How to Be Animal begins with the premise that our collective self-regard depends on the idea that we are superior to every other type of being. This fiction is predicated on a denial of other animals’ inner complexity, or at least a belief that it can’t approximate, let alone surpass, our own ... Challenger’s book is a dizzyingly ambitious attempt to correct this destructive logic by examining its genesis, and I don’t mean 'dizzying' figuratively. How to Be Animal induces the type of vertigo I experienced as a child while pondering where I was before I was born, if I could exist without a body, and what it would be like to have never existed at all. The book aims to convince readers that our earthbound, embodied existences are precious and absolute ... What How to Be Animal brings forth so beautifully is that impermanence is not a state confirmed by death.
This is a provocative, incisive and worried book, carried off with no small degree of élan. It is multi-disciplinary, taking in ecology, philosophy, law, futurology, psychology, palaeontology and anthropology ... All stem from one contention: that humans have, in some rather unexplained fashion and by unfathomable processes, decided that we are disconnected or apart from the natural world ... Yes, there have been thinkers who wanted a strict demarcation between the human and the living but not-human, and Challenger goes into their reasoning and its evasions in detail. But this has always been a vexed field of enquiry ... One of the very best parts of this book is the manner in which Challenger conflates intellectual activities that can seem opposed ... A lot of the book’s prime concern is in unpicking where the idea of hierarchy originated ... There are plenty of books I could recommend on each one of Challenger’s topics, but this book skilfully braids all of them.
In this fascinating and cutting-edge meditation on humanity, British author Challenger presents readers with the truth of their animal lives. Drawing on generations of research in evolution, genetics, and philosophy, Challenger analyzes the human tendency to believe our experiences amount to more than animal entropy ... The book is humbling and serves up ample reminders of humans’ role in the world as animals among other animals. It’s timely as well, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic ... Every chapter is more riveting than the last, a truly remarkable read.
A searching examination of our intellectual divorce from the natural world ... Challenger proposes ways to retool our thinking, including recognizing the emerging fact that animals possess consciousness (whales dream, wolves carry mental maps in their heads, and so forth) and acknowledging that human consciousness is just one aspect of 'a spectacle of richness before us all the while.' Throughout the book, the author invites us to accept our animal nature and the responsibility toward the world that comes with it. A welcome, well-considered contribution to ecological thought.