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British Wildlife is the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiast and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Published eight times a year, British Wildlife bridges the gap between popular writing and scientific literature through a combination of long-form articles, regular columns and reports, book reviews and letters.

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Good Reads  Marine & Freshwater Biology  Marine Biology  Marine Fauna & Flora

The Sea Is Not Made of Water Life Between the Tides

Nature Writing
By: Adam Nicolson(Author)
386 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; b/w photos, b/w illustrations
Read our Q&A with Adam Nicolson. An invitation to the shoreline from the bestselling author of The Seabird's Cry
The Sea Is Not Made of Water
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Average customer review
  • The Sea Is Not Made of Water ISBN: 9780008294779 Hardback Jun 2021 In stock
Price: £19.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Read our interview with Adam Nicolson. 

We have a very limited amount of signed bookplates by Adam, available while stocks last

From Adam Nicolson, winner of the Wainwright Prize 2018 for his book The Seabird's Cry

Few places are as familiar as the shore – and few as full of mystery and surprise. In The Sea Is Not Made of Water Adam Nicolson explores the multiple, interleaved layers of that world and the long human relationship with the shore.

How do sandhoppers inherit an inbuilt compass from their parents? What is it that prawns know? How do crabs understand the tides? How can the death of one winkle guarantee the lives of its companions?

Connections animate The Sea Is Not Made of Water. The physics of the seas, the biology of anemone and limpet, the long history of the earth itself, the governing myths and stories of those who have lived and survived here: all interconnect in the zone where philosopher, scientist and poet can meet and puzzle over the nature of what exists.

The intertidal has been the scene for all kinds of scientific discovery – from the workings of evolution to the intricacies of biological networks. But its story is as much human as natural history: how far should our own lives be understood as an aspect of ecology? Do our buried beliefs about the tidal sea reflect a fundamental understanding of our relationship to nature? And is it the shifting condition of that tidal world, its pervasive uncertainty, its fierce interfolding of opportunity and threat, that makes it one of the most emblematic and revelatory habitats on earth?

The Sea Is Not Made of Water is an invitation to the shoreline. Anyone who chooses can look beyond their own reflection and find the marvellous there, waiting an inch beneath their nose.

Customer Reviews (1)

  • A most fascinating, interesting, engaging work.
    By Sarianne 27 Sep 2021 Written for Hardback
    Apart from being interested in the subject, from a purely amateur point of view, and as it happens having connections with the area, I have enjoyed all that I have read so far. I didn't expect chapters to be dedicated to the sand hopper, the winkle, and other characters of the sea's edge – to say nothing of Heraclitus – don't know what I did expect but this far exceeds any ideas I might have had.
    It is a book I shall hate to finish . . .
    1 of 1 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


Adam Nicolson is a prize-winning writer of many books on history, nature and the countryside including The Sea is Not Made of Water, The Making of Poetry, Sea Room, God's Secretaries, The Gentry and the acclaimed The Mighty Dead. His 2017 book, The Seabird's Cry was picked as Waterstones Book of the Month in Scotland and won the prestigious Wainwright Prize for nature writing and the Jeffries Prize. He is the winner of the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the W.H. Heinemann Award and the British Topography Prize. He has written and presented many television series and lives on a farm in Sussex.

Nature Writing
By: Adam Nicolson(Author)
386 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; b/w photos, b/w illustrations
Read our Q&A with Adam Nicolson. An invitation to the shoreline from the bestselling author of The Seabird's Cry
Media reviews

"Miraculous [...] Effortlessly, in deft, sure and delightful prose, he segues through species, science and art to present tidal nature as a microcosm. The result is an utterly fascinating glimpse of a watery world we only thought we knew"
– Philip Hoare

"His talents are supremely on display [...] The result is a subversive, disconcerting triumph; a wondering, wonderful thing"
– Charles Foster

"If you like to gorge on words and ideas you could hardly hope for a finer feast than this. Nicolson serves up the nature and science of the seashore with a side order of human history and legend, seasoned beautifully with philosophical insight and a pinch of autobiography"
– Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

"Adam Nicolson takes the margins between land and water, poetry and biology, and creates a beautiful, powerful story of how we understand the unfolding change of the shore. This is a remarkable and powerful book, the rarest of things, both a call-to-arms and a call-to-pause and truly look. Nicolson is unique as a writer, happy soaked to the skin on the shoreline and happy unweaving skeins of philosophy. I loved it"
– Edmund de Waal

"Pure joy. From the ecology of a sandhopper to the cosmic pull of the tides Adam Nicolson takes us paddling into the pools of our own nature, to places where boundaries are restlessly shifting and balance exists between tension and flow – a dazzling, kaleidoscopic exploration into the meaning of life itself"
– Isabella Tree

"A fascinating guide to all things littoral: a natural history of the rockpool that teems with life [...] Endlessly interesting, its wonders unfurl, fractal-like, the more closely you examine it"
– Cal Flyn

"The man who finds wonder in a winkle [...] Remarkable [...] In Nicolson's hands the intertidal zone is shown to be rich and revelatory [...] It is as lyrical, learned and rambunctiously eccentric as his previous work [...] For a book so focused on non-human life, it is luminously humane"
The Times

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