... [a] thrilling, brilliant, bonkers account ... Being a Beast is a strange kind of masterpiece: the song of a satyr, perhaps, or nature writing as extreme sport. Foster marks out the distance between us and the beasts in a way that helps sharpen their boundaries and ours — and ours are not always where we think.
...[a] strikingly funny and profound book ... his approach also produces insight into the lifestyles – and emotions – of animals. Even trivial experiences are revealing ... His failure in trying to be a badger is magnificent, but his attempt to become an otter is hampered by his contempt for the species; and his passages about the red deer are more about his own stalking follies and an act of repentance ... Illuminating and unfailingly entertaining, this book is a tour de force of modern nature writing, and shows us how to better love the world beyond ourselves.
...a meditative romp that leaves you laughing out loud (and occasionally cursing in anger) even as you soak up the spray of science ... Steeped in scholarship, yet directed by his own quirky mysticism, Foster brilliantly takes on questions of animal consciousness, cognition, emotion and theory of mind.
...[an] intensely strange and terrifically vivid new book ... reads like what you might get if you took a writer like Julian Barnes or Anthony Lane and dropped him into the woods with only a granola bar and a pointy stick ... His awareness of his failures makes him all the more winning ... an eccentric modern classic of nature writing.
Being a Beast is unlikely to move many philosophers or, for that matter, naturalists, but it makes for an extremely entertaining—if shaggily anarchic—read ... The longer this sort of thing goes on, the less conviction Foster seems able to muster.
Mr Foster shapeshifts with the book. In the badger chapter he is sensuous yet ruthless. As an otter he has ADHD. As a fox he is a canine kind of street smart. And as a swift? Suddenly transcendent. The book contains some very funny moments ... But to dismiss Mr Foster as an eccentric would be a mistake. In each chapter the reader learns a lot about the animals involved ... It would be all too easy to mock the author’s commitment to recognising his atavistic abilities and releasing his inner animal. But curiosity prevails. Being a Beast wastes no time telling you how to identify nature or become a better person. It encourages you to get down on your hands and knees and start sniffing.
Foster nearly convinces us that such shape-shifting is possible in the way he lyrically tells his stories — uncensored, intensely descriptive and often hysterical — and by referencing literary works and undisputed physiological facts ... While empathy plays a notable role in the book, the overall question that Foster raises has more to do with how we as humans are anchored to our planet and how we can better understand the man-beast-earth interrelatedness. He offers an answer, too. He admits that no man can be a beast. No matter how hard we try to be something else, we're human. Achingly human.