Both a user's guide to the body and a celebration of its elegance, this book will transform the way you think about being alive.
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To be alive is to be in perpetual change: growing, healing, learning, aging. In Shapeshifters, award-winning writer and doctor Gavin Francis considers the transformations in mind and body that continue across the arc of human life.
Some of these changes we have little choice about. We can't avoid puberty, the menopause, or our hair turning grey. Others may be welcome milestones along our path - a much-wanted pregnancy, a cancer cured, or a long-awaited transition to another gender. We may find ourselves turning down dark paths, towards the cruel distortions of anorexia, or the shifting sands of memory loss. New technologies can upgrade us, and even without them our bodies can transform in rare, almost magical, ways - with gigantism, or the sun-sensitivity and facial hair that led porphyria sufferers, once upon a time, to be suspected as werewolves.
Medicine now has unprecedented power to alter our lives, but that power has limitations. As he helps patients face transformations both temporary and sustained, Francis draws on history, art, literature, myth and magic to show how the very essence of being human is change.
“Stylish and exhilarating... from a wide-ranging mind and a profound humanity. With warmth and wit, Gavin Francis examines the body's strategies for survival and change, embedding his thoughts in a broad frame of reference from across human culture and history. Each piece is a pleasure to read, and in sum they are inspiring.”
“A wonderful series of meditations - clinical, anthropological, literary and deeply humane - on his patients and their illnesses.”
“In this provocative and important book about our shared future, Francis ranges broadly to describe altered human states and selves. He delves into medical history, and, with equal ease, into medical case studies, to reveal how humans are capable of changing our bodies and minds.”