December 27, 2018
The Soul of an Octopus
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
Finished on March 13, 2018
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Popular naturalist Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus, the remarkable connections it makes with people, and the vibrant community that arises around this complex, intelligent, and spirited creature. Practicing true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, Montgomery befriends individual octopuses with strikingly different personalities--gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma--who show their cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures, creative trickery to get food, and jetting water to bounce balls.
Montgomery also chronicles scientists' growing appreciation of the octopus's problem-solving as she tells a 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.
I'll be honest. When my book club picked this book for one of our selections this year, I was less than enthusiastic. Maybe it was the subtitle (A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness) that turned me off. Or maybe it's just that I've never been a fan of octopuses. (No, octopuses, not octopi, as I later learned.) While visiting aquariums, I usually only give the octopus tank a cursory glance before moving on to the otter or penguin exhibits. Not anymore! I loved Montgomery's entertaining anecdotes and explanations about the life (and soul) of an octopus, and learned more than I could have imagined. The book is far from the dull, dry nature read I thought I was in for! Did you know, for instance, that an octopus tastes with its skin? Or that it hatches from an egg the size of a grain of rice. Or that the Pacific Octopus lives only 3-4 years and has three hearts? I also learned that they watch TV and learn from each other. And, that they lay between 67,000-100,000 eggs, but only once. After that, they starve themselves for the rest of their life and die!
I was so impressed with The Soul of an Octopus and we had a great discussion at our book club. I highly recommend this fascinating book, which may even tug at your heartstrings. It did mine.