Friday, 15 April 2011

Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid

Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid by Wendy Williams is a seriously fascinating read. If you like to pigeon hole things, I'd have to say this would be popular science. If you're a squid specialist, you'll probably know everything in this book, but as there aren't many of them in the world, lets assume you'll learn a lot. That's if you can keep an open mind about the interestingness of cephalopods.

What's a cephalopod I hear you ask? It's a family of spineless creatures that includes squid, octopus and cuttlefish. This book covers all three but does focus on squid, as the title suggests. You'll be amazed by the medical advances that have been made thanks to the research carried out on squid. I even learned a little about the human nervous system, although I did start to tune out a little when it got a bit complex.

On occasion the book branches out to cover other areas of behavioural research, such as a charming story of how the finch learns to sing. Another researcher, carries out an experiment with his pet dog and yellow snow.

There's a chapter on sex which ranges from the funny (an incident of jumping sperm in a classroom) to tragic (the story of the Great Pacific Octopus mother).

Whilst the writing style isn't going to win any literary awards, the subject matter more than makes up for anything lacking in the sentence structure. It is a non-fiction book after all and does well to be entertaining. I repeatedly found myself putting down my current fiction read so I could read a little bit more about squid.

On a side note, the picture captions were very basic. There was one photo near the beginning that just said “a squid”. I think if you have picked up the book to read you'll know what one looks like and it should either have been expanded upon or left out. I do think the drawings are a nice addition and I just love the cover illustration. In general, I think more books need pictures!

If you enjoy watching natural history documentaries, especially those concerning marine wildlife, I would sincerely recommend this book.

I'm glad I've never really liked squid as a food as I would now feel guilty eating such interesting little, and not so little, creatures.

Kraken is published by Abrams who kindly supplied me with a copy to review. It is available to buy now in hardback (UK, US and Canada).

5 comments:

  1. Ah, now I love a bit of calamari! Sounds an interesting read and not one I'd normally even consider. Does it mention the psychic abilities of the octopus? ;)

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  2. She didn't think visit Weymouth SeaLife centre to see Paul. Though he sadly passed away last year. Are there other psychic octopus about?

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  3. I think I'm going to get this for my nephew - I think he'll love a book all about squid :)

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  4. I'm reading China Mieville's novel KRAKEN right now and it's getting me super in the mood to learn more about giant squid. Maybe I'll read this KRAKEN next and have read both KRAKENS back to back. Between this review and The Book Lady/Rebecca's write-up, feel like I need to give this sucker a shot :)

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  5. I will try to read this book as I'm trying to understand more about nature. I'm also planning to read books about environmental issues. Does someone know any books related to that topic?

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