book hack

The Soul of an Octopus

Sy Montgomery

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

In The Soul of an Octopus, naturalist and author Sy Montgomery uses her first-hand experience with octopuses to ponder the nature of consciousness and what it means to have a soul.


The Soul of an Octopus

The Soul of an Octopus

by Sy Montgomery


Sy Montgomery believes that "fear of the octopus lies deep in the human psyche." As a result, it's no surprise most of us know very little about them – even that the plural is not 'octopi', but is in fact 'octopuses' as you can't put a Greek ending on a Latin word. This fear has only been aggravated by their portrayal in literature over the centuries. Pliny the Elder claimed that 'no animal is more savage'. 13th century Icelandic legends warned of 'Hafgufa', the monster of the sea who'd swallow men, ships, and whales.

Not everyone can claim to have been chased by an angry gorilla, bitten by a vampire bat, or undressed by an orangutan. Sy Montgomery is a naturalist and author, who graduated with a triple major in French literature, magazine journalism, and psychology, and has since written books for both children and adults. The Boston Globe described her as "Part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson." The New York Times said "Equal parts poet and scientist.

Fascinated by her experience handling octopuses at the New England Aquarium in Boston, The Soul of an Octopus takes us on a journey as Montgomery aims to prove that other animals, particularly octopuses, have a consciousness and a soul.

Favorite quote

More than half a billion years ago, the lineage that would lead to octopuses, and the one leading to humans, separated. Was it possible, I wondered, to reach a mind on the other side of that divide?

- Sy Montgomery

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