Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

I would like to move toward reading more books about nature, and specifically animals. I’ve long been a fan of Annie Dillard, and I loved H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. I feel that my knowledge of the world of nature is lacking. The press for Soul of an Octopus says it does for Octopuses (within the first few pages, Montgomery makes it clear this is the proper plural form) what the MacDonald did for falcons. I didn’t like this as much as Hawk, but it is a great introduction to Octopuses.

And it turns out that Octopuses are amazing. Montgomery is a well established naturalist, and she spent several years bonding with a series of octopuses that lived at the aquarium in her town. Athena, Octavia, Kali and Karma each had a different personality. This is not as much memoir as H is for Hawk or Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but as Montgomery chronicles her interactions, even friendship, with the octopuses and the other people who worked and hung out at the aquarium mixed with a popular level summary of the current state of scientific study of the creature, she builds a convincing case that octopuses have a much higher level of consciousness than we (certainly than I) expected. Each of the four octopuses she gets to know has a distinct personality. I immediately wanted to go to the aquarium! 

This isn’t quite up there with Dillard or MacDonald for me, but I do recommend it without hesitation, and have plans to read more of Montgomery’s work.

Highly Recommended.

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