Review: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

I love to read popular science books and have a small collection of them. Two of them are about sea creatures that I found charming and interesting enough to keep and was hoping that The Soul of an Octopus might become the third book in this small sub-collection.

However, the title should have been a clue that it wouldn't be. I was hoping the book would be the balanced mixture of natural history and personal observations that I like in such books, but it turned out to be mostly about the author's friendly interactions with octopuses, interspersed with snippets of information about their life-cycles and physiology, some of which are repeated more than once, and slightly longer attempts to justify the book's subtitle: "A surprising exploration into the wonder of consciousness".

With a sub-title, and indeed a title, like that, one might at least have expected there to be some philosophical musings about octopus consciousness, but there was very little of that, and none of it very insightful.

The best I can say about this book is that despite the shortcomings of the contents, it is quite readable and would make a nice way of convincing people who find octopuses monstrous and icky that they are really quite interesting and often friendly creatures. Those who already know this would do well to look elsewhere for new insights into these fascinating animals.


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