Adventures in Human Being – Gavin Francis

As soon as I started reading Adventures in Human Being, it became a book that I loved and that both fascinated and horrified me at the same time. We understand from the first pages that the author, Gavin Francis, is a good person and a great doctor, narrates his experiences and what he has been through in charming language. As a doctor, he states that very little is known about the human body and that there is no limit to what needs to be learned. I am sure you will love it immediately.


Adventures in Human Being - Gavin Francis

Adventures in Human Being is written by a doctor and may seem overwhelming at first because of the title. However, you will realize from the first pages that you have a book far from boring. Adventures in Human Being is divided into sections from the brain to the feet; you will read the doctor’s memoir for each organ.

And you’ll sometimes feel amazed, sometimes grateful for what you have learned, and sometimes just thinking about death. However, none of this will be a reason for you to put the book down. The Scottish writer and doctor has managed to blend medicine and literature in Adventures in Human Being. He is already on my list of writers to read next. I recommend it to you too. Enjoy!

Adventures in Human Being - Gavin Francis

Adventures in Human Being

We have a lifetime’s association with our bodies, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory. In Adventures in Human Being, Gavin Francis leads the reader on a journey through health and illness, offering insights on everything from the ribbed surface of the brain to the secret workings of the heart and the womb; from the pulse of life at the wrist to the unique engineering of the foot.

Drawing on his own experiences as a doctor and GP, he blends first-hand case studies with reflections on the way the body has been imagined and portrayed over the millennia. If the body is a foreign country, then to practise medicine is to explore new territory: Francis leads the reader on an adventure through what it means to be human.

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, whether in sickness or in health.

Published in association with the Wellcome Collection.


Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library that aims to challenge how we think and feel about health. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Wellcome Collection exhibitions, events and books explore a diverse range of subjects, including consciousness, forensic medicine, emotions, sexology, identity and death.

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive, funding over 14,000 researchers and projects in more than 70 countries.

Gavin Francis

Gavin Francis (born 1975) is a Scottish physician and a writer on travel and medical matters. He was raised in Fife, Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh as a GP. His books have won many prestigious prizes.

Born in Fife in 1975, Francis studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and joined the Emergency department at the old Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Having qualified as a physician, Francis spent ten years travelling on all seven continents. Francis spent time working in India and Africa, made several trips to the Arctic, and is said to have crossed Eurasia and Australasia by motorcycle.

Francis was working at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh when he decided to undertake a 15-month position as the resident doctor with the British Antarctic Survey. He arrived at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica via the RRS Ernest Shackleton, a supply ship, on Christmas Eve, 2002, after a two-month voyage.

Francis’s experiences eventually formed the basis for his second book, Empire Antarctica (2012); his first book, True North: Travels in Arctic Europe (2008), detailed his experiences travelling in Arctic Europe from Unst to Svalbard.

His Adventures in Human Being (2015) won the Saltire Society Literary Award for non-fiction and was a British Medical Association (BMA) book of the year. Empire Antarctica was a shortlisted finalist for a number of book awards in 2013, including the Ondaatje Prize and the Saltire Prize, but received its most notable honour in November 2013 at the Lennoxlove Book Festival[11] when it was named the 2013 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust’s Scottish Book of the Year.

Francis has been contributing articles and reviews to The Guardian since 2010, the London Review of Books, and the New York Review of Books since 2013. In addition to book reviews, his contributions have occasionally consisted of prose ruminations on medical topics such as stethoscopes and the human brain, an approach that led to his being commissioned by the Wellcome Trust to produce a collection of essays in this style.

His 2020 book Island Dreams was “a simple but sincere cartography of my own obsession with the twinned but opposing allures of island and city, of isolation and connection”, and included 90 maps. In 2021 he published Intensive Care: A GP, a community & COVID-19 describing his work in Edinburgh and Orkney during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

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