Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#StevesLibrary: Being a Beast

There are some books that leave you speechless when you read them, Being a Beast certainly is one of them. It had been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years gathering dust and now feel like the right time to digest it. The premise of Being a Beast is both very clear and slightly insane, Foster seeks to live as a badger, an otter, a fox, stag and a swift for an extended period of time. Why you may ask? Foster hopes that this will help him to better understand both our lives and theirs I wasn’t expecting Foster to take Samuel Johnson’s words quite so seriously, he definitely did make a beast of himself but unfortunately it didn’t rid him of the pain of being a man/human. The book is elegantly written and ponders both the challenge of such an execution as well as the natural history of the animals involved.

My favourite part in the book is quite early on when Foster is attempting to live like a badger. He states that ‘Worms from the Chablis region of France, when chewed, have a long, mineral finish. Worms from Picardy are apparently musty, like splintered wood. Worms from the high Kent Weald are fresh and uncomplicated. And worm flavours change with the season as well as the region: Norfolk worms have a tang of nappy liner in August, but paraffin in January.’ I never knew that worms have distinct tastes based on the soil they’re from (and I still don’t), unlike Foster I’m in no rush to try for myself.

Whilst living among badgers for six weeks in a hill in Wales or as an otter, trying to catch fish with his teeth, Foster rewilds his mind. We’ve all become disconnected from nature and the shamanistic ideologies of our forefathers and instead replaced with spreadsheets and concrete jungles. By going back to nature and learning how to act as the animals Foster admires so much, he is also going back in time to an earlier era of human thinking. I think is important as it shows us how to love and enjoy the natural world, humankind tends to see itself as the epitome of evolution. However, the animals and plants we share our home with, that have survived for as many countless generations are also our equals.

This book made me stop and think about the world, it’s a wonderful piece of modern nature writing filled with passion that will make you question yourself.

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