln, dass andere Leute ein falsches Leben führen, der Autor hingegen alles richtig macht. Die Kinder des Autors kommen nur als bedürfnislose, willige Requisiten vor, die Ehefrau als Spielverderberin.
299 reviews11 followers
June 9, 2017
I wanted to like this. My wife worked in the same London chambers as Foster, and I'm sure I must have met him once or twice over drinks, so I felt I should support him, however indirect my connection. I also remember seeing a positive review for it in the Economist, which I tend to trust. Plus the premise for the book is pretty original - barmy English barrister attempts to live like a wild animal - what's not to like? I guess my main problem was that of expectations. I thought for each foray into the animal kingdom Foster would adopt a Deniro-like commitment to the role: sleeping rough, eating what he kills, perhaps even pursuing a bit of interspecies canoodling (too far?) - taking zoological writing to the next level. But instead we get him shuffling around on his hands and knees like a badger and thinking badger thoughts - then wandering off down to the pub. Repeat but replace badger with otter and fox, and to a lesser degree, red deer and swift. At least that's the impression I got, as I found his writing style to be so convoluted (and his constant use of in-jokes and uncommon terms to be off-putting) that I wasn't sure what he was on about half the time. I so failed to see the purpose of this exercise, and so desperately wanted to pack it in half way through. The only thing that kept me going was losing the page count, which is probably the worst reason to finish a book. Overall I found it pompous and tedious, but I suspect for reasons of class and/or intelligence I was not the target market for this book.
Profile Image for Zak.
22 reviews
September 14, 2016
The premise of Being a Beast is as misleading as it is wacky: a man tries to live as a badger, then as an otter, a fox, a deer, and a swift, in order to understand what it’s like to experience the world as a wild animal. But beneath the surface this series of philosophical essays represents nature writing of the highest order: probing, intellectual, alert, funny, and astonishing.

Charles Foster is an Oxford fellow and self-described “writer, traveller, veterinarian and barrister.” His publications range from law books to explorations of the spiritual (The Sacred Journey) and the scientific (The Selfless Gene). Being a Beast will rank him with Muir, Leopold, and McPhee. Foster’s tone is blithe, his style loose and poetic. Foster doesn’t write sentences so much as create little idea nests: “Learn old tunes; eat food that comes from where you are. Sit in the corner of a field hearing. Put in wax earplugs, close your eyes, and smell. Sniff everything, wherever you are: turn on those olfactory centers. Say, with Saint Francis, 'Hello, Brother Ox,' and mean it.” To read him is to spend quality time with the eccentric polymath uncle you haven’t seen since childhood and whom only you know how to appreciate.

He’s interested in what it’s like to be a badger and an otter, yes, but as he burrows, swoops, sniffs, and chews his way through a cross-section of our kingdom, Foster writes like a man alive, intimately concerned with the nature of things.
Profile Image for Tom Ewing.
Author 1 book55 followers
February 1, 2017
A collection of experiments in radical empathy with animals - or roaming around the English countryside and cityscape pretending to be them, take your pick - the writing this reminds me most of is Julian Cope's stuff on Krautrock and prehistory. Like Cope, Foster is a scholar, a mystic, a sensualist, a troll, and a genuine, gleeful seeker after knowledge, which often turns out to be self-knowledge. Also like Cope, the guy is a swaggering, rich writer. And - a final point of comparison - he can likewise be a bit of a dick. The book is structured as an ascent into otherness, as the animals get less and less knowable. The badger stuff is methodologically bonkers but the conclusions and descriptions are fascinating. By the end he's waxing shamanic about swifts and citing Rupert Sheldrake. I was still enjoying myself, mind you. As scientific argument I'm sure Being A Beast is terrible, but so what? Approach it like Foster approaches being a badger: getting down to the author's loamy level, snouting and sniffing for worms of prose and insight among the leaf mulch and bracken of obsession.
Profile Image for Olly L-J.
91 reviews40 followers
February 14, 2017
'You've got to get dirty in the earth, cold and fearful in the air, singed in the fire and seasick in the water. You've got to scratch, scratch, scratch the world with the same paw or wing movements as the creatures you long to know.'

