The Soul of an Octopus

By Sy Montgomery,

Book cover of The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness

Book description

'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
'Charming and moving...with extraordinary scientific research' Guardian
'An engaging work of natural science... There is clearly something about the octopus's weird beauty that fires the imaginations of…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Soul of an Octopus as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Granted, Montgomery anthropomorphizes throughout this book, attributing all sorts of cognition and emotion to these fascinating cephalopods; but this book is so charming, partly because she captures her own awe so well, that I put aside my skepticism and enjoyed The Soul of an Octopus for what it unquestionably is: a great read.

From Sandy's list on the amazing world of coral reefs.

This is the book that made me love the octopus! With humor, brilliance, and empathy, naturalist Sy Montgomery explores the physical and emotional world of largely captive octopuses, and their impact on the caregivers and divers who encounter them. As Montogomery attempts to bridge the gap between her own human consciousness and that of the octopuses, they reveal themselves to be intelligent and spirited creatures with complex emotional lives.

This book begs the question: how can human beings think they understand and thus know a living creature who possesses a more sophisticated sensory system and perceptual capacity than humans have themselves? This humancentric arrogance and naïveté become obvious while reading this tale of love and relationship. With a complex and “clever” brain, one would think we would all bow down with deep respect and open ourselves to the unimaginable – what might it be like to think, feel and sense as Octavia the Octopus does?  Perhaps by doing so we gain respect for her soulful life. Naturalist Sy Montgomery…

The Soul of an Octopus follows Sy Montgomery’s journey into an underwater world of secrets and surprises. As a guest at the New England Aquarium, she is privileged to study the giant Pacific octopus, an animal whose intelligence and canniness we are only beginning to understand. Montgomery often has the feeling that the octopuses she observes are evaluating her with equal curiosity, reaching out with several arms to touch and smell her skin. Meeting their gaze makes her think “of the look in the eyes of paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses: serene, all-knowing, heavy with wisdom stretching back beyond…

From Jean's list on the ways that animals redeem us.

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