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GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human

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The dazzling success of The Toaster Project , including TV appearances and an international book tour, leaves Thomas Thwaites in a slump. His friends increasingly behave like adults, while Thwaites still lives at home, "stuck in a big, dark hole." Luckily, a research grant offers the perfect out: a chance to take a holiday from the complications of being human—by transforming himself into a goat. What ensues is a hilarious and surreal journey through engineering, design, and psychology, as Thwaites interviews neuroscientists, animal behaviorists, prosthetists, goat sanctuary workers, and goatherds.

From this, he builds a goat exoskeleton—artificial legs, helmet, chest protector, raincoat from his mum, and a prosthetic goat stomach to digest grass (with help from a pressure cooker and campfire)—before setting off across the Alps on four legs with a herd of his fellow creatures. Will he make it? Do Thwaites and his readers discover what it truly means to be human?

GoatMan tells all in Thwaites's inimitable style, which NPR extols as "a laugh-out- loud-funny but thoughtful guide through his own adventures."

208 pages, Hardcover

First published April 12, 2016

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Thomas Thwaites

5 books13 followers

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5 stars
102 (25%)
4 stars
148 (37%)
3 stars
112 (28%)
2 stars
30 (7%)
1 star
6 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews
Profile Image for Ed Erwin.
916 reviews95 followers
August 28, 2019
The title and images look a bit insane, but this is quite interesting and entertaining. It should appeal to fans, like me, of pop-science books by Mary Roach.

Basically, an artist gets a bit tired of modern life and wonders if he can escape it all. Can he find a way to live in the moment the way a wild animal does? Since he's an artist, he applies for a grant to try to turn himself into an elephant and cross the alps. When he wins the grant, he has to actually try to do it.

He quickly switches plans from elephant to goat, then sets out to meet scientists and others to help him. This is the most interesting part because we learn (along with him) many amusing facts, and watch him try multiple systems of prosthesis to let him walk as a quadruped. (But sadly, not to gallop. Humans aren't built to gallop.) He event tries to figure out how to eat grass and uses trans-cranial magnetic stimulation to try to turn off language areas of his brain. (Also psychedelic plants, though he doesn't enjoy that.) The reactions he gets from people he tells about his plan are fun in themselves.

It is short and has many pictures so is a quick read, and worth the time.

Some pictures in this article.

Content warning: pictures of goat autopsy.

I'm not sure which is most crazy:

1. Writing a novel about a man who wants to become a goat and then printing and giving out for free hundreds of thousands of copies over many years. (See Wild Animus)

2. Actually trying to become a goat and writing this book.

3. Wanting to read Reading both of them.
Profile Image for Anjan.
147 reviews10 followers
June 14, 2016
Well thought out and honest attempt at being a goat. Learned a lot while following his research and prep.

I feel a bit foolish for being demanding towards someone willing to take on such an arduous task, but I would've liked a bit more detail about how it felt to be a goat in lieu of a few of the jokes. Perhaps a night in the pen or a few more days as a goat beyond the migration?
Profile Image for Christina Mott.
22 reviews
March 25, 2016
After reading just the introduction I was pulled into Thomas' story of becoming GoatMan. He is absolutely hilarious and entertaining and I've already recommended this to multiple friends. There are some chapters that might make you squirm a bit, like the chapter on goat "guts" but I did find it all really fascinating! Goats are much more complex than I knew and Thomas helped give them some more street cred. Thomas is down to Earth and a real person trying to unplug a little from our daily stresses. I know it sounds a little fair-fetched to read about a guy who wants to be a goat but I enjoyed each page!
Profile Image for Kat.
77 reviews
August 20, 2017
I enjoyed this quite a lot. There was enough humor mixed in to stop it from being totally bizarre, and also a lot of really interesting research, history, and science. The actual part of "being" a goat was really brief, and I think by that stage he probably just wanted the project over with. As someone who has an animal shelter myself I thought the before and after photos of Venus were tasteless and incorrect to include. I also hope by this time that her bones have been returned to the shelter that she came from.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Josh.
253 reviews27 followers
September 3, 2018
His writing style is decent, and the story of getting to the point where he could be a goat was interesting, but the whole premise of this project was to take time off from being human. Not only was this barely attempted, it was barely written about and not at all reflected upon at completion. I expected at least a little acknowledgement of what he had set out to do and whether he had indeed managed to forget his human worries, content that is almost explicitly promised in the subtitle! But the book abruptly ends after the author traipses halfway up a mountain. A very lacklustre ending made me cross enough to downgrade this from a weak three to two stars.
321 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2017
Look, this book and the Mr. Thwaites who wrote it are uber-weird. How to follow up his should-have-been-a-sensation, The Toaster Project, in which the author smelts his own metal in attempting to make a working toaster from scratch? Why not strive to live less anxiously by actually trying to become a goat? If this sounds crazy, it is. But, you know I don't like non-fiction and you may know I'm not at all into science. This book is both and I still love it. If you aren't a bit off like I am, cruise on by.
Profile Image for Mycala.
520 reviews
July 7, 2016
Wow. Well, as I mentioned when I first started reading this book, where do I start?

