One of our recommended books is The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS

A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness


Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this “fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma.

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Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this “fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food.

Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

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  • Atria Books
  • Paperback
  • April 2016
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781451697728

Buy the Book

$16.99

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About Sy Montgomery

Sy Montgomery is the author of The Soul of an Octopus, credit Selinda ChiquoineSy Montgomery is a naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and author of twenty acclaimed books of nonfiction for adults and children, including the National Book Award finalist The Soul of an Octopus and the memoir The Good Good Pig, a New York Times bestseller. The recipient of numerous honors, including lifetime achievement awards from the Humane Society and the New England Booksellers Association, she lives in New Hampshire with her husband, border collie, and flock of chickens.

Praise

Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
New York Times Bestseller
An American Library Association Notable Book of the Year

“Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus does for the creature what Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk did for raptors.”New Statesman, UK

“One of the best science books of the year.”Science Friday, NPR

“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

Discussion Questions

1. Sy Montgomery writes about her scientific and emotional attraction to octopuses. Did anything surprise you in her poetic, sensuous language about the octopuses? Does she make clear what science cannot explain about octopuses?

2. How does Montgomery describe the different personalities that the octopuses have? Do you agree with her assessments of their attributes? Can you relate to the emotions that she interprets them to have?

3. Otherness is a central issue in the book—the otherness of the octopus with its nature so dramatically different from that of other mollusks as well as the differences between cephalopods and people. How does Montgomery use the otherness of the octopus to show the ways the human characters in the story can feel that they don’t fit in or belong? How do the human characters with their varied backgrounds find ways of coming together and belonging?

4. The similarities between octopuses and humans are another theme. What are the similarities that Montgomery sees? Would you share her point of view or do you see the differences more than the similarities?

5. What does Montgomery reveal about what constitutes consciousness, in humans and animals? Does she show that octopuses have consciousness?

6. Does Montgomery address and answer the question of whether an octopus can have a soul? If so, how does she show the animal has a soul? If not, does she explain that the animal does not have a soul?

7. What is anthropomorphism? Given what science knows now about the consciousness of animals, is anthropomorphism a problem? If so, why?

8. What are the issues involved in collecting wild octopuses from the oceans and studying them in an aquarium?

9. Many cultures consume octopuses as food. Do you see any issues regarding eating octopuses?

10. For a book that imparts a wealth of scientific information about octopuses, Montgomery uses humor and also a deep sense of feeling and respect for the octopus and all of nature. How does Montgomery convey the major conservation issues, such as global warming and the health of the oceans, in the stories she tells in this book about people and animals?

11. Has your view of human consciousness changed after reading this account? Has your view of animal consciousness changed? What information specifically influenced you?

12. Has your perspective on nature and on octopuses been influenced by this book? What views has the book reinforced and what views has it changed your mind about?