Being a Human

Adventures in 40,000 Years of Consciousness

Being a Human
Charles Foster
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A New Statesman Essential Non-Fiction Book of 2021 What kind of creature is a human? If we don' t know what we are, how can we know how to act? In Being a Human Charles Foster sets out to understand what a human is, inhabiting the sensory worlds of humans at three pivotal moments in our history. Foster begins his quest in a wood in Derbyshire with his son, shivering, starving and hunting, trying to find a way of experiencing the world that recognises the deep expanse of time when we understood ourselves as hunter-gatherers, indivisible from the non-human world, and when modern consciousness was first ignited. From there he travels to the Neolithic, when we tamed animals, plants and ourselves, to a way of being defined by walls, fences, farms, sky gods and slaughterhouses, and finally to the rarefied world of the Enlightenment, when we decided that the universe was a machine and we were soulless cogs within it.
' Being a Human is a work of shaggy genius. Its subject is gargantuan in scale; its humour has a reckless panache; its argument is brilliantly original and above all it is written with a matchless audacity of soul. It is one of the most important books I have ever read' - Jay Griffiths, author ' This is the most wonderful book - deftly written, highly imaginative, and a delight to read - and its message is such that its importance simply cannot be overstated. It gives a devastatingly clear portrait of humanity as we have become, and of what we once had - and still could have - but instead are in the process of throwing away, perhaps forever' - Iain McGilchrist, author ' I' ll read anything Charles Foster writes, and this is his most ambitious book yet. It is a historical investigation, a short story collection, a humour primer, a sheaf scientific papers and a work of philosophy all rolled into one, with a side helping of religious ecstasy and badger shit. It will tell you many things you didn' t know about who you are. You should read it' - Paul Kingsnorth, author ' Being a Human is one of the most original inquiries into the who, what, and why of human existence to appear in recent years. Charles Foster writes with inspiring brilliance, originality, and simplicity. I love this book. It should be widely read, for the benefit of all us humans' - Larry Dossey, author ' A fascinating book of immense scope and proportions . . . The evolution of the mind makes for a labyrinthine investigation worthy of Sherlock Holmes' - James Crowden, author
Charles Foster is the author of the New York Times Bestseller Being a Beast, which was longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize and the Wainwright Prize, won the 30 million d' amis Prize in France, and is the subject of a forthcoming feature film. In 2016, he won the IgNobel Prize for Biology.