Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Octopuses, Not Octopi

The audiobook streak continues. Or it did until I ran out of Scribd credits. I was nothing but pleased to trade the last one in for The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.

I got a lot from this book. More than ever would've imagined, in fact. First, and perhaps most important, it was explained to me that the plural of octopus is in fact OCTOPUSES rather than octopi. Something about Greek words and Latin endings not jiving together.

Now that that's out of the way, the meat of the book. Montgomery,
equal parts naturalist, philosopher, poet, and scientist, fell in love with octopuses. The genesis of the book was a 2011 piece she wrote for Orion magazine about her relationship with an octopus named Athena. Montgomery had a connection with the animal, a deeper one than she thought could exist, and the rest is history.

As she becomes continually more fascinated with octopuses, she begins spending significant amounts of time at the New England Aquarium. Not only does she observe and handle the octopuses--several over time as they have fairly short life spans--they're fond of reaching tentacles out of the water to taste the visitors to the tank, she befriends the aquariasts who take care of them, the myriad individuals who volunteer for the institution, and their family members beyond the watery walls.

As Montgomery observes and falls deeper in love with octopuses, she forges personal relationships with the animals and begins to grasp the breadth of their decision-making skills: from choosing the best camouflage to protect themselves from predators, to their deft escape artist tricks, and their love of tinkering to stave off boredom.

I am doing this book no justice, but it is a winning combination of memoir, journalism, and science. The research Montgomery presents, and the way she wears her love of animals on her sleeve, is absolutely charming. It won't be long before I listen to another of her books.

9 comments:

  1. I do like memoirs and journalism but I'm not so keen on science. I'd try this book, though, because I can tell you loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved the way she laced them together. Even when she was discussing some sort of octopus study, she personalized it in a way that felt so heartfelt and approachable.

      Delete
  2. I always wanted to work with octopuses. I still haven't read this book but it is on my list.

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I run out of credits, I just explore the books that don't need credits. I have read a few books I ended up enjoying, but had not planned to read. lol I really want to read this one on audio soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to do that because I'm currently using my one credit for February! lol

      Delete
  4. Science can be difficult for many people to grasp, and Montgomery has a nice way of mixing first-person experiences with other information to make her books reader-friendly. "The Soul of an Octopus" follows that tradition well. You'll want to use all of your arms to wrap yourself around it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is an unusual review for Valentine's day. ;-) I have been aware of how much we seem to have learned about Octopuses lately. They seem to creep into the news on a regular basis the past few years. There was an escape recently, yes. One that got out of it's tank and appears to have made it back to the see, I think in Australia. Anyway, sounds like an interesting book.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'd not heard of this book before, but it sounds like my kind of book!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment! Blogger has been a beast lately, so I hope you do not have any troubles leaving your thoughts.

 
Images by Freepik