The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
Published by: Atria Books on May 12, 2015
Genres: non fiction, science, memoir
Rating: 4.5 stars
In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus’ surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.
Sy Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect”; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?
The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.
The Soul of an Octopus is incredibly fascinating! The author takes us along on her journey as she gets to know several of the octopuses who live at the New England Aquarium. I learned so much about these magnificent, intelligent, and mysterious creatures. Of course the book covers the basics such as the octopus life cycle, habitats, and behaviors.
What sets the book apart from others of the same genre is the passion for these magnificent creatures of the deep. The love for each octopus as an individual is evident as the reader gets to know, appreciate, and care about each octopus. They have individual personalities, not unlike humans and other animals. Through Athena, Octavia, Kali, and Karma the reader is able to experience a world often unknown. I felt extremely privileged to learn about each unique octopus.
The only sections of the book that I didn’t enjoy as much were the pages about scuba diving. These experiences were frustrating for the author, which I definitely picked up on. I’m also more of an animal lover, than a swimmer so that probably affected it too.
Overall, my sentiment for this book is best represented by my initial reaction . . . I found myself stopping within the first 30 pages to keep telling people around me, the new facts I had learned about octopuses.
Recommend to fans of: animals, the ocean, science, heartwarming stories, books that remind us of our humanity
Read with food: vegetarian sushi and a hot mug of green tea
Vegetarian sushi is a nice tribute to the sea life without eating our friends.
A hot mug of green tea pairs nicely with the sushi and will warm you up after reading about the cold sea water.