The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness - book cover
Science & Math
Biological Sciences
  • Publisher : Atria Books; Reprint edition
  • Published : 05 Apr 2016
  • Pages : 272
  • ISBN-10 : 1451697724
  • ISBN-13 : 9781451697728
  • Language : English

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction * New York Times Bestseller * Starred Booklist and Library Journal Editors' Spring Pick * A Huffington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of the Year * One of the Best Books of the Month on Goodreads * Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Book of the Year * An American Library Association Notable Book of the Year

"Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an Octopus does for the creature what Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk did for raptors." -New Statesman, UK

"One of the best science books of the year." -Science Friday, NPR

Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this "fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining" (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus-a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature-and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities-gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple "sleights of hand" to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal's color-changing techniques. With her "joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures" (Library Journal Editors' Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

Editorial Reviews

"Enter the mysterious intelligent alien world of the octopus. Experience a real intelligence based on a sense of touch that humans can barely imagine." -- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

"Renowned author Sy Montgomery's latest gem is a must read for those who want to dissolve the human-constructed borders between "them" (other animals) and us. Surely, there are large differences among nonhuman animals and between nonhuman and human animals, but there also are many basic similarities. Connecting with other animals is part of the essential and personal process of rewilding and reconnecting with other animals, and The Soul of an Octopus is just what is needed to close the gap." -- Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional lives of Animals

"Diving deeper than Jules Verne ever dreamed, The Soul of an Octopus is a page-turning adventure that will leave you breathless. Has science ever been this deliciously hallucinatory? Boneless and beautiful, the characters here are not only big-hearted, they're multi-hearted, as well as smart, charming, affectionate...and, of course, ambidextrous. If there is a Mother Nature, her name is Sy Montgomery." -- Vicki Constantine Croke, author of Elephant Company

"In The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery immerses readers into an intriguing, seductive world just beneath the ocean waves and the lives of the creatures living within. In this beautifully written book, she brings empathy, insight, and an enchanting sense of wonderment to the bonds we inherently share with other beings-even those seeming far different from us." -- Vint Virga, DVM ― The Soul of All Living Creatures

"A captivating book on an intelligence as ‘alien' as one from outer space. And its not science fiction." -- Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven

"Can an octopus have a mind and emotions, let alone a soul? Sy Montgomery faces these questions head-on in her engaging new book as she explores the world of octopuses, making friends with several and finding heartbreak when they die. They aren't, she discovers, simply brainless invertebrates, but personable, playful, conscious beings. Montgomery's enthusiasm for animals most of us rarely see is infectious, and readers will come away with a new appreciation for what it means to be an octopus." -- Virginia Morell, author of ANIMAL WISE: How We Know Animals Think and Feel

"With apparent delight, Montgomery puts readers inside the world of these amazing creatures. A fascinating glimpse into an alien consciousness." -- Kirkus Reviews

"The Soul of an Octopus is one of those works that makes you hope we can save the planet if for no other r...

Readers Top Reviews

Very little discussion of octopuses, what they may or may not understand, or the philosophy/ethics of keeping them captive. Instead you have many chapters of the authors personal experience meeting them (which gets very repetitive - you can only describe tentacles in so many ways). Lots of conjecture and flowery similes, and not much fact or deep thinking. It would make a great article but not enough for a full length book.
I first heard this book serialised on the radio and was captivated by it. I received it as a gift which I'm so pleased about as I would never have chosen it for myself and I shudder to think what I would have missed. The author skillfully pulls you into a magical world of marine animals and the dedicated experts who so lovingly care for them. In fact this is a book not only of great scientific value but also of love for your fellow beings. It can only enrich the reader and fill them with wonder. Absolutely brilliant.
The Hollywood Hills
This is a well-written book exploring the world of octopuses, chiefly the giant pacific octopuses that live in the New England aquarium. The author takes us on a journey through her own discovery of these amazing animals - she even learns to scuba dive in order to gain a deeper (pardon the pun) understanding of their world. It's not a purely technical book through as there are long asides about the people working in the aquarium and their relationships to the world around them. The book suffers from a degree of repetition: "They lay strands of eggs that look like grains of rice" "She is protecting all those eggs, each of which is only the size of a grain of rice" "Octopuses grow from the size of a grain of rice" "Hatching from an egg the size of a grain of rice, one can grow both longer and heavier than a man in three years." Yeah, we get the grain of rice thing! Enough already! The book also strays into some slightly dodgy territory when the author religion and the "soul" of the octopus, and when she dips into anthropomorphism and tells us, with no evidence (because how could there be?) "we knew in that moment that Octavia had not only remembered us and recognized us; she had wanted to touch us again."
Barbara WinchMichael
I felt the editorial reviews were misleading. They raved about this book. And while I was thrilled with the first half of the book since I was learning about octopuses, I was very positive about this reading experience initially. But then the author got into her scuba diving excursions and her relationships with other divers and I felt rather cheated. I thought the book was about the life style and physiology of the octopus, not about her scuba diving misadventures and relationships with other divers. I wonder if the folks who wrote the editorial reviews actually read her entire book. It was a disappointment to me.

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