How much can we truly know about animals and the natural world by observing them from a distance, or studying them in a lab? Charles Foster believes, and I'm inclined to agree, that to really get to know animals we have to live like them, see the world through their eyes - instead of viewing the world from 6 feet, try 6 inches.

This is nature writing with a twist, and Charles Foster is as eccentric as they come. He lives for 6 weeks, with his 8-year-old son, in the hillsides of Wales eating worms and experiencing life as a Badger would. He rummages through bins, as a fox, in the east end of London. And he is chased by a bloodhound through the Somerset hills, experiencing the same fear and adrenaline as a red deer might.

Of course, we can never truly live as an animal, or know how or what they think or feel. Yet, this book is probably as close as they come. Foster is clearly highly intelligent, and this comes across in some beautiful descriptive passages. However, it also does mean he tends to veer off topic which made this book slightly less readable as it could have been.

My favourite chapter was about swifts, interestingly the animal he really couldn't experience. But maybe this is what makes it so great. Robert Macfarlane puts this far more succinctly and elegantly than i ever could:

“Wild animals, like wild places, are invaluable to us precisely because they are not us. They are uncompromisingly different. The paths they follow, the impulses that guide them, are of other orders. The seal's holding gaze, before it flukes to push another tunnel through the sea, the hare's run, the hawk's high gyres : such things are wild. Seeing them, you are made briefly aware of a world at work around and beside our own, a world operating in patterns and purposes that you do not share. These are creatures, you realise that live by voices inaudible to you.”

Or maybe I just love swifts ...
Profile Image for Spencer.
212 reviews3 followers
April 25, 2018
I loved this book. About my only complaint, for much of it, was how he never referenced or even mentioned John Muir who was very much an experiential/scientific engager with nature. Very much a kindred spirit. But, I guess Muir's more popular this side of the pond.

Regardless of that, it was a fun, delightful, and engaging experiment with approaching the lives and experiences of animals. I see so many reviews on here who rate him poorly because... well, I don't even remember why, but I totally disagree. He's honest and earnest and perhaps contradictory, but that's just due to his absolute openness to what he's doing and what he thinks about it. You don't like someone who admits to not thinking highly of Otters despite writing about them? Yeah, well, that's just like your opinion, man.

On top of that, Foster. writes. so. well. It's astonishing how well written this is. Easily in my top 5.

Here are the first and last paragraphs of the first chapter:
"I am a human. At least in the sense that both of my genetic parents were human. This has certain consequences. I cannot, for instance, make children with a fox. I have to come to terms with that."

"Wittgenstein said that if a lion could speak, we couldn't understand a word it was saying, since the form of a lion's world is so massively different from our own. He was wrong. I know he was wrong."

If that sounds like weirdo, (or the fact that he eats tons of worms, pees to mark his territory and has scat smelling field trips with his kids, then this book isn't for you. But if that sounds delightful and intriguing and you want to go along with someone who goes to some uncommon lengths to apprehend the world of the badger, the fox, the otter, the deer, and the swift, then this is a book for you.

And let's hang out some time.

Lovely and remarkable book.

1,096 reviews3 followers
January 8, 2018
It's a very unusual book that I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, but actually have recommended it to 5 friends. In fact, I'm now listening to it for the 2nd time, which I've never done before!

The author, Charles Foster is a strange, curious Englishman who tried to get into the mind and habits of a badger, then an otter and others –by totally living in their environments and developing their senses, which he partially seemed able to. He talks frankly about his personal transition from international hunter to an altruistic veterinarian. He also talks about communicating without speech, etc near the end. I think he's a good writer, funny in parts.

If the first sections describing a badger's lifestyle and dietary habits, put u off, then maybe a good idea to skip to the fox section and then come back. I kept reading parts to my husband about his strictly following the badger’s diet until he had heard enough!!

The audio is well done—and I tho’t it was a good way to “read” it. (I just checked and the author himself is the reader --unlike many author-readers, he's perfect, imo.)
I also got a copy of the book, hoping for photos or illustrations, but there’s only a chart of a river otter’s to-do list by the month.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,011 reviews178 followers
July 21, 2016
I was very intrigued to check out this book when I read the concept of it. I mean this is dedication when an author goes all out to really submerse himself into the subject matters that he is writing about. I don't doubt for one bit that Mr. Foster really did eat a warm or drinking double espressos every couple of hours to attempt to experience what it is like to be an otter. As Mr. Foster states being a otter is like being on speed.

