The best jellyfish books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about jellyfish and why they recommend each book.

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Spineless

By Juli Berwald,

Book cover of Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

As much memoir as natural history, Spineless is an artful example of intertwining the two. Berwald makes the evolution and environmental adaptation of jellyfish fascinating; but what struck me most was her candid, even courageous, description of her route to becoming a scientist and the way in which serious, focused exploration of the natural world can guide and stabilize one’s personal life. The book has one of the most arrestingly beautiful covers I’ve ever seen.


Who am I?

For more than four decades, Sandy Sheehy has been diving tropical coral reefs from the Caribbean to Australia. Starting when she was around five sitting in her pediatric dentist’s office where she noticed an aquarium stocked with colorful fish, her fascination with the underwater world has grown. Becoming a freelance journalist allowed her to call on experts and activists around the world to help her satisfy her curiosity and share what she learned.   


I wrote...

Imperiled Reef: The Fascinating, Fragile Life of a Caribbean Wonder

By Sandy Sheehy,

Book cover of Imperiled Reef: The Fascinating, Fragile Life of a Caribbean Wonder

What is my book about?

This book brings alive the richly diverse world of an underwater paradise: the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Stretching 625 miles through the Caribbean Sea along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, this reef is the earth’s second-largest coral structure. Imperiled Reef searches out the breathtaking intricacies of this endangered ecological treasure and describes the restorative efforts of international organizations, individual philanthropists, and local communities in a highly readable form. 

In a Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of In a Sunburned Country

I adore Australia and was looking forward to reading this highly acclaimed book. I certainly wasn’t disappointed although it might be better-titled Everything in Australia Wants to Kill You. I live in Australia. I knew about the sharks, box jellyfish, heat, and lethal currents. I knew about the spiders and snakes. But I’d never heard of the seashell that actually chases you.

I was given a second-hand edition of this travelogue. Somebody had scribbled in the margins “eek!” and “yikes” which gave me yet another dimension to my reading. This book is funny and engaging with just an edge of snarkiness and is often so accurate you won’t need to visit the place yourself.


Who am I?

I’m Victoria Twead, the New York Times bestselling author of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools and the Old Fools series. However, after living in a remote mountain village in Spain for eleven years, and owning probably the most dangerous cockerel in Europe, we migrated to Australia to watch our new granddaughters thrive amongst kangaroos and koalas. We love Australia, it is our home now. Another joyous life-chapter has begun.


I wrote...

Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and Death in the Hills and Hollows of Bygone Australia

By Victoria Twead,

Book cover of Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and Death in the Hills and Hollows of Bygone Australia

What is my book about?

Imagine a true story that unfolds in the harshness of Australia’s outback, beginning in 1957 and spanning decades. Imagine Dulcie’s battle to keep her family and animals alive in spite of bushfires, floods, cyclones, droughts, dingo attacks and terrible accidents.

The story of Dulcie Clarke, a simple pineapple farmer’s wife, has so many twists and turns that it will leave you gasping.

Down Under

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country

Bryson’s various travelogues give you such colourful views of the places he visits and, if you’re journeying to Australia, Down Under is a must-read. Expertly combining sharp observations, unusual factual snippets, and incisive wit, the pictures he paints will inspire you to travel and see it for yourself... or alternatively, persuade you to avoid it at all cost. Whichever the result, you will be amply entertained. 


Who am I?

As an independent traveller, and throughout a career supporting international nature conservation, I’ve been fortunate to see many far-flung places of the world. Over the years, technology (eg. smartphones, internet, social media) has radically changed the way we travel, and indeed our expectations. Nowadays we want instant access, instant answers, instant results; we hate waiting for anything. However, long-haul travel still demands us to wait... in airport lounges, at train stations, bus stops, and onboard our transport while we endure long hours before reaching our destination. While some aspects have changed, patience, humour, and a good book still remain the best companions for any long journey. 


I wrote...

Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under

By Bruce Spydar,

Book cover of Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under

What is my book about?

