The Soul of An Octopus
A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of ConsciousnessBook - 2015
New York Times Bestseller
"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
Starred Booklist and Library Journal Editors' Spring Pick
"One of the best science books of the year" -- Science Friday , NPR
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 2015
An American Library Association Notable Book of the Year
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 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.
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This book encompasses the writers interactions with octopuses, from her first encounter to developing a deep relationship with octopuses in captivity and in the wild. The book details the lives of four main octopuses, Athena who introduces the author to octopuses in general, Octavia a wild captured octopus who lives out the rest of her life in the aquarium, Kali a young octopus who succumbs to an unpleasant fate, and Karma also a young octopus. The octopus adventure begins when the author meets Athena her first octopus friend. She is enraptured by the creatures from first touch. Athena dies suddenly without laying eggs so another octopus must be found. Octavia is captured already mature from the wild and is the only octopus that learned how to camouflage. She is in the majority of the book and lives out the rest of her life at the aquarium eventually laying eggs and dying of old age. Kali is intended to be her replacement however when they transfer her to a new tank she escapes over night and is found dead the next morning. Karma is the replacement for Kali and we don't learn to much about her as she is introduced towards the end of the book. The book also details other goings on at the aquarium and small details about the other animals, as well as the authors trials with learning to scuba dive and her interactions with wild octopus.
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“Here is an animal with venom like a snake, a beak like a parrot, and ink like an old-fashioned pen. It can weigh as much as a man and stretch as long as a car, yet it can pour its baggy, boneless body through an opening the size of an orange. It can change color and shape. It can taste with its skin. Most fascinating of all, I had read that octopuses are smart.”
― Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness
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