I contemplated giving up on this book after reading just about being an animal and then reading a long discussion about badgers, I was about done with this book. Yet on the other hand I was intrigued by the wealth of knowledge about the different animals and their relationship to humans. What made this book cumbersome to read for me was that it read a lot like a scientific medical journal. Useful information but it can also be tedious to read. So for the rest of the book I kind of skimmed bits of information here and there, which for me it made the book easier to read. Although at times I still did need to take breaks. I have learned a lot more about badgers, otters, foxes, deer, and swift then I ever did before.
Profile Image for Julia.
81 reviews
February 24, 2016
'Born again' naturalist (he used to be a hunting, shooting barrister) Charles Foster enrols his family in a quest to get a closer understanding of what it's really like to be various animals by adopting their lifestyles. It sounds crazy, it is crazy - but the book is amusing and enlightening because Foster is quite well aware of that and writes in an enthusiastic but witty way about his experiences.

It made me wish that my own dear children were young again so I could make them come out with me to experience life as hedgehogs and live under the compost heap for a month. ... Or maybe not.
Profile Image for Rob Adey.
Author 1 book9 followers
September 7, 2016
Enormously entertaining account of extreme field biology, told with humour, self-awareness and gusto. There's probably too much reliance on evo-psych, and in the last chapter Foster reveals himself to be a fan of Rupert Sheldrake, but there's still a wealth of amazing info on his subjects here, and I really admire his dedication in attempting to get under the skin on these animals. Fun, too, if you imaging him reading it to a furry convention.
Profile Image for Leila Nicotera.
15 reviews
February 10, 2017
A bit disappointed with the amount of poetic introspection about himself more than anything. I expected and hoped for something a little more raw and visceral. Moments of thought provoking insights, but overall disappointing.
Profile Image for Alice.
Author 15 books12 followers
May 9, 2018
Charles Foster is an intriguing man. He holds a PhD in law/bioethics from the University of Cambridge and teaches Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Oxford. He is a qualified veterinary surgeon, a practicing lawyer, and author of over a dozen books, with titles ranging from Elements of Medical Law to Wired for God? The Biology of Spiritual Experience. He has also written about searching for the Ark of the Covenant and the legality of medical mistakes. He’s an adventurer of a stripe we don’t encounter very often: he has “particular experience with desert expeditions involving camels” and has skied to the North Pole. He’s married and has six children; one of whom he lived with underground in a badger sett, eating worms and cataloging them with more subtlety of discernment than an oenologist.

Although most certainly not a kook, Charles Foster did a rather kooky thing: he lived as a badger, a red deer, a fox, an otter, and a common swift. This meant “becoming” these beasts, not through hallucinogens or psychological manipulation, but through being — eating, living, dreaming, reacting as an animal within the many limits of humanness. “It involves too an ability to put oneself into another’s hoofs, pads, or fins. Broadly, it is the ability to appreciate the interconnectedness of all things…”

Foster’s exploration of and immersion in his surroundings and fellow creatures is compelling and personal (or perhaps personless). Reading his book may convince you that time allotted to stress reduction courses, well-being retreats, and soul cycles could be better spent submerged in a river or following swifts. He spans the gap between neuroscience and shamanism, experiencing the interconnectedness of all beings as he ventures into and beyond the sensational with erudition and whimsy, arriving at the profound. His book will change you — how you watch a seagull, how you flick a mosquito, the tone of voice you use with your dog, and how you travel the Earth.

It takes a certain amount of gumption and a willingness to challenge accepted scientific thought and philosophy to embark on a path of everyday or “literary” shamanism without sliding into hocus-pocus. Foster’s process involved two steps: immersing himself in the pertinent scientific literature and then into each animal’s world.

It’s not easy.

