In 2011 Sy Montgomery wrote a feature for Orion magazine entitled 'Deep Intellect' about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death. It went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practised true immersion journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters.
Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think? The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their colour-changing camouflage techniques.
Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.
Sy Montgomery, who writes a nature column for the Boston Globe, is a commentator for NPR's Living on Earth and is the author of The Good Good Pig, Birdology and Search for the Golden Moon Bear. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire, USA.
"[...] A good book might illuminate something you knew little about, transform your world view, or move you in ways you didn't think possible. The Soul of an Octopus delivers on all three."
– Phil McKenna, New Scientist 3025, 14 June 2015
"Enter the mysterious intelligent alien world of the octopus. Experience a real intelligence based on a sense of touch that humans can barely imagine."
– Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
"Renowned author Sy Montgomery's latest gem is a must read for those who want to dissolve the human-constructed borders between "them" (other animals) and us. Surely, there are large differences among nonhuman animals and between nonhuman and human animals, but there also are many basic similarities. Connecting with other animals is part of the essential and personal process of rewilding and reconnecting with other animals, and The Soul of an Octopus is just what is needed to close the gap."
– Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional lives of Animals
"Diving deeper than Jules Verne ever dreamed, The Soul of an Octopus is a page-turning adventure that will leave you breathless. Has science ever been this deliciously hallucinatory? Boneless and beautiful, the characters here are not only big-hearted, they're multi-hearted, as well as smart, charming, affectionate [...] and, of course, ambidextrous. If there is a Mother Nature, her name is Sy Montgomery."
– Vicki Constantine Croke, author of Elephant Company
"In The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery immerses readers into an intriguing, seductive world just beneath the ocean waves and the lives of the creatures living within. In this beautifully written book, she brings empathy, insight, and an enchanting sense of wonderment to the bonds we inherently share with other beings – even those seeming far different from us."
– Vint Virga, DVM The Soul of All Living Creatures
"A captivating book on an intelligence as 'alien' as one from outer space. And its not science fiction."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven
"Can an octopus have a mind and emotions, let alone a soul? Sy Montgomery faces these questions head-on in her engaging new book as she explores the world of octopuses, making friends with several and finding heartbreak when they die. They aren't, she discovers, simply brainless invertebrates, but personable, playful, conscious beings. Montgomery's enthusiasm for animals most of us rarely see is infectious, and readers will come away with a new appreciation for what it means to be an octopus."
– Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel
"Montgomery chronicles her extraordinary experience bonding with three octopuses [...] With apparent delight, Montgomery puts readers inside the world of these amazing creatures. A fascinating glimpse into an alien consciousness."
– Kirkus Reviews
"The Soul of an Octopus is one of those works that makes you hope we can save the planet if for no other reason than to preserve the wondrous beasts we are fortunate enough to share it with."
– Steve Lysaker, Outward Hounds
"Sy Montgomery's joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures will have you rethinking that order of calamari."
– Library Journal Editors' Spring Pick
"Sweet moments are at the heart of Montgomery's compassionate, wise and tender new book [...] Only a writer of her talent could make readers care about octopuses as individuals [...] Joins a growing body of literature that asks us to rethink our connection to nonhumans who may be more like us than we had supposed."
– St. Paul Pioneer Press
"I can't do justice to the wonder of this book, the joy and pain and fellowship and grief that Montgomery brings to life with her words [...] Completely engrossing and accessible."