Adventures in Human Being Book Summary - Adventures in Human Being Book explained in key points
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Adventures in Human Being summary

Gavin Francis

A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum

4.3 (78 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis is a journey through the human body, exploring our anatomy, pathologies, and the history of medicine. The book shows the complexity and beauty of our bodies.

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    Adventures in Human Being
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    The human face can express a uniquely wide range of emotion. 

    What could be more familiar than the shape and contours of your face? You, like most of us, probably look in the mirror every day. But what does your face look like beneath the surface?

    If you were to peel back the thin layer of skin protecting your face, you would see a tangle of dainty, salmon-colored fronds – the 43 muscles that control your face. The wide range of human expression is made possible by the subtle interplay of these muscles.

    The key message here is: The human face can express a uniquely wide range of emotion. 

    During his time as an anatomy demonstrator, the author dissected the faces of over 30 cadavers. All that dissecting taught him how to read the story of their emotional lives. How? Well, since different facial muscles are responsible for different expressions, it’s possible to see which expressions were habitual during life by looking at muscle definition.

    For example, consider the zygomaticus major and zygomaticus minor, the facial muscles that exhibit the greatest variation in size. They’re responsible for spreading the sides of the mouth into a smile. Thick, well-defined zygomaticus muscles imply a life rich with laughter and happiness.

    Developed orbicularis oris muscles indicate that a person had love in their life, because these muscles purse the lips for kissing. On the other hand, pronounced depressor anguli oris muscles – the collection of muscles responsible for frowning – are indicative of a life marked by sadness.

    Perhaps the first person to read emotion from the muscles of the face was Leonardo da Vinci. The author argues that da Vinci’s ability to depict such vivid emotion in his paintings was directly informed by his experience dissecting the faces of corpses.

    Just look at The Last Supper, which depicts the twelve disciples in paroxysms of emotion following Jesus’s announcement that one of them will betray him. This painting was quite innovative for its time. Before da Vinci, the convention was to depict faces as serene and expressionless. Emotion was considered a very human characteristic – and ill-suited to the faces of saints.

    But da Vinci believed it was more holy to represent humans authentically, just as God created us. What he deemed most authentic about the human face was the range of emotion it could display.

    It’s precisely this ability to express a range of emotion that makes the human face so unique compared to other species. And this is why the face is our first contender for being the most human organ.

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    What is Adventures in Human Being about?

    Adventures in Human Being (2015) is a sort of anatomical travel guide. A series of philosophical reflections on each of the body’s major organs, the book combines a clinical perspective on the body with select stories from our cultural history. The result is a series of striking ruminations on the human condition from the unusual angle of human anatomy.

    Adventures in Human Being Review

    Adventures in Human Being (2015) takes us on a fascinating journey through the human body, encompassing both its physical and metaphysical aspects. Here's why this book is a captivating read:

    • Presenting a unique perspective on the human body, the book explores the intricate connections between anatomy, history, and culture, providing a holistic understanding of ourselves.
    • With its detailed exploration of different body parts, the book uncovers captivating and little-known facts about our anatomy, transforming what could be mundane into a source of wonder.
    • Combining personal experiences with medical expertise, the author engages readers in an informative and relatable way, making complex subjects accessible to all.

    Who should read Adventures in Human Being?

    • Students of medicine open to a more philosophical approach to the body 
    • Philosophers curious to hear a doctor’s perspective on the human condition
    • Anyone who wants to learn about the inner workings of their body

    About the Author

    Gavin Francis has worked as a pediatrician, a surgeon, an ER specialist, a trainee neurosurgeon, and even an expedition medic in the Arctic and Antarctic. He now lives with his family in Edinburgh, Scotland, and works as a family physician. Before this book, Francis authored two travelogues about his experiences as an expedition medic – True North: Travels in Arctic Europe and Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins. The latter book won the Scottish Book of the Year Award for 2013.

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    Adventures in Human Being FAQs 

    What is the main message of Adventures in Human Being?

    The main message of Adventures in Human Being is an exploration of the complex and fascinating world of the human body.

    How long does it take to read Adventures in Human Being?

    Reading Adventures in Human Being takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Adventures in Human Being a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Adventures in Human Being is worth reading as it offers a captivating journey through the wonders of the human body.

    Who is the author of Adventures in Human Being?

    The author of Adventures in Human Being is Gavin Francis.

    What to read after Adventures in Human Being?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Adventures in Human Being, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman
    • Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday
    • The Body by Bill Bryson
    • The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
    • The Vitamin Solution by Romy Block and Arielle Levitan
    • Clean by James Hamblin
    • Gut Check by Steven R. Gundry
    • Indistractable by Nir Eyal
    • Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
    • Eve by Cat Bohannon