Not my kind of soul searching

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Another octopus book! And, confession time, I was more skimming than reading every word properly… so this is a bit of a haphazard review. 

“The sand-dwelling mimic octopus, an Atlantic species, is particularly adept at this. One online video shows the animal altering its body position, color, and skin texture to morph into a flatfish, then several sea snakes, and finally a poisonous lionfish—all in a matter of seconds.“

Oh, I saw that in some nature documentary recently, it looked really cool! Have a look at this:

Interesting comparison of the different structure and build of the human brain and that of an octopus. 

The beginning of the book is pretty good, if somewhat anecdotal. The rest of the book does not keep up. 

Roughly in the middle of the book the author learns to scuba dive. Goodness, her scuba instructors should loose their license! I am by no means an expert with only 50 logged dives, but that was atrocious.

I am also horrified about the aquarium keeping an octopus in a dark, closed barrel for months. Talk about animal cruelty! No wonder that the octopus was ecstatic to have contact with people, when they opened that lid every day. You would be, too, if you were continuously kept in singular confinement without sensory input!

It also bothered me that these animals were wild catches and nobody seemed to be bothered by that.

I enjoyed parts of this book, some of the animal facts were entertaining. I would have preferred more science. There was less actual information and exploration about octopuses that I had hoped. She spends a lot of time at the aquarium, to touch the octopuses and gush about it, but her musings about the animals is pretty superficial. It‘s very much about her. Not for me.

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith was a much better book. My review of that book is here

8 thoughts on “Not my kind of soul searching

  1. I had this one of my wishlist. I was in two minds about it when I put it on. Now I’m even less sure. 🤔 lol. Thanks for the review. It’s always good to hear what people think before I buy. Was the author responsible for the octopus being kept in the barrel, or was she just an observer?


    1. She was just an observer. But they were all so uncritical, it was odd.

      I always feel so bad, when people are swayed by my not-so-positiv reviews. Which is daft, but anyway… have you read the other book I mentioned in the review? That was pretty good.

      And have you watched the Netflix film My Octopus Teacher? Also great…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lol, don’t feel bad! A review from someone you trust is a great data point to have. 😁 I might still buy it anyway because it has diving in the text as well as an aquarium!

    I’ve not read the Godfrey-Smith yet , but it is on my radar. With the film My Octopus Teacher on Netflix, I’ve watched the beginning of it but haven’t fully got into it yet (son had an end of semester Uni exam wobble and needed some general T. L. C. so I had to stop.) He did fine in the end. He always thinks he’s done worse than he has actually done – silly sausage!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my goodness, I just watched “My Octopus Teacher”!!! It was… it’s hard to put into words actually, what a powerful and beautiful film it was. Extraordinary. It made me cry.

        Thank you so much for inadvertantly reminding me to continue watching it! 👍👍👍 🐙

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes – I had come to see her as a person by then. 😥 At least she lived a full life – did all of the normal octopus stuff, and made friends with a very weird hairless seal-type creature!

        BTW I have recently started setting up a goodreads account. I’m still in the process of adding my books to the database. I think I’ve found your account on there, would you mind if I sent you a friend request?

        Liked by 1 person

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