Diary of a Shy Backpacker is a romcom travelogue that has been described as “refreshingly different” and as “a saucy, fun, entertaining read which perfectly captures the backpacking experience.” The series is a semi-fictional account, loosely derived from my own 'selectively-enhanced’ adventures, travelling in the days before smartphones and social media. We begin in Australia with Awakening Down Under, before moving to New Zealand in Eye on the Prize, and finally to Canada in No Looking Back. Throughout the journey you’ll be entertained, as one reader put it, by “colourful characters, beautiful landscapes and of course... throbbing loins.” Why not join the ride?

Narwhal

By Ben Clanton,

Book cover of Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (a Narwhal and Jelly Book #1)

A happy-go-lucky narwhal and non-nonsense jellyfish discover the depths of the ocean together. This joyful and silly graphic novel celebrates friendship, adventure, and collaboration. The simple illustrations are compelling and accessible, drawing kids into a series of books that will leave them giggling.


Who am I?

I'm a world-class underwater explorer, writer, photographer, speaker, and filmmaker. A pioneer of technical rebreather diving, I have led expeditions into icebergs in Antarctica, volcanic lava tubes, and submerged caves worldwide. As a child, these fanciful places were just a part of my wildest dreams. The Aquanaut tells the story of how I turned my imaginative journeys into reality and became a celebrated underwater explorer.


I wrote...

The Aquanaut

By Jill Heinerth, Jaime Kim (illustrator),

Book cover of The Aquanaut

What is my book about?

This inspiring picture book encourages readers to explore their world, build their self-esteem and imagine what they can do and become when they grow up. Through beautiful, spare text, Jill Heinerth tells her story about a girl who feels too young, too little, and too far away from her dreams. But you don’t need to wait to grow up. It doesn’t take much to imagine all the things you can do and be. What if your bedroom were a space station? What would it be like to have flippers or tusks?

In your own home, you can explore new worlds and meet new friends. Jaime Kim’s luminous art transports readers back and forth through time to see how Jill’s imagination as a young girl laid the pathway to her accomplishments and experiences as an underwater explorer.

The Thing About Jellyfish

By Ali Benjamin,

Book cover of The Thing About Jellyfish

Narrated in the present day with journal entries and flashbacks, The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin introduces a young girl named Suzy who secludes herself after losing her best friend to a drowning accident. One of the best parts of this book is Suzy’s ability to deep dive into the wonder she has for science, particularly jellyfish, which becomes the spark for her finding her way back into the lives of the people she’s been trying to avoid. The reader experiences Suzy’s grief with her, and by the end, feels the healing and hope that comes from the support of those around us.


Who am I?

As a young reader, I was most inspired by protagonists that wanted to understand the world, just like I did. I would scour the library shelves for books that showcased smart characters who didn’t just ask questions, but also sought answers. Most often, I connected with female characters who were driven to overcome the assumptions and stigmas placed on them by society, characters who were willing to change the world, or at the very least, the local world around them. The characters I create and write about have this same sort of drive—I hope!—to see the world for what it is and, even better, for what it could be. 


I wrote...

Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life

By Rachel Hruza,

Book cover of Dear Isaac Newton, You're Ruining My Life

What is my book about?

As if seventh grade isn't hard enough, Truth Trendon learns she has to wear a back brace to help her worsening scoliosis. She decides gravity is to blame for curving her spine and ruining her life. Thanks for nothing, Isaac Newton! Truth's brace is hard plastic, tight, and uncomfortable. She's terrified that her classmates are going to find out about it.

But it's hard keeping it a secret (especially when gym class is involved), and secrets quickly turn into lies. When Truth's crush entrusts her with a big secret of his own, it leads to even more lying. Add to that a fight with her best friend, a looming school-wide presentation, and mean rumors, and it's a recipe for disaster.

Princess Jellyfish, Volume 1

By Akiko Higashimura,

Book cover of Princess Jellyfish, Volume 1

This series turns the “tortured outcast” trope on its head: these nerd characters are proud to be outcasts, and the one thing they don't want to be associated with is beautiful, popular people! I love this story because I, too, once fell into the “us vs. them” mentality against people I thought were too cool for me as a youth— people who could have potentially become my best friends! This manga series beautifully celebrates how we are all different, but still might have more in common than we think.


Who am I?