We start with our unemployed friend, who seems to have an affinity for Victorian literature. I assume this because he uses "gentle reader" quite a lot. Perhaps a bit too much. No, definitely too much. Twenty years ago, I read a book by Erica Jong -- Fear of Flying. Erica uses "Gentle Reader" once, in a sentence that made such an impact I can still recite it verbatim today. This guys tosses it around I am assuming in an attempt at humor, but it is way overdone and loses whatever effect I guess he was hoping for. Our friend has somehow landed a grant to become an elephant. But wait, no. It's no good.

He goes to a shaman and is led in the direction of something more... logical? A goat. With this newfound mission, he goes with unbridled enthusiasm to a number of institutions with hopes of becoming as much of a goat as he possibly can. I read this book in a 24-hour period and have discussed it with a number of people -- co-workers, family members, the like. As I described the man's quest I was met with all manner of reactions:

"Oh, you mean it's not a novel!? He really did this?"

"But WHY?"

"Do you think... Hmm. Does it seem to you like he may be trying to take this a little far?"

"What is wrong with this guy?"

My personal reaction when I saw this on the library shelf was to burst into the sort of laughter that is frowned upon in a library. My shoulders shook despite my efforts to control myself. I might even have snorted once or twice. I had tears streaming down my cheeks. It didn't help that I was sharing the photo on the back cover with my mother and pointing to the words on the inside cover because my voice was too tremulous to speak quietly: prosthetic goat stomach to digest grass.

As I read the book, though, I have to say I found it both fascinating (in the sense of scientific curiosity) and a bit scary (in the sense of the psychological health of our goat wannabe friend.) The guy actually asked a doctor of neuroscience if it would be possible to turn off the thinking part of his brain. I love what the doctor said. He had honestly never thought about using TMS to make someone feel more like a goat.

I find it interesting that the author's girlfriend brought him to the department of neuroscience. I found it interesting that he had a girlfriend, but that she is the sort to help him cavort about England in search of a sort of goat memory lapse... wow. I can think of a few people that I would encourage to have part of their brains turned off but interestingly enough, none of them are people I love. Funny, that.

Then he's building various goat exoskeletons. It's worth it to get the book just to see the photos. There is some interesting stuff in here, such as the goat beauty contests that they apparently have in the Middle East and I have to admit the goat standing on the red carpet and being photographed is pretty attractive as far as goats go. I think I can speak with some authority on this, as I grew up with goats and none of them were as beautiful as the red carpet goat. Still. It's a goat.

I did enjoy the book, though. I have to say, the guy is funny when he's not "gentle reader"ing me. This is definitely one of the strangest books I've ever read. I'm sure I'll never forget it. I wish him well and hope that he finds the peace of mind he's looking for.
Profile Image for ☆ Mira ✷.
169 reviews80 followers
Shelved as 'no-thanks'
June 26, 2018
As a child, you think your parents are right about everything and have good judgement. But when your mom fangirls about a memoir she dragged out of a sewer checked out from the library about a man who took a vacation from human life by prosthetically turning himself into a goat on a research grant for #science, you really question your entire upbringing.

(but my upbringing was based on libraries, even whichever ones carry this nonsense, so I still appreciate it)
Profile Image for Jake Goretzki.
716 reviews110 followers
July 11, 2016
3.5. Self-evidently daft, but infectiously likeable and good humoured; measured enough to strike 'funny' without being annoying (my favourite line was about the investigation revealing that the deceased final meal was: grass).

The innocence of the method makes it deceptively simple, I think: it's actually more philosophical and polymath than meets the eye.

