Book Review

The Soul of an Octopus


Non-fiction isn’t usually my thing, but The Soul of An Octopus was highly recommended by someone I trust, so I gave it a shot.

So glad.  This one’s a winner.  Truly.  It chronicles the author’s interaction with octopuses (not ‘octopi’, she points out, since the word ‘octopus’ is Greek, not Latin), both in captivity and in the wild, and her observations are fascinating.  Her theory is that octopuses are gentle creatures that feel and think and react to humans with startling clarity.  She gives example after example that bear this out.

Now, I can’t eat octopus.  Add it to a salad or a larger seafood dish, and I lose my appetite.  There’s something about the suckers.  Yet Ms. Montgomery refers to the sensitivity of those suckers, the way they differentiate one human from another by ‘taste’ – even can tell if you start taking medicine. This was only one of the things I learned.

Another is that octopuses turn color to reflect their moods.

Another is that they have distinct personalities – some playful, some mischievous, some quiet and serene.

Another is that the author struggled with deep-sea diving, which she unabashedly details.  I wouldn’t have the guts to put on the gear.

The Soul of An Octopus exposed me to a whole new world during the hours I was reading this book.  I’m still not ordering an octopus taco, but I do feel a lot more sympathetic toward the species.




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