"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--a 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 tellsa 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"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
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. - (Simon and Schuster)
*Starred Review* Naturalist Montgomery (Birdology, 2010) writes exceptionally affecting and enlightening books inspired by both rigorous scientific curiosity and enraptured wonder and empathy for all living beings, from dogs to chickens to tarantulas. Committed to illuminating the true, complex nature of diverse forms of animal consciousness, Montgomery headed to Boston's New England Aquarium to learn about one of Earth's most stupendously capable creatures, the octopus. Introduced to Athena, Montgomery plunges her arms into the icy water to make contact, and is thrilled when her new cephalopod friend firmly grasps her, tasting her skin with some of her 1,600 sensitive and powerful suckers. Montgomery also gets to know Octavia, Kali, and Karma, stroking their soft heads and observing their many moods and activities, appreciating each distinctively intelligent, willful, inquisitive, mischievous, and affectionate personality. She also learns to scuba dive to observe octopuses in the wild. In prose as gripping and entwining as her subjects' many arms, Montgomery chronicles the octopus' phenomenal strength, dexterity, speed, weaponry, and lightning-quick shape-shifting and camouflage abilities. She also tells funny and moving stories about her friendships with the dedicated aquarists and volunteers (most notably Anna, a valiant young woman with Asperger's syndrome) who care for the cephalopods with infinite respect and tenderness. Montgomery's uniquely intimate portrait of the elusive octopus profoundly recalibrates our perception of consciousness, communication, and community. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Naturalist Montgomery (Birdology, 2010, etc.) chronicles her extraordinary experience bonding with three octopuses housed in the New England Aquarium and the small group of people who became devoted to them. As a casual visitor to the aquarium, she had been intrigued by the sense that the octopuses, invertebrates separated from us by millions of years on the tree of life, she watched were also watching her. "Was it possible," she writes, "to reach another mind on the other side of the divide?" Their appendages are covered with "dexterous, grasping suckers" that propel food into mouths located in their armpits, and they savor the taste of food as it travels along their skin. This ability is one of the ways in which they perceive their environment. On her first behind-the-scenes visit to the aquarium, Montgomery was given the opportunity to directly interact with Athena, a 2 1/2-year-old, 40-pound octopus housed in a 560-gallon tank. Hosted by the aquarium's director of public relations, with other personnel on standby to ensure her safety, the author was encouraged to place her hand in the tank. Though Athena possessed the strength to pull Montgomery into the tank, she was gentle and even playful. The author describes the thrill of this and subsequent encounters with Athena and two other octopuses housed at the aquarium. They recognized and openly welcomed her visits, soliciting petting and stroking as might a house pet in similar circumstances. Octopuses seemingly relate easily to humans, quickly learning to pick up cues from their keepers, who make a game of hiding food, and in turn play tricks on them. Yet in the wild, they are generally solitary and may attack and eat others of their species if placed in the same tank. With apparent delight, Montgomery puts readers inside the world of these amazing creatures. A fascinating glimpse into an alien consciousness. Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
PW Annex Reviews
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. Agent: Sarah Jane Freymann, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary. (May)
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