Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Soul of an Octopus

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

Published May 12th, 2015 (My Birthday!)

First Sentence
"On a rare, warm day in mid-March, when the snow was melting into mud in New Hampshire, I traveled to Boston, where everyone was strolling along the edge of the harbor or sitting on benches licking ice cream cones."

Publisher's Description:

In this astonishing book from the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus' surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature: and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Sy Montgomery's popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, "Deep Intellect"; about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures. Since then Sy has practiced 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 color-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.

Dear Reader,

The first thing I learned from this book was the correct pluralization is not octopi but octopuses. Go ahead, have a laugh... it made me giggle too but I'm also a little sad that octopi doesn't exist (THE word). Anywho... I want to be best friends with Sy Montgomery, not only because she writes about amazing animals but she usually calls her friends up to join in these adventures. Oh, how I would have loved to be the one to meet her at the New England Aquarium for the chance to "pet" an octopus. Died! I would have died from excitement. I don't know why these non-furry creatures give me such a thrill? Okay, I admit that after reading this book... I clearly know why... THEY FRAKIN' RULE.

Let's get this over with... shall we? I mean, we all know I'm going to list off some fascinating facts from the book, right? Please turn your head or galavant down to the bottom paragraph if you would like to read this book blindly. I won't blame you. The facts you'll learn will have you "Ooo0ing" and "Ahhhing" quite often. However, I can't begrudge those who won't pick this book up... NO! I must convince them that reading about octopuses is entirely worth it. Which, by the way... It IS!

My friend Marsha (Hi Marsha!) sent me a link to this amazing video that pretty much goes over all these amazing facts (plus the narrator is to die for!!) I highly recommend watching it AND reading this book. CLICK here to watch the amazing video!

Fascinating fact #1: When an octopus is relaxed, it will appear white. Other colors can range all across the rainbow, giving them one of the most impressive camouflaging ability in the animal kingdom. As the author states in the book, "They can change color, pattern, and texture in seven tenths of a second."

Relaxed Octopus - Awww!
Fascinating fact #2: An octopus has three hearts (Whovian?) and a brain that wraps around its throat. Now THAT is redonkulous but guess what? It gets better. An octopus can also regrow its arm if broken off. Why? Because "three fifths of octopus' neurons are not in the brain but the arms." Dumbfounded. Where did these creatures come from?

I was going to keep listing facts but I decided the best thing would be for you to experience the book for yourself. The Author is amazing, she really knows how to write a book about something that could mind numbing boring (in a scientific way) but manages to do the exact opposite. I can't wait to read more books from her. She even mentions Victor Hugo (LOVE) and many other literary and cultural references that had me excited. She also compared an octopus to a dog, how she could "pet his head or scratch his forehead... he loves it". My mission in life is to pet an octopus now. The Author also brings to life this mysterious animal. She makes this story real, not just scientific. We get to hear all about the the people who have been changed from interacting with these animals, in a wonderful heartfelt way. If you think octopuses are scary, believe me... after reading this, you'll feel differently. 

Happy Reading,

P.S.- Let me leave you with another picture of an octopus (because I can)

Look at that color! So beautiful!

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

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