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.
The ever-curious Montgomery (author of Temple Grandin), a naturalist who writes books for children and adults alike, sets out on a quest to learn what it's like to be an octopus after she meets an octopus named Athena at the New England Aquarium. Upon introduction, the young octopus reached her tentacles out to her new acquaintance, winning over the immediately fascinated Montgomery. The pair developed a relationship that Montgomery charts as she relates her frequent visits to Athena. Athena's sudden death plunged Montgomery into a deep grief, but she returned to the aquarium to meet Octavia, the first in a series of octopuses followed by Kali and Karma that reveal to Montgomery just how brilliant these cephalopods can be. She reveals that octopuses often get bored, requiring diversions and toys to keep them occupied; that they change colors to show anger, hunger, annoyance, and pleasure; and that they are not always motivated by hunger, but often crave attention once they receive it from humans. Montgomery's deep love of these creatures often causes her to excessively anthropomorphize them, but her depictions of her intimate experiences with her cephalopod friends ring true, allowing readers to see them in an entirely new light.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I really enjoyed this book, and I learned a lot about just how incredible octopuses (and cephalopods in general) are. The author’s writing style was very interesting, and I was engaged throughout. My only criticism is that some points felt like more of a biography than a science book. Great read nonetheless!
I will never eat Octopus again
A wonderful journey into the delightful mind of our favorite cephalopods. Well written and fascinating account of her work as a volunteer at the NE Aquarium. Do yourselves a favor and read this book.
I enjoyed reading this authors first experience about meeting her first octopus.