Kraken by Wendy Williams

I have been on a streak with the popular science books, and I am happy to say it continues with this book. Full disclosure: I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau, I went to Marine Biology camp, I went to Marine Biology campus in college, and were it not for a wicked tendency to seasickness and an awesome ornithology professor I would probably be a Marine Biologist today. I love the ocean and the animals in it.

Wendy Williams (such name confusion! Between China MiΓ©ville’s new book by the same name and several famous Wendy Williamses, whew!) gets me, but she gets the squeamish people too. So if you don’t automatically love squid that is not on your dinner plate, don’t give up. (But don’t look for sympathy from me. I don’t get you, squeamish people!) She follows the history of squid in popular culture, art, and writing, and finds them and their octopi brethren thoroughly vilified. She takes time to dispel rumors, and even to touch some critters herself.

Williams tackles the GIANT SQUID that has fascinated artists and scientists for years. Their carcasses have popped up randomly, confirming stories of their existence though some were overblown. And they EAT PEOPLE! No, not really. But they look super-cool and they live really deep in the ocean. She follows scientists studying the weedy Humboldt squid, and she also spends a lot of time with neurologists using squid nerves as models for human nerves. Fascinating! I loved the section on animal intelligence, where she notes the anthropocentric attitude that invertebrates as stupid and considers the ways that WE would be stupid to a squid.

Between Finding Nemo (“You guys made me ink!” being one of the highlights of the film for me) and the adorable octopus with the coconut shell, cephalopods are moving up in popular opinion. Hopefully the kid fans of Sponge Bob and Nemo will grow up to read this book and discover the really amazing animals that inspired the shows. Williams’s humor and scientific curiosity are qualities you will enjoy in your tour guide into the cephalopod world.

Thanks to Abrams Books for providing a copy of this book via netgalley. My opinions are my own.

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