cover image Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide

Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide

Charles Foster. Metropolitan, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62779-633-0

"Nature writing has generally been about humans striding colonially around," writes Foster, a qualified veterinarian and research fellow at Oxford University. He instead opts for the four-legged approach, writing about nature through his experience mimicking the lifestyles of badgers, otters, foxes, red deer, and swifts. His book is an extraordinary account of his time spent traversing the forest near his home, digging into the earth to build an underground sett to live in as a badger (which also involved eating lots of earthworms), enlisting six children to help replicate the otter's use of dung to mark territory (and the otter's extraordinary metabolic rate), and substituting himself in lieu of a deer being hunted by hounds. In lesser hands this could come off as trite or patronizing, but Foster is quick to acknowledge his shortcomings and errors in perspective regarding his project, and he projects a healthy sense of humor; his account of encountering a police officer while attempting to recreate a fox's experience by sleeping next to a busy road is particularly rich. This approach, along with his willingness to address and avoid the temptation for anthropomorphism, makes his book interesting and informative. (June)