As someone who struggled with connections growing up, I have a big heart for outcasts. When Shane-Michael Vidaurri and I collaborated on All My Friends are Ghosts, we wanted to reach out to kids who may be experiencing the same struggles with loneliness that we faced in our own childhoods. When it feels like the whole world is against you, it’s important to find those alcoves in your life where you feel safe and seen… and books can be exactly that! 


I illustrated...

All My Friends Are Ghosts

By Shane-Michael Vidaurri, Hannah Krieger (illustrator),

Book cover of All My Friends Are Ghosts

What is my book about?

Effie is lost, and feels like a ghost. She skips school because she doesn't think anyone will notice, and doesn't feel like she belongs, or that school offers her anything that she wants. Simply, she has stopped trying. One day, when she realizes no one will notice, she escapes from her everyday life… and discovers a ghost school in the nearby woods. But just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic, and more – Effie is asked by her new friends to help track down a mysterious spirit that’s been spotted. But if Effie’s going to succeed, she’ll not only have to show her friends that she’s got something special, but also learn to believe she’s got it too.

Death on Earth

By Jules Howard,

Book cover of Death on Earth: Adventures in Evolution and Mortality

This may seem like an odd recommendation, but Jules’s exploration of the way death keeps the earth going is not only fascinating, but it also widens the perspective away from humans to the animal kingdoma handy reminder that we’re as much a part of said kingdom as any others species. It’s always a useful reminder that, despite what our individualist culture and stories and tell us, death is not always an aberration, something a sneaky lawyer hid in the small print; it’s normal, necessary, and actually very helpful.


Who am I?

I’m Erica Buist, a writer, journalist, lecturer, and playwright based in London. I became interested in death anxiety when I realised mine was out of control after my partner and I found his father dead. Reading up on death anxiety, it struck me that some cultures seem to deal with it by throwing festivals for the dead, which seemed to be the very opposite of our policy of not talking about it unless absolutely necessary. I thought I’d better go and see how they managed that—so I did. Six years, eight countries and about a million espressos later, my book was published.


I wrote...

This Party's Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World's Death Festivals

By Erica Buist,

Book cover of This Party's Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World's Death Festivals

What is my book about?

By the time Erica Buist's father-in-law Chris was discovered, upstairs in his bed, his book resting on his chest, he had been dead for over a week. She searched for answers (the artery-clogging cheeses in his fridge?) and tried to reason with herself (does daughter-in-law even feature in the grief hierarchy?) and eventually landed on an inevitable, uncomfortable truth: everybody dies.

With Mexico's Day of the Dead festivities as a starting point, Erica decided to confront death head-on by visiting seven death festivals around the world—one for every day they didn't find Chris. From Mexico to Nepal, Sicily, Thailand, Madagascar, Japan, and finally Indonesia—with a stopover in New Orleans, where the dead outnumber the living ten to one—Erica searched for the answers to questions around death anxiety.

Crochet Cute Critters

By Sarah Zimmerman,

Book cover of Crochet Cute Critters: 26 Easy Amigurumi Patterns

Sarah is a master at creating adorable and very do-able crochet patterns! This book walks you through the steps of crocheting 26 adorable amigurumi animals, including a cat, a giraffe, an elephant, a hippo, a fox, a lamb, a jellyfish, and more. Whether you’re new to crochet or just looking for some cute patterns, this book has something for you.


Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist at heart. As a child, I loved to draw and to make all kinds of crafts with my mother. Now, I make a living creating and teaching art. From presenting at conferences and workshops around the country to doing segments on lifestyle shows like Hallmark Home & Family, Good Day PA, Great Day Live Tampa, and more, my favorite things to do are those that allow me to share crafty projects. I have also written five hand lettering books and a guided journal, all with the hope of helping others to discover, explore, and express their own creativity. 


I wrote...

Hand Lettering for Laughter: Gorgeous Art with a Hilarious Twist

By Amy Latta,

Book cover of Hand Lettering for Laughter: Gorgeous Art with a Hilarious Twist

What is my book about?

Get ready to giggle your way through these clever hand lettering designs with bestselling author Amy Latta, back from her books Hand Lettering for Relaxation and Express Yourself: A Hand Lettering Workbook for Kids. Whether you’re lettering for the first time or brushing up on your skills, you’ll be highly entertained as you create your own works of witty, hand-lettered art. Draw, doodle, and dream right in the book on high-quality paper that will make your designs pop.

