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Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology Hardcover – August 24, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421716
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Louv Reviews Becoming Animal

Richard Louv is the author of seven books, including Last Child in the Woods. He is the chairman of the Children & Nature Network, and has served as adviser to the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World award program and the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Read his review of Becoming Animal:

David Abram is unique among interpreters of the wild voice within us. His first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, has become a touchstone for a needed shift in our thinking about the place of humans in the world. As the poet Gary Snyder remarked, that book helped map us back into the world. In his new book, Becoming Animal, Abram offers a startling new exploration of our entanglement with the rest of nature. This time, his focus is the intimate but sadly forgotten relationship between our bodies and the earth. By excavating the most ordinary and familiar of our experiences--the perception of shadow, the recognition of depth, the transience of mood--he re-opens for us the knowing that our bodies are intertwined with the flesh of the earth. I cannot imagine another book that so gently and so persuasively alters how we look at ourselves, and reminds us that sentience was never our private possession, that our very awareness is a means of participating in a more than human world. At no other time in Western history have we needed to listen to the wild voice within us, and to Dave Abram's, as much as we do today.


From Booklist

*Starred Review* How did our curious, inventive species go from worshiping nature to destroying it? A creative and visionary ecologist and philosopher, Abram addressed this complex and urgent question in his influential first book, Spell of the Sensuous (1996). In his second provocative, boldly recalibrating blend of stories, reflections, and discoveries, he offers perception-heightening insights into the causes of our disparagement of “sensuous reality,” or “bodied existence,” and the disastrous consequences of our increasing detachment from the living world as we funnel our attention to the cyber realm. As Abram identifies underappreciated aspects of our minds and bodies that evolved to enable us to respond with exquisite sensitivity to our surroundings, he tells extraordinary tales of his encounters with wildlife from whales to ravens, illuminates the planet’s myriad forms of sentient life, and elucidates the significance of oral culture. In addition to writing with poetic precision about sensory experience—his analysis of shadows and life’s reciprocity are phenomenal feats of observation and eloquence—he also draws on his adventures as an itinerant sleight-of-hand magician and apprentice to indigenous shamans 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.” --Donna Seaman

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is easily one of the top 3 books I've read in the last few years.
Fernando Castrillon
Abram says "this is a book about becoming a two-legged animal, entirely a part of the animate world whose life swells within and unfolds all around us."
D. Voelker
I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about our world and what it has to teach us.
Martin J. Keogh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Aparicio Parry on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you have read Abram's impressive first book, The Spell of the Sensuous, you have probably been, like me, breathlessly awaiting his second. While the first book was a hard act to follow - being both a scholarly and passionate plea for humanity to recover its sense of humanness by recovering its immediate connection to what is other than human - his second equally wonderful book, Becoming Animal, is different. Abram makes no bones about not attempting the same comprehensive and scholarly review. Instead, he gives us a far more personal account of his journey into discovery of his animal and ultimately human self.

The result is another sublime work. Abram takes us through a variety of experiences in his daily life, some exotic, some mundane, but always immediate and present. It is a courageous work, taking us inside his life in a very intimate and direct way. Whether he is chronicling his baby daughter's spontaneous connection to a stone, his own adventures shapeshifting with ravens and shamans atop the Himalayas, his lament in leaving a rental home, or his clumsy attempts to fix a vacuum cleaner - Abram always maintains the same attention to presence. The book as a whole is an original guide to a way of thinking, seeing and interacting with the sensuous, breathing world.

Becoming Animal is a bit like entering a hypnotic trance, which is clearly Abram's intention. Every sentence embodies the message - keeping a rhythm, a pulse - just like the moving, breathing earth he speaks of. The sentences are a microcosm of the book, bringing together seamlessly what at first appear as diverse, unrelated experience.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amy Hannon on October 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Berry diagnosed the ailment of our culture as autism. In a similar vein, Richard Louv called it nature-deficit disorder. Either way David Abram's new book, Becoming Animal, is good medicine for our entrancement with the written word and the electronic screens which flatten our world to two dimensions. In the philosophical tradition of the phenomenologists describing our different forms of alienation, this book lures us back to our authentic heritage as evolutionary cousins to both the stars and all the animals. It draws on insights unveiled in Abram's earlier masterpiece, The Spell of the Sensuous, but unfolds them like a Chinese puzzle to reveal ceaseless horizons of meaning hiding in our most common experience from seeing our shadows, hearing birdsong or sensing the dyanamism of a rock face in our path.

I especially love the reverend way Abram enfolds key ideas from the western Religions of the Book into our primal experience, explaining the metaphysics of angels and even of God, without any diminution of either concept but only expanded joy and access.

This is a marvelous, and yes, a magical book. Along with The Spell of the Sensuous, it will stand as a new classic in American philosophy and nature writing.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By snowy owl books on October 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For once I have found the enigma of a book that deserves all 5 stars from Amazon for it's gutsy interpretation of an old subject we rarely want to discuss. The human animal and his or her relation to the wild, how it creates thought and intelligence and even rationale. Let's examine how being more like an animal might do us some good....and less like a rational coldly removed abstract being bent on knowing truth by studying even more of the abstract. We have forgotten that experience in nature qualifies the true source of human development. Our surest form of truth is within the mystery of nature, everyday nature as perceived through our senses is what can bring us the most equitable and perhaps the most satisfyingly human encounter of the cosmos- not the science of quarks, genetics, microcosms, stellar phenomenon and such... though they may thrill with glitzy peeks of an unknown invisible universe at extravagant cost. This book is just incredibly different than others, as is the author and his divergent knowledge and experience of culture, city and mountains, he apprentices the world with a desire to understand how humans identify with the Earth- Remarkably honest, this man strides through sentences in a sort of bare nakedness of truth we have been longing to hear but somehow have not been able to say a word about in the last few centuries or so. It is complete ecstatic freedom and joy to read this authors uplifting work on the nature of being human - not the ever dualistic based "Human nature" that still pervades science and modern thought. How can you not enjoy a visionary work from a man whose very keen senses leads us all over the globes, face to face with mountains, magicians, shamanic creatures, old cities, and take us into the deepest observational realms of leaving our skin to soar like a bird. Magnificently done, now keep writing!!!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Eric Gross VINE VOICE on February 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First let me come out and say, I really loved David Abrams book Becoming Animal. I loved how eloquently it argued against philosophies of transcendence which are such an important part of most organized western religions, I loved how David described and conjured up the mystery of the natural world, and perhaps most of all I loved how he reminded us, so powerfully, of the innately expressive and conscious filled the natural world truly is. Many of his descriptions of this world reminded me of my own time studying with Navajo healers.
So why not five stars? I wish I could give it 4.5 stars.
As I said in the title of this review, Becoming Animal is almost perfect. It also has several not to trivial problems.
One, Abram rails against those who criticize writers who romanticize the hunter/gatherer - indigenous cultures of the world and of the past. He points out, in a lengthy footnote, how those same critics tend to romanticize the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome, yet shower contempt on those who write favorably about indigenous cultures. And I could not agree more strongly. Yet, Abram does romanticize these worlds. As beautifully as he extols their power and their connection with earth-based life, he totally ignores their own internal pressures to conform, as well as their often savage cruelty they visit upon their neighbors. In the book Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, Jonathan Lear deftly describes the unceasing violence visited upon the Crow Nation by their traditional and more powerful enemy the Lakota.
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