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Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,134 ratings  ·  143 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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Jul 09, 2011 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
Martin Keogh
Aug 26, 2010 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!
Amy Hannon
Nov 02, 2010 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
Keith Swenson
Mar 13, 2012 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
Sean Blake
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 17, 2010 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
Oct 06, 2010 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.
Feb 26, 2012 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
Joseph Carrabis
Mar 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
Becoming Animal starts with a "Notes to the Reader" section. Summed up, it is "If you don't like this book, you're a PeePeeHead." The "Notes to the Reader" section is followed by a nine page introduction that can be summed up as "If you don't like this book, if you aren't captivated by my language, by my awe at being awed, at the fact that I'm busting my gut to be the next Loren Eiseley, that I've written an agonizingly self-indulgent book because my first book took off unexpectedly and now I'm ...more
Oct 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
The author's purplish prose will make or break your opinion of this book. He's the sort of guy who attaches an adverb to every verb and writes rococo phrases like "at this present moment of the earth's unfolding" instead of the word "now". If that appeals, go for it; if not, avoid at all costs. ...more
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant, and a "must read" for those who care about this planet and all who live on it. ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved Abram's first book and this one is just as illuminating, but it's a whole lot more annoying. It's still worth 4 stars if not more for all of the insights that I gleaned from it. However, there is so much in here about Abram's wanderings around the world and his bird calls and just cooky thoughts and behaviors that it was often hard to extract the really poignant nuggets. ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: body, spirituality
The following are notes I stumbled across on my computer, that I wrote when I first read this book years ago. My apologies if it is a lot of none-sense. Don't say I didn't warn you.

David Abram asks us to reconsider how we see the world.. He asks us to look, hear, smell, and taste what is around us. What is truly aware, and truly awake. What can hear us? What knows we are there? Which fauna and much crazier, which flora. This book, becoming animal, is strange in its ability to reinvoragte certa
Andrea McDowell
May 16, 2013 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
Nov 22, 2012 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
Nov 02, 2010 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.
OK, I think I get what David Abram is going for. I will say that he is not wrong a lot more often than he is right. He would likely take that as a compliment.

We have drank from the same wells. We have both admired Merleau-Ponty, wrestled with Deleuze, and for both of us, our first love was the pure reverie of the natural world. We both admire how indigenous societies were able, through close interactions with the patterns of nature, able to form coherent knowledge systems that were anathema to 1
Anna Xu
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, heirlooms
This book rocked my world!!!!!!!!! Life-changing, far-reaching, glittering, warm, generous, careful—Abram is such a gifted, talented, powerful, generous writer and individual, you would have to be the world’s biggest cynic not to be moved by his words and worldview, or allergic to feeling things for things other than urself. This book has changed my life and i hope i never forget the experience of reading this, taking my time and letting myself slowly feel the way in which my entire bodily exper ...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
Jan 11, 2011 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
Darla Graves
Mar 31, 2013 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! ...more
Abe Something
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Abram suggests that the earth is an aggregate life form comprised of a multitude of living things, and he defines living more widely than you likely do. He says that we forgot this along way, and elevated ourselves over the other forms of life we share the earth with. In prioritizing our brand of intelligence over all others, we lost touch with our nature—our factual existence as an organism living in concert with the others who inhabit this place. We don’t recognize the intelligence of other be ...more
Nov 26, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Got half-way through then quit. I was looking for a pop-science book on how people can reconnect with nature, and Abram is an ecologist so I thought this would fit the bill. Instead I got:
- Laboured, purple prose that obscured meaning
- Anti-science rhetoric
- Anti-literature rhetoric
- Opinions stated as facts
- Self-indulgent smugness
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked Spell of the Sensuous.

This book, at its best, is a notable effort to express the ineffable; to explore perception absent apperception; to be prior to being a being. It was rhapsodic, fluid and, well, tedious.
Sensuous, philosophical, poetic, all in one--

Whereas his first book, The Spell of the Sensuous traced the history of writing—specifically of the alphabet—and its consequences to our consciousness, perception, and civilization, this shapeshifter of a book, with its poetry, insight, and sensibility that goes beyond binaries, explores our embodied existence in all its inextricable entanglements with the rest of nature we are part of. In the process, David Abram enacts the exact kind of language—alb
Bob Mustin
Oct 05, 2011 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
Dec 07, 2010 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
Nov 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm all for poetic and personal writing in creative non-fiction (I loved what I've read by Philip Hoare for instance) and I can see that the author wants us to feel as much as think about the natural world, but unfortunately I found this book incredibly self-indulgent. Maybe I was hoping for it to get more academic? It seemed to promise an examination of humanity's relationship with nature, which I thought would draw from historical, literary, anthropological research in a more rigorous way. But ...more
Jul 02, 2013 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
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David Abram 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 received, among othe ...more

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