You’ve got to get dirty in the earth, cold and fearful in the air, singed in the fire, and seasick in the water. You’ve got to scratch, scratch, scratch the world with the same paw or wing movements as the creatures you long to know.

Foster connected each animal he became to an element — earth, air, water, fire — beginning with badgers that tunnel in the ground. He was determined to venture beyond the “scorching sentiment” of the anthropomorphized badgers of The Wind in the Willows and Beatrix Potter. Along with his eight-year-old son, he dug a trench with a backhoe into a hill in the Black Mountains of mid-Wales. Breathing and sneezing dirt, they refined their structure using their hands and a toy shovel, and covered it with bracken and branches and earth — their badger sett. Then father and son crawled down to the river for a drink before curling up to slumber among oak and beech roots.

As the days passed, Foster overcame the claustrophobia of the burrow as well as ticks and other vermin, his diet of earthworms which “taste of slime and the land,” and nights of shallow sleep. His human sense of “eco-colonialism” or Biblical dominion over fish, fowl, and mammals gradually diminished. The edge between man and creature blurred, as more and more he stuck to the business of being a badger, traveling on hands and knees, avoiding roads and dogs, and easing away from dependence on vision to connect with the landscape via smell to such a point he could distinguish between ash and fern. His son’s more agile nose could even smell the presence of voles.

Foster came to appreciate the extreme localness bounded by the senses and belonging to place that badgers possess. They are of the earth and of the Earth — the “embodiment of genius loci.” Upon his return from the woods to “civilization,” he suffered the assault of sound and scent but as he acclimated he realized: “…to thrive as a human being I needed to be more of a badger,” to “pay attention to the world in many planes at once rather than just our usual one or two.”

Foster chose the otter for his water mammal and his account smashed and clawed my storybook preconceptions to bits. It turns out that the romping little buddies of Facebook memes are not so innocent. Otters are scrappy barbarians “more stoat than seal” and “jangling, snarling, roaming, twitching bundles of ADHD” too busy for joy. Part of this is our fault — we’ve polluted their rivers and wiped out many of the eels that formed their primary diet, and hunger fosters aggression. Although otters spend three-fourths of their lives asleep, according to Foster they need our equivalent of eighty-eight Big Macs every day to sustain their “being on speed” metabolisms, and so they must devote most waking moments to killing things. Satiated otters in zoos may seem cute, but the ones in the wild…not so much.

Although initially less enthusiastic about being an otter, Foster embraced the enterprise. So did his children. To sustain their metabolisms, otters eat a vast amount, and so they must defecate. They deposit dung — spraint — about three times each hour to mark their territory and their progress through the landscape. Foster encouraged his human brood to try it out by the East Lyn River near their Devon home. “‘Spraint’ I said. ‘But don’t fall in, and be back for supper.’” I have a feeling Foster must be pretty much the most fun dad ever, although I’m curious how his wife feels about the kids sniffing feces to guess the producer and sleeping naked in the mud.

Off again and on again, for weeks, Foster led his best version of an otter’s life, by a “river-that-momentarily-is-but-never-was-and-never-will-be.” It was cold, and a wetsuit — an approximation of the otter’s insulating coat — seemed more otter-ish than not wearing one. Plus, it enabled him to lay near and in the river amid the trout and mayflies for hours to trace the routes the otters mapped. Winter’s dark slowed Foster down but he returned to the process in spring, ultimately overcoming his fear of lampreys, although he continued to see their predilection for burrowing into the bellies of their prey and dining on internal organs as “a serious argument against the goodness or omnipotence of God.”

Red foxes represented fire. One evening in East London, Foster spotted two foxes in the grass and upon closer inspection saw that they were vacuuming up crane flies that were laying their eggs in the dew. You or I might take a photo and post it on Instagram, but not Foster — instead, he got down on the ground and grazed with the foxes, the gastronomic result being “a ticklish rice-paper garnish that turns to vanilla slime.”

Perhaps because the fox was another creature that had fascinated Foster since childhood, being one seemed to come easily for him. Urban foxes are beasts of the night and shadow, and Foster joined in on their prowl of garbage cans for scraps, moving on all fours and snoozing in the shrubbery. When a policeman awakened him and asked him to move along, Foster explained, “I want to know what it’s like to listen all day to traffic and to look at ankles and calves rather than at whole people.” When the officer suggested Foster get a life, he retorted, “That…is exactly what I’m trying to do.”

