Saturday, 8 October 2016

Book review: Adventures in Human Being

'Adventures in Human Being' is written by Gavin Francis, marrying together short essays on medical ailments with links to real, everyday situations. His descriptive anecdotes often bring in other disciplines to explain medical problems, something I personally found extremely interesting. 

'Adventures in Human Being', an illustration by Gemma Pauwels
Francis's approach to other disciplines, and his belief that study of the body doesn't need be restricted to just those with a medical or biological interest, is compelling. For example, geography teaches us about land surfaces and flowing bodies of water, history reminds us that the context of an event is as important as the event itself and chemistry tells of how the combination of two substances together can produce something much larger than the individual. 

All of these principles can apply to the study of ourselves - skin folds and blood flowing through our veins relate to geography, and the ability to distinguish that one medical problem may have an entirely different implication in one part of the body versus another relates to using historical context, etc. Perhaps this approach to tackling patient anecdotes is inspired by Francis's own experience as a successful travel writer.

As someone who enjoys taking complex neuroscience information and trying to make it accessible to someone who may have never studied science, I particularly enjoyed this technique. Bringing in simple information from other areas of study really made Francis's points stand out and, I believe, made his book more enjoyable to read. 

As usual with this genre of book, it was filled with descriptive anecdotes of initially mysterious illnesses, which where then examined and explained in detail. One that particularly stuck with me was Francis's description of sitting in on a brain surgery where the patient was deliberately awoken during the procedure. This is common practice in some types of brain surgery where, for example, the operation is taking place near important areas of the brain, and ensures that the surgeon does not go near these areas or damage them. Reading of this procedure from his point of view, as a then trainee neurosurgeon, is exciting and demonstrates the awe medical professionals can take from their own work.

Each chapter of the book travels further downwards through the body - starting with the brain, and ending with the lower limb. With each new body part, we are told of medical explanations for the strange illnesses Francis has encountered during his time as a doctor. I enjoyed reading about the various ailments affecting different body parts, particularly those that I had not studied in depth during my university course.

Francis's book is undoubtedly informative, but also manages to remain interesting and moving throughout. I highly recommend this book; it explores complex and poignant obstacles (affecting both our bodies and how we live our lives), but in an accessible and thought-provoking way. Definitely worth a read!

Have you read this book or any of Francis's other works? What did you think? Let me know in the comments! 


  1. I like your description of how the author ties different disciplines together. Sounds like a great read.

    Joana Xx

    1. Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  2. I have never read this book before. But your blog post is interesting - I also like how you review it without giving the story away. I am tempted to read it, but I struggle with finishing books that do not capture me from the beginning. We'll see lol... I'll check if my local library has it. Great post!

    1. That's great to hear! So glad you enjoyed the post. I definitely recommend giving the book a go - it's worth it! :)

  3. Nicely done this review! And i guess you have done justice explaining it in such a profound way. Thanks for putting it up.