Sole runner-up for the inaugural PEN E. O Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing
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 the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve inured ourselves to the wild intelligence of our muscled flesh, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. This book subverts that distance, drawing readers ever deeper into their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the body and the breathing Earth.
The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself – a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.
With the audacity of its vision and the luminosity of its prose, Becoming Animal sets a new benchmark for the human appraisal of our place in the whole.
Sole runner-up for the inaugural PEN E. O Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing; finalist for the Orion Book Award
“One of the most compelling and important ecology books in decades… Abram has given us another classic that will help us ponder our future and choose our actions wisely.”
—Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International, author of Greenpeace: The Inside Story
Prose as lush as a moss-draped rain forest and as luminous as a high desert night… Deeply resonant with indigenous ways of knowing, Abram lets us listen in on wordless conversations with ancient boulders, walruses, birds, and roof beams. His profound recognition of intelligences other than our own enables us to enter into reciprocal symbioses that can, in turn, sustain the world. Becoming Animal illuminates a way forward in restoring relationship with the earth, led by our vibrant animal bodies to re-inhabit the glittering world.
Crafted with a poetic elegance…. An abundance of rich, vivid storytelling skill allows Abram to ably navigate us through to what, for many, will undoubtedly be a new way of thinking about, and engaging in, our world. In Becoming Animal, David Abram has crafted the rarest of literary gems: a sublime effort combining transcendent prose, lucid insight, and lasting consequence.
“This book is like a prehistoric cave. If you have the nerve to enter it and you get used to the dark, you’ll discover things about storytelling which are startling, urgent and deeply true. Things each of us once knew, but forgot when we were born into the 19th and 20th centuries. Extraordinary rediscoveries!”
—John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing and Into Their Labours
“If we are to survive—indeed, if we are to stop the dominant culture from killing the planet—it will be in great measure because of brave and brilliant beings like David Abram. This is a beautifully written, deeply moving, and important book.”
—Derrick Jensen, author of A Language Older Than Words
“Without doubt one of America’s greatest nature writers, one who ably follows in the footsteps of Muir, Thoreau and Leopold. . .The language is luminous, the style hypnotic. Abram weaves a spell that brings the world alive.”
“David Abram is among the most important interpreters of the wild voice within us. At no other time in Western history have we needed to listen to that voice, and to David’s, as much as we do today. I cannot imagine another book that so gently and so persuasively alters how we look at ourselves.”
—Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle
“A truly alchemical book…. Those of us who still hope for a revolutionary change in our thinking toward animals, the living land and the climate will welcome this book. Abram is an audacious thinker, a true visionary, and, really, just a damn good nature writer.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“We are animals, big animals with a deep, nurturing and necessary relationship to the Earth. Ignoring that relationship allows us to destroy the planet, yes, but it also isolates us from the mysterious, from the awe inspiring, [from what] sustains our imaginations and our spirits. Abram’s prose is lighted from within, happy, solid and clear.”
—Los Angeles Times
A stunning, compelling journey into embodied, earthly intelligence, Becoming Animal is philosophy at its engaging best. Prepare for a wild, profound ride into the essence of the human animal – an essence embedded in communion with the Earth. A must read for anyone concerned about the future of the planet and ourselves.
—Kierán Suckling, co-founder and Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity
“An intricately textured, deep breath of a book that blurs the boundaries between human and animal, mind and earth.”
“Provocative, boldly recalibrating. . . A creative and visionary ecologist and philosopher, Abram offers perception-heightening insights into the disastrous consequences of our increasing detachment from the living world as we funnel our attention to the cyber realm… In addition to writing with poetic precision about sensory experience—his analyses of shadows and of life’s reciprocity are phenomenal feats of observation and eloquence—he also draws on his adventures as an itinerant sleight-of-hand magician to forge an inspirited physics of being. We can’t “restore” nature, Abram writes, without “restorying” life, hence his prodigious, transfixing, and rectifying “earthly cosmology.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“This startling, sparkling book challenges the technological temper of our times by returning us to the animal body in ourselves. Abram shows brilliantly how this body brings us back to Earth in a series of acutely moving descriptions of its polysensory genius. An original work of primary philosophy, it is written with verve, passion, and poetry.”
—Edward S. Casey, author of The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History
“As with many deeply original – and radical – books, this work may startle, even provoke the reader in its electric reversal of conventional thought. …[T]his is a portrait of the artist as a young raven, arguing, with all the subtlety of his mind, for the mindedness of the body. An exercise of uncanny imagination by a writer who has a sixth sense for the intelligence of the first five.”
—Jay Griffiths, author of Wild
“This brave and magical book summons wild wonder to remind us who we are.”
—Amory B. Lovins, Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
“Refreshing. [Abram] allows himself to be expansive, sentimental, and more than a little mad. . . . His book is transformative, animated by piercing observations and hallucinatory intensity.”
“Books can be great in several ways. Some encapsulate the spirit of their time. Some grow in profundity, as the reader returns to them again and again, marveling at how much the author is saying that had been missed in earlier encounters. Some make break-throughs in established fields of knowledge. And some, a very few, leave you experiencing the world differently after you’ve read them, never to return to what seemed obvious before the encounter. David Abram wrote one of these few with his book The Spell of the Sensuous. Now, alone among all I have ever read, he has done it again with his just released Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology… Becoming Animal takes the reader to places I had long thought the printed word could not go: into that visceral non-verbal multi-sensory encounter with the more-than-human world in which we’re bodily immersed. We encounter this world all the time, with every breath, but have become deaf and blind to it.
—Gus diZerega, beliefnet.com
Becoming Animal brings us home to ourselves as living organs of this wild planet. Its teachings leap off the page and translate immediately into lived experience.
—Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and activist
“Pure enthusiasm drives Abram to explore the yearning of our body for the larger body of Earth. . . . (Abram) brings the magician’s sense of mystery and playful surprise. . . His celebratory embrace of all that surrounds him is refreshing in the extreme.”