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Text at top reads Utter, Earth: Advice on Living in a More-than-Human World, Isaac Yuen. Beneath the text are four illustrations: a moth silhouette, in white, against a red background, a catfish silhouette, in white, against a mint green background, a silhouette of wheat, in white, against a blue background, and a rhino silhouette, in white against a mushroom background

Isaac Yuen

April 2024
PB 978-1-959000-15-0
eBook 978-1-959000-16-7


Utter, Earth

Advice on Living in a More-than-Human World


A light, literary take on an animal book for grown-ups, a tongue-in-cheek self-help column with lessons drawn from nature, a sort of hitchhiker’s guide to the more-than-human world—Isaac Yuen’s Utter, Earth is a celebration, through wordplay and earthplay, of our planet’s riotous wonders.

In a time of dirges and elegies for the natural world, Utter, Earth features odes to sloths, tributes to trilobites, and ringing endorsements for lichen. For animal lovers and readers of Brian Doyle, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Amy Leach, each essay of this one-of-a-kind collection combines joyous language, whimsical tangents, and scientific findings to remind us of and reconnect us with those to whom we are inextricably bound. Highlighting life that once was, still is, and all that we stand to lose, this living and lively mini encyclopedia (complete with glossary) shines the spotlight on the motley, fantastical, and astonishing denizens with whom we share this planet.


1. Din
Yes, You Can Leave the Hospital Without Naming Your Baby
Second Best Is Best

2. Spectacle
On Sights Unseen
102 Briefly Mentioned, Mostly Living Things
The Perfect Party Guest

3. Contact
A School Is a Type of Shoal
A Hearth Is a Kind of Home

4. Exchange
A Breath in Four Parts
How to Make Friends and Keep Them Lifelong
Life Lessons from the Odd and Ancient

5. Duress
How to Debate as a Fish
Giving Up on Your Dreams
Going Down to Ground

6. Rebound
Creature Career Counseling
Reinvention Is a Matter of Necessity

7. Sustain
Pick-A-Mix, Build-A-Beast
So You Want to Write an Animal Essay

Brief Thoughts on Almost Every Mentioned, Mostly Living Thing (in Alphabetical Order)


Isaac Yuen is a first-generation Hong Kong Canadian author. His work has appeared in AGNI, Gulf Coast, Orion, Shenandoah, Tin House, and numerous other publications. He has held residencies and fellowships at the Jan Michalski Foundation for Literature in Switzerland and the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute of Advanced Studies in Germany. Utter, Earth is his first solo book.


To shoal is to be social, to sense together, we learn in one of Yuen’s more-than-human essays. But to school is to sweep together in unison, to dazzle with coherence. It’s this spirit of schooling that animates Utter, Earth, essays that—in their curiosity, play, and care—aim to weave us back into a world of which we are but one small part. How would our language change if we invited nonhuman others alongside us again in fellowship, if our lives not only allowed for but celebrated everything swimming just beyond the limits of what we know? It’s not time for school, it’s time to school, to school with the creatures of Utter, Earth, the lemurs, leopards, and leafcutter ants, the wombats, waterbuck, and wildebeest, to school with others to find ourselves again.”
David Naimon, host of Between the Covers

Utter, Earth leaps, ranges, delves—or should I say rabbits, antelopes, and elephant seals? Isaac Yuen’s playful, precise book will delight biologist and linguaphile alike. With persnickety glee and accuracy, he holds obscure facts of the more-than-human world up to the light in a style that’s a mashup of Rachel Carson, Gary Larson, Ross Gay, David Sedaris, and David Attenborough. The enthusiasm and delight of Utter, Earth is infectious, and that’s just the point. Yuen wants us to fall in love with the beings we share this amazing planet with, to realize the human way of living, breathing, birthing, eating, working, and caring is not the acme but just one option among many wonderful, amazing ways of being—and we could perhaps learn a thing or two from dung beetles and hagfish if we allowed ourselves to be curious. I laughed aloud while reading Utter, Earth, and the naturalist in me bows to the huge body of knowledge and research that permits Yuen’s accuracy to sing with such a light touch. Do yourself a favor and read every page, including the ‘Brief Thoughts on Almost Every Mentioned, Mostly Living Thing’ that serves as a quasi-appendix. You’ll leave your chair ready to appreciate the world around you anew.”
Elizabeth Bradfield, naturalist, author of Toward Antarctica, and coeditor of Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry