Thursday, 28 April 2016

Adventures in Human Being - Gavin Francis // Book Review

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 living and in dying. 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.

This book caught my eye purely based on the cover - it has a beautiful, eye-catching design. Aside from that, it also grabbed my attention enough to make a lasting impression because anatomy (and, more recently, medicine) have long been an interest of mine. 

I didn't pick it up that first day, but after a second or third time of seeing it and being drawn to it, I caved and bought it (despite the ever growing pile of unread books I own... whoops).

It was definitely worth it, though; this is a fantastic book. The way Francis interweaves his own experiences and the stories of his patients with the facts, the history, and other sources works brilliantly to make this an engaging and fascinating read. It's evidently a very well researched and prepared book, but I think that it's the real stories from patients Francis has encountered over the years that really makes this book stand out. There's nothing I love more than a good 'people' story, and this book has plenty of them. These stories are often emotive, sometimes funny (the ketchup bottle story being one of the most memorable!) and always working well to illustrate and emphasise the facts. 

The attention paid to how medicine and anatomy are included in literature, philosophy, art etc is also a brilliant touch. As someone who loves literature, I particularly appreciated references to texts like The Bell Jar and others that I'd read or would like to read. 

The many references to places around Edinburgh - my home town! - were another joy in this book. It's wonderful to be able to picture places clearly when you read a book, yet the stories he told also added extra layers to places that I know but I've never fully explored.

Even if you're not that interested in medicine or anatomy, I would recommend this book highly!