You know who would gain from this sort of approach? Jaded young adults and science-phobes like my (younger) self. If mitosis and meiosis had been pitched to me like this, I might have paid attention.
4 reviews
March 28, 2021
A truly wonderful and unusual book that asks the question of what it is to be human by becoming as goat-like as possible in a quest to get out from under our worries about the meaning and purpose of our existence. Thomas Thwaites covers a broad range of topics in his 'experiment', from shamanism to science to philosophy to design -- with just the right amount of self-deferential humor amidst the Big Question to make this a thoroughly engaging book.
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 3 books2 followers
July 9, 2016
Quirky designer Thomas Thwaites has written an interesting book about how he tried to live as a goat for a brief spell to get away from the stresses and strains of being a human. There's plenty about the build-up to the main 'event' - fascinating stuff about the physical and cognitive differences between man and goat - but little about the actual time he spent with his four-legged friends. Nevertheless, a very readable, amusing and curious book.
Profile Image for Jo O'Donnell.
107 reviews1 follower
December 24, 2016
Bizarre yet charming. A British design artist submits a project to 'get away from human care' and live as an animal. His first choice, the elephant, falling through, he decides upon living for some time as a domesticated goat and then crossing the Alps. As a goat.

Thwaites takes the reader through the intricacies of goat behavior and anatomy with a surprising amount of fun and an array of highly accomplished (and bemused) scientists, physicians, and designers helping him along his way.
Profile Image for Rachel.
20 reviews5 followers
March 23, 2017
I'll admit, I picked up this book because it seemed absurd and hilarious and I was not disappointed! While being really genuinely funny, it was incredibly informational and I know a lot more about the lives of goats than ever before. It's a quick read and I would recommend picking it up.

Warning: some of the pictures are a bit graphic, so bear that in mind if you're squeamish.
Profile Image for Kathy W.
34 reviews9 followers
June 26, 2018
Engaging but lacking revelatory details

I first found out about this goat man project from a science blog and was curious to learn more about the endeavor. While I was pleasantly surprised by some of the details about the prepatory process, I think I was hoping for a bit more discussion on the scientific, emotional, and philosophical implications of this undertaking
Profile Image for Red.
501 reviews9 followers
April 9, 2022
Considering that he spent less than 2 days in his goat guise, I think the title is very misleading. 90% of the book is about the lengths he went to, to devise his goat gear. It was entertains enough, but I definitely felt mislead. And yet I finished the whole book.
Profile Image for Michelle.
115 reviews3 followers
August 9, 2016
I actually really enjoyed this book but I was pretty dissapointed that the "Goatlife" chapter was mostly just pictures. That is the main event!
Profile Image for Ethan.
435 reviews1 follower
July 13, 2018
I LOVE GOATMAN! Ideo promotes the idea of a T-shaped designer. That's a person with deep knowledge in one or more areas and a little bit of knowledge about everything. Goatman delivers T-shaped knowledge. If you want to know something about everything, learn everything about how to become a goat!

Putting aside the fact that Thwaites is incredibly relatable and funny, the sheer bredth of fascinating information he explores and the depth to which he explores it is really rewarding. He could easily have told us that he chose goats because a shaman told him to, but he decided to tell us the history (precedent) of people becoming animals on a spiritual level and it's fascinating. The same goes for every aspect of his work, from mind to brain, to eyes, and all of the rest. I was totally thrilled to learn about all of the mundane factoids a goat can provide, because of the context.

spoiler alert, though, the ending is wildly disappointing and is the only reason I am grading this down one star. It would have been much easier for me to swallow this bitter pill if he had given me some warning about the weak execution of his final experiment.
Profile Image for Abbie Simons.
55 reviews2 followers
October 17, 2017
I was curious, okay?

This was a fun, though at times bland, short read. With pictures!

I was expecting it to describe the actual experience of being a goat, the goat-trek itself, more than just the experiments and preparations leading up to the trek, but I was satisfied nonetheless. I learned a lot about goats and animals and design, more so than I expected. I actually didn't even realize that this book would be a sort of project summary about the attempt to design a "GoatMan" apparatus, I just wanted to read it because of the title, to be completely honest.

Anyways, the writing style is casual--kind of bloggy--which made it digestible and fun to read, and the author's passion and spunk kind of lit a creative spark in me where I began to crave the wild curiosity of this kind of experience. I WANT TO BE A GOATMAN.

Seriously. What an experience.

4 reviews
December 1, 2017
Book Bingo Category: I would never read that!
Pages: 207

Summary: GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human, is a funny and interesting book. When I saw this book, I originally thought that it was a joke. Surely no one actually wants to become a goat. Well I was wrong. The book is about Thomas Thwaites and his adventures designing, building, and living in a goat suit. The book explains why he wants to do what hes doing, and actually makes it understandable. It also goes in depth in how his contraption works and how it simulates what a goats body is like. Be cautions, however, because there are some graphic pictures of goat autopsies.

