Shapeshifters

On Medicine & Human Change

Gavin Francis

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Price£16.99
FormatHardback
Extent320
ISBN9781781257739
Published03/05/2018

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.

Praise for Shapeshifters

“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.”
Hilary Mantel
“A wonderful series of meditations - clinical, anthropological, literary and deeply humane - on his patients and their illnesses.”
Henry Marsh
“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.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee

Gavin Francis

Gavin Francis is a GP, and the author of Adventures in Human BeingTrue North and Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins, which won the Scottish Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and Costa Prize. He also writes for Guardian, The Times, London Review of Books and Granta. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and children.

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