Reviews - Adventures in Human Being

Jerome Groopman, The New York Review of Books

Gavin Francis’s engaging and edifying book Adventures in Human Being breathes life into the study of anatomy by situating it in the larger landscape of human experience, connecting the body to art, literature, music, astronomy, and history.  Unlike most physicians whose career encompasses a single discipline, Francis has worked in pediatrics, obstetrics, geriatrics, orthopedics and neurosurgery…It is not a question of whether doctors like Gavin Francis with an artistic and literary sensibility can be proven superior in their clinical acumen compared to those who view the body in strictly scientific terms.  But what is certain is that physicians like Francis can make its study more captivating.


John Burnside, New Statesman

Beyond the fine detail and the erudition of his medical investigations, what marks Francis out as a perfect guide to our physical selves is his sensitivity to metaphor, simile and analogy, his deftness with language… That Adventures in Human Being is an astonishing, moving and enchanting book can be explained in part by Francis’s unique range of experience, his erudition and enthusiasm; but his principal virtue might be the humility he brings to his task.'


Suzanne Koven, The Boston Globe

Francis never strays far from anatomy and the miracle of the normally functioning body. To him, even the large bowel is ‘a magnificent work of art’…his lifelong curiosity about the body animates many of these essays.


John J. Ross, The Wall Street Journal

This sort of book has been done before but not nearly so well… Dr Francis is especially skilled at a kind of muscular poetry of the body… “Adventures in Human Being”, with its deft mix of the clinical and the lyrical, is a triumph of the eloquent brain and the compassionate heart.


Chicago Tribune

[a] beautiful exposition of internal geography… Francis blends his experience as a physician with a poet’s gift for observation… Altogether, the book is a rare gift, a redefinition of what popular medical writing can be.


The Observer (Book of the Week)

Grand, eloquent stuff, occasionally humorous, frequently moving, and invariably informative… the end result is a thoroughly entertaining, provocative work.

The Economist

The writing is spare, but his sense of wonder at the human body is clear… the joy of Mr Francis’s work lies in the fact that although he delights in the body’s physical reality, he takes care not to reduce human experience to that alone.

The Times (Book of the Week)

I read this book transfixed… the style is crisp and fast and the human tales irresistible.  Clever & strangely beautiful.

The Sunday Times

so enthralling and well-written that it should win its own clutch of prizes.

The Irish Times

It is difficult to decide whether Gavin Francis is a travel writer who moonlights as a doctor or a doctor who travels and writes on the side.  But if he is as good at slinging pills as he is at writing landscapes - geographical and anatomical - then his patients can count themselves fortunate.

Scottish Review of Books

‘he brings his familiar, graceful style to the operating table, where he observes a neurosurgeon ‘mapping’ the ‘uncharted country’ of a patient’s brain… Years of doctoring clearly haven’t reduced Francis’ sense of wonder about the human body.'

The Herald

Fine, subtle and observant… illuminating and arresting.

The Mail on Sunday

Francis is a doctor by profession, but he’s one of those genuine polymaths who can bring illumination to almost any subject.  In this guided tour around the human body he’s on home territory, but his passions for literature, history and, most unusually, geography, ensure that this is no dry-as-dust scientific text.

The Daily Express

‘highly informative, compulsively readable… It promises an intriguing voyage and delivers it in great style. Thoroughly recommended.'

The Daily Mail

This is a wonderful book: funny, wise, extremely informative in a quiet way and recognising no boundaries between science and art.  Francis has the soul of a poet, and he sees beauty and form where most of us would not dare look.