Explanation: I give this book a 4/5 simply because it ends right as he becomes a goat. He does not add very much about his experiences. This book easily would have been a 5/5 from me if he added more about what happened.
June 20, 2019
It's not really a book about becoming a goat, folks. It's a book about what it means to be human. To consider thinking (or not thinking), perceiving, eating, moving like a goat means reflecting on the gulf between humans and goats when it comes to thinking, perceiving, eating, moving... That said, it's not as successful as The Toaster Project because 1.) It's a lot harder to consider and play with the things that distinguish humans from (other) animals than it is (hard as this was) to consider what it takes to make a toaster "from scratch" and what this tells us about ourselves and our economy and 2.) Thwaites's writing just seems a bit forced in this second book. Still hugely entertaining and provocative. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Laura Hoffman Brauman.
2,521 reviews35 followers
June 30, 2019
This is definitely one of the quirkiest books I've ever read. When the bookseller recommended it to me, I was fairly skeptical -- but I liked all of his other recommendations, so I gave it a try. This is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time. Thwaites has decided it would nice to escape the pressures of being a human and the best way to do that would be to experience life as an elephant. Elephants turn out to be rather complicated, so after consulting a shaman, he decides a goat is the way to go. He builds an exoskeleton, figures out how to handle eating grass, and heads out to experience life as a goat in the Alps. The mix of humor and science in here is just delightful. Such a fun read.
Profile Image for Brendan.
62 reviews1 follower
July 22, 2017
The focus of this book is the "how" in the subtitle. Only 12 pages out of 183 are about his experience living as a goat. The rest of the book is about how he attempts to design his way into a more goat-like state. It turns out this is practically impossible — because of the way goats and humans use their brains differently, the required body-structure modifications, and reproducing a gut capable of digesting grass — but our author manages to kind of pull it off (except for changing the workings of his brain). Interesting read, but not stellar.
Profile Image for Asia.
6 reviews
August 21, 2019
this is the best book in the whole entire world. i wish that i could marry thomas thwaites and raise a loving family of goat children with him.

although the buildup to the event was magnificent, i do wish there was more about him actually being a goat rather than just the last few pages. the fact that he made a best goat friend while traversing the alps was adorable. also, he intended to give himself a goat-poo enema so that he could break down the enzymes required to digest grass. that's true dedication.
4 reviews
May 2, 2020
I really loved Thwaites’ last book, so I had higH expectations for this one. It progressed as I expected, with his usual quarky but thorough investigation into topics I’ve never even thought about having thoughts about (which is part of what I love about his writing). But I have to say the end of the book really disappointed me. There was significant build up to the climax of this book, but then there was a lack of conclusions (academic, not physical) at the end. It’s still a fun and interesting read. But I was left shocked that there wasn’t another chapter or two to wrap everything up.
Profile Image for Seb Swann.
137 reviews4 followers
April 27, 2019
“A wave of relief and gratitude floods over me. Relief because of narrowly avoiding being proclaimed a sheep. Gratitude because with a goat I know Annette has gotten it absolutely right. A goat - a goat is so much more my level.”

If you like unique and wildly different books on design; Thwaites completely immerses himself in the process of becoming a goat and takes the reader on a informative, intriguing, and humorous journey.
212 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2018
This book is very silly and great fun.

If you enjoyed

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Godfrey-Smith, Peter this is on similar 'kinds of minds' territory if a bit more daft.

John Higgs 'Stranger than we can Imagine' I think would also appeal to people who like GoatMan
Profile Image for Belle Beth Cooper.
163 reviews80 followers
September 1, 2018
The start of this book was really good. It made me laugh a lot. The majority of it was a bit dry, but it still had occasional laughs. The ending was terrible. It felt like a chunk of the book was missing, because it just stopped. I almost gave it 2 stars because of the terrible—missing—ending, but I went with a weak 3 stars instead.
Profile Image for Scott M.
16 reviews2 followers
June 28, 2019
Meh. A few funny moments. A friend at work gave it to me, I can't quite believe he paid £14.99 for it. Also, the version I read had a lot of spelling mistakes and typos which I thought was unusual. The final part where he is actually living as a goat is particularly rushed and just sort of ends and there is no reflection on his journey or anything.
Profile Image for Andrew Otis.
Author 1 book18 followers
November 25, 2020
An interesting idea - I've definitely been in the same boat with regard to getting academic funding only to have my project change and not knowing how to inform the funders. Writing style is casual, humorous, sometimes breaks the 4th wall. Author seems to have abandoned the project after one day of being a goat in the field.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews

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