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Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum
     

Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum

by Gavin Francis
 

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We assume we know our bodies intimately, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory, an enigma of bone and muscle, neurons and synapses. How many of us understand the way seizures affect the brain, how the heart is connected to well-being, or the why the foot holds the key to our humanity? In Adventures in Human Being, award-winning author Gavin

Overview


We assume we know our bodies intimately, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory, an enigma of bone and muscle, neurons and synapses. How many of us understand the way seizures affect the brain, how the heart is connected to well-being, or the why the foot holds the key to our humanity? In Adventures in Human Being, award-winning author Gavin Francis leads readers on a journey into the hidden pathways of the human body, offering a guide to its inner workings and a celebration of its marvels.

Drawing on his experiences as a surgeon, ER specialist, and family physician, Francis blends stories from the clinic with episodes from medical history, philosophy, and literature to describe the body in sickness and in health, in life and in death. When assessing a young woman with paralysis of the face, Francis reflects on the age-old difficulty artists have had in capturing human expression. A veteran of the war in Iraq suffers a shoulder injury that Homer first described three millennia ago in the Iliad. And when a gardener pricks her finger on a dirty rose thorn, her case of bacterial blood poisoning brings to mind the comatose sleeping beauties in the fairy tales we learn as children.

At its heart, Adventures in Human Being is a meditation on what it means to be human. Poetic, eloquent, and profoundly perceptive, this book will transform the way you view your body.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/17/2015
Scottish physician Francis (Empire Antarctica) couples his wealth of medical experience with his humanistic perspective to produce a user’s guide to the human body, easily conveying the sense of awe that arises from his intimate knowledge of how bodies work. Each of his 18 chapters focuses on a specific body part and includes an intricate blend of case studies, underlying anatomy and physiology, historical perspectives, and ties to artistic work. The package is a joy to read and demonstrates that the best of medicine operates in the intersection between science and the humanities. “When language is called ‘clinical’ it is usually to imply that it is without emotion,” Francis notes. “Yet clinics are often awash in emotional transactions.” Such emotion can be seen throughout the book, but it is most striking in his chapter on the breast, in which he describes how the concept of “healing” needs to be envisioned broadly. His skill as a writer and an observer of human nature become obvious when he is able to make a chapter entitled “Large Bowel & Rectum” thoroughly engaging. Francis writes with humility and makes the point that being a good medical practitioner is not “about dramatically saving lives, but quietly, methodically, trying to postpone death.” Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR ADVENTURES IN HUMAN BEING:

“Delightful… The joy of Mr Francis’s work lies in the fact that although he delights in the body’s physical reality, he takes care not to reduce human experience to that alone.”
The Economist

“In Francis's beautifully written, exquisitely thoughtful, and completely captivating cartography, the body is a superbly-lit museum filled with treasures, and Dr. Francis the perfect guide who deftly weaves together science and story to reveal the wondrous flesh-and-blood underpinnings of our daily lives. It's a spellbinding view.”
—Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper’s Wife and The Human Age

“A sober and beautiful book about the landscape of the human body: thought-provoking and eloquent.”
—Hilary Mantel

“Wonderful, subtle, unpretentious.... I have never read a book like this one and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Reading it, you feel better.”
—John Berger, author of Ways of Seeing

“[A] brilliantly original and highly engaging book that takes you on a journey that is both familiar and unfamiliar, a book that marries both the physical and metaphysical with such imaginative wit and eloquence.”
The Independent (UK)

"… It promises an intriguing voyage and delivers it in great style. Thoroughly recommended.”
“So enthralling and so well written that it should win [a] clutch of prizes… immensely engaging and often unexpected… Some of the chapters are small masterpieces of insight and information.”
Sunday Times (UK)

“In a series of deft essays on anatomy, starting with the head and working down to the feet, Francis moves skillfully between the scientific and the aesthetic, anatomical fact and emotional consequence, to craft a profound yet highly readable account of the intimate, inextricable relationship between the physical body and what some still call the soul.”
Irish Times

“Clever, strangely beautiful… The style is crisp and fast and the human tales irresistible.”
The Times (London)

“[Francis] is a fine, subtle and observant writer… this is an illuminating and arresting book.”
Herald Scotland

“A quietly radical, three-dimensional view of issues such as reproduction, birth, death and disability that has the power, at times, to make you stop mid-sentence and carefully reassess some of your most basic assumptions.”
Scotsman

“Since he is both a GP and a travel writer, a better-suited guide than Francis to this bag of flesh, fluids and bones would be hard to find. There is much to astonish in [his] travel through the ‘most intimate landscape of all.’”
Sunday Express (UK)

“Francis jumps nimbly between anatomy, history, and personal experience in a way that makes the book both highly informative and compulsively readable. You have only to glance at the index to see the range of this remarkable book… It promises an intriguing voyage and delivers it in great style. Thoroughly recommended.”
Daily Express (UK)

Kirkus Reviews
2015-07-15
Doctors with literary ambitions write memoirs, tell stories about patients, or educate us. Scottish physician Francis (Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins, 2013, etc.) successfully combines all three. In 18 chapters on 18 body parts, the author delivers no-nonsense lessons on anatomy and biology, each illustrated with a patient plus regular detours into medical history, medical scandal, and his own colorful life. "This book is a series of stories about the body in sickness and in health, in living and dying," he writes at the beginning. A man appears with a nail through his palm or a wine bottle in his rectum. A depressive, immobile and silent for years, slowly begins to move and speak, more each day after a series of electroshocks to his brain. A couple undergoes the detailed unpleasantness of an infertility exam and then the even more detailed and unpleasant (and expensive) procedure for in vitro fertilization. Other chapters provide odd, penetrating insights—e.g., poets undergo open-heart surgery or breast cancer mastectomy and reveal the experience in verse. Even experienced doctors will perk up at some of the author's digressions. One example: the Romans could not have crucified Jesus as traditionally described. Tissues in the palm are too fragile to support a man's weight (the experiment has been done). Nails through the wrist would have worked. Many anecdotes are the bizarre sort that medical students employ to impress other people, and Francis portrays himself as a healer of almost supernatural compassion, but he has enjoyed a spectacularly varied career as a general practitioner, emergency room doctor, and volunteer in third world clinics and polar exploration. The result is plenty of good material, and he possesses the writing talent to bring it to life. Henry Marsh's Do No Harm remains this year's medical memoir to beat, but Francis acquits himself well.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465079681
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
10/13/2015
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
881,369
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author


Gavin Francis is a physician and the author of two books, including Empire Antarctica, which won the Scottish Book of the Year Award, was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Prize, and was named a best book of the year by The Economist and the Financial Times. A regular contributor to the Guardian and the New York Review of Books, Francis lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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