Review: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery


Title: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

Author: Sy Montgomery

Published: Atria Books May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 21 to 23, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I would probably not have given this book a second glance except that just days before it was offered to me for review I had read Turtle Reef, an Australian contemporary romance novel, in which the heroine, working at a marine park, befriended an octopus. I was intrigued by the relationship and was delighted by the opportunity to learn more.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, is written by Sy Montgomery, an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator. It offers a very readable and rather unique blend of personal experience, scientific knowledge and philosophical opinion about what is understood, and unknown, about the nature of octopuses.

I knew little about octopuses—not even that the scientifically correct plural is not octopi, as I had always believed (it turns out you can’t put a Latin ending—i—on a word derived from Greek, such as octopus). But what I did know intrigued me. 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.”

What Montogomery is able to show in The Soul of an Octopus is that octopuses are complex creatures who exhibit personality, intelligence and emotion, despite having neural systems completely alien to our own. During her time spent at the New England Aquarium she befriended several individual octopuses including Athena, who was the subject of a popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect” which went viral and was the inspiration for this book, Octavia, Kali and Karma. Through her study of, and interaction with, these extraordinary creatures she shares what she learns from both science and her experiences, while musing on the mystery of the ‘inner lives’ of the octopus, who grow from the size of a grain of rice and live for, on average, just four short years.

The Soul of an Octopus is as smart, playful, curious and surprising as the creature it features. A fascinating read I’d highly recommend.

Available to Purchase From

Simon and Schuster US I Amazon USBookDepository  I IndieBound

Via Booko

AUS/UK Cover

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    May 29, 2015 @ 20:46:17

    I think they are fascinating. I’ll have to read this.



  2. herschelian
    May 30, 2015 @ 00:03:42

    This book sounds the perfect gift for my daughter – so I am going to get a copy and put it by for Xmas – hope it is in paperback. Anyway, thank you for kickstarting my Xmas shopping in May!!!



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  6. Tracey (Carpe Librum blog)
    Nov 23, 2019 @ 00:07:11

    This sounds very interesting indeed!

    Liked by 1 person


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