With tons of ideas for special hand-lettered projects like pillow covers, gift tags, and personalized signs, it’s easy to share the laughter. Be careful: It’s contagious!

The Story of Life

By Catherine Barr, Steve Williams, Amy Husband (illustrator)

Book cover of The Story of Life: A First Book about Evolution

The Story of Life is a good introduction to the history of life on Earth for younger readers. Introducing Earth from before life existed, it traces the changes in the planet as life begins to develop, then bloom, then flourish in every possible niche. There’s a thorough treatment of dinosaurs, which will be a favourite section for many readers. The illustrations are energetic, clever, and funny, with enough detail to let kids read and re-read as they catch every little interaction on each page. A handy time-tracker on the bottom left of each double-page spread keeps you oriented in time as you turn each page. Along with a glossary at the back, this book makes a great introduction to evolution for kids in the early primary years.  


Who am I?

As a kid, I never stopped asking “But why?” Learning the answers always led me to new questions, and I’ve been on a life-long journey to understand the world, and how everything works. I wanted to give the joy of discovery, and the empowerment of understanding, to a new generation of readers. The amazing story of evolution seemed to be a great starting point. I wrote the book I wanted to read to my own daughter, full of adventures and grown-up science, told in a way kids can understand. 


I wrote...

Aunt Jodie's Guide to Evolution

By Jordan Bell,

Book cover of Aunt Jodie's Guide to Evolution

What is my book about?

Join Sophie and Matt as Aunt Jodie takes you on an imagination-expanding journey back in time. Learn about evolution in two different species, millions of years apart: the Plesiads, ancient lemur-like creatures from 55 million years ago, and colour-changing Peppered Moths from the 1800s. What happens to the Plesiads when a volcano erupts? How do the moths survive when their camouflage stops working? Discover the secrets that help all creatures transform and develop when big changes happen in the world around them. For anyone new to science, Aunt Jodie’s Guides also include an easy-to-read glossary, explaining the scientific terms used in the book, and how to pronounce them. 

This book is available on the author's website.

Hot Milk

By Deborah Levy,

Book cover of Hot Milk

While Olga’s live-wire, imperfect mothering fuelled me with a sort of righteous approval — or recognition — Rose, the mother in Hot Milk, left a metallic distaste in my mouth. Rose is limp and passive. She is the apparent sufferer of a mysterious bone disease. Her 25-year-old daughter, Sofia, has been lassoed along as “an unwilling detective” of this ailment, as well as her mother’s primary caregiver.

Sofia is her mother’s laundrywoman. Her walking stick. She dares not protest even when her mother rests her head on her shoulder, which is burning from a jellyfish sting. Admittedly, it’s not the mother that tugs me into this book, but Sofia herself. As Sofia explores her own individuation, her own eros, her own obsessions, the story grows increasingly hypnotic and propulsive.


Who am I?

While it only simmers in the background of Demi-Gods, I find myself returning to this theme in my fiction — of mothers behaving badly. The topic fascinates me because we live in a society that idealizes the Mother. So much so that we have removed sex and desire from this archetype. We even made Mary, the “universal mother,” a virgin. As someone with a womb, society expects me to have children. (I don’t yet.) Fiction has provided a space for me to disentangle my own thoughts around motherhood — on what I might claim for myself, and what I absolutely refuse to take on. 


I wrote...

Demi-Gods

By Eliza Robertson,

Book cover of Demi-Gods

What is my book about?

Demi-Gods follows the story of Willa, who is growing up on an island off the west coast of Canada in the 1950s. One summer, she becomes engrossed with her step-brother, Patrick, from California. Patrick is a golden boy, clever, yet conniving — pushing 9-year-old Willa toward illicit tasks. As Willa becomes a teenager and pays a visit to California, her relationship with Patrick grows more dizzying. 

A few themes preoccupied me while I wrote this novel. For one, desire: how desire can be inconvenient and shameful, especially when we desire those who are bad for us. Second: I was interested in how we exalt each other. How we perceive those we desire as demigods or idols.

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