Becoming a red deer, a creature that travels over (as opposed to into) the earth, seems to be all about waiting for the grass to grow. In spring Foster waited for the tender shoots to emerge, in the summer he stood still in the woods, in autumn he walked in search of food, and in the winter he starved with the deer, waiting for spring to return.

As deer wait for grass, they’re also waiting for death. To understand being the prey, Foster considered being their predator, a wolf. He recalled when he used to hunt (which he’s long since given up) and arranged to be chased by a hound. Although death wasn’t imminent, flight was terrifying, especially the silence before being caught. On another occasion he instructed his children to give him five minutes, “then come and find me and kill me.” They failed, despite doing an admirable job as predators trying to think like a deer — the tricky part was that deer don’t think, not as we do. Like most animals, they just are.

The chapter on swifts, beasts of the air, begins with a list of truths about why humans believe they know animals: the telepathy of a dog that predicts when its person is coming home or the person who gets a “feeling” that company is about to arrive; how termites, fish, and butterflies act on instinct without what we might perceive as nurture; love; altruism; and all the threads in the fabric of community of our “shared world.”

Foster asks, “Is a ‘genetic map’ any less mysterious than the collective unconscious?” or perhaps “a small manifestation of the collective unconscious…?” Swifts illustrate this persuasively as they migrate with no instruction from England to Mauritania and back again. Foster dutifully traced the vortices of these raptors or “aerial gaze hounds” that can go for years without touching down on Earth, and related his habits of travel to theirs. He harnessed himself into a parachute to experience height, but couldn’t touch their speed, which is about more than motion — it’s about the value of time. He made a noble effort, “But becoming a swift? I might as well try to be God.”

After his first night of being a badger, Foster wrote, “…within that wood there was a vertiginously strange and urgently desirable universe, untrodden and untreadable by man in his normal sensorineural boots. I wanted it badly.” By the end of his book, I was certain he’d gotten his wish.
Profile Image for Ben.
11 reviews17 followers
June 20, 2017
A bit weird, but refreshing

Foster really has pushed some boundaries with this witty book, based on a really cool idea. Basically, this book is an account of a slightly odd journey Foster takes to becoming a number of different animals. He recollects and muses about times he lived as a number of animals for extended periods of time, trying to experience the world as they do. We hear about how he created a badger den and lived in it with his son, about living as an urban fox in London (getting into a bit of trouble with the cops), and about how he got in a tree, trying to be a swift.

He knows his science (having a great grounding in veterinary medicine), and pushes the boundaries of anthropomorphism by trying to convey what animals 'feel','think', and 'experience' in a way that we can understand. As a scientist I appreciate the massive problems that this kind of task brings about, but it is clear that Foster knows these limits and pushes them regardless—to great effect. Although (at the risk of sounding boring) I might not be too convinced about the scientific accuracy of his 'findings', I found it enlightening.

The only real problem I had with the book was the rather excessive use of metaphors—I love a good metaphor, but sometimes the point that the author was making wouldn't even be clear, due to the contrived way in which it was presented, dancing around metaphors.

Overall, a very fun read, and great for anyone who is interested in animal physiology and behaviour. Take it with a pinch of salt though!
Profile Image for Berber.
27 reviews
June 6, 2018
At first, I was really excided about this book: how will mister Fosters experiences be?
Later on, I questioned myself: why am I even reading this? All serious and I didn't understand many paragraphs, or explenations.
I pushed through, and wanted to finish this book anyway, and here I am, writing my review of this bizare but oh so beautiful book. And here's why:
In mister Fosters process to become an animal, all he found out was how HE experienced it. How he almost died because he was cold. How he cried because "his" swallows left him, to fullfill their life cycle by traveling to Africa. But most of all: how he found out who he was, eventhough he always felt like a missfit. And he accepted it, even embraced it and got at peace with him being who he is, how he "loves", eventhough that might be a fague emotion. He is Charles Foster, even when he is a fox, badger, deer, otter or swallow.
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