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Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid Hardcover – March 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810984652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810984653
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Williams is a fine writer and takes us on an engaging and informative journey through the world of cephalopod science..." --- John Farndon, The Spectator

"The giant squid is now accepted as a fact of oceanic life and I have been revelling in all squid in the recently published American book Kraken...."
Simon Barnes, The Times of London

About the Author

Wendy Williams's writing has appeared on the front pages of the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Baltimore Sun. She's also written for the New York Times, Parade Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Science. Williams is the coauthor of Cape Wind, which was named one of 2007's ten best environmental books by Booklist and one of the year's best science books by Library Journal. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

More About the Author

About Wendy Williams

Thirty-year science journalist Wendy Williams first became interested in squid when she received a science journalism fellowship at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Her writing has been published in a wide diversity of newspapers and magazines, ranging from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Scientific American and Science.

The author of several books, Wendy has appeared on numerous radio shows, including the Diane Rehm Show, the Dennis Miller Show, Animal House and many, many others on both NPR and AM radio.

She has also been on numerous television shows going as far back as the David Susskind Show and Geraldo.

Her field of specialty is introducing complex science in language that's easily accessible to the general public. Her current book, Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid, discusses a wide range of invertebrate research and marine science using the squid as the narrative character.

The final section examines the question of the intelligence of squid, octopus and cuttlefish - a group of closely related marine animals that make excellent use of the neuron, the basic unit of thinking. In fact, for nearly a hundred years, scientists have used the squid neuron to study human neurons.
Comments on the book praise both its scientific accuracy and its always-present sense of humor.

Public appearances to present Kraken include the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Atlanta Aquarium, the National Aquarium, the Nantucket Athenaeum, and many, many more.

Her previous book, which was named one of the year's ten best environmental books by Booklist, was Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics and the Battle for America's Energy Future.

She is working on an update about Cape Wind, likely to be the nation's first offshore wind farm, and would be able to talk about that project as well as about squid, octopus and cuttlefish. She lives on Cape Cod and spends as much time around the ocean as possible.

Customer Reviews

This book is a mix between scientific knowledge, humor, and fiction.
J. Bisaillon
I highly recommend reading this book -- and you don't need to be a scientist or scuba diver to enjoy it and relate to it.
Lady Diver
I believe that this is an important book, such that I will tell you that I found the first chapter slow going.
Joan W. Chevalier

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joan W. Chevalier on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Wendy has an enormous capacity for fascination, scale, and detail. It is hard to discern if she finds the scientists studying squid and octopus more fascinating or the creatures. She has a great facility with moving from small to large, from a remarkably clear rendering of the neuron's work, to a picturesque descripton of Woods Hole, Mass -- keeping story, history and science all moving forward. We learn about a squid who harvests light producing bacteria and evicts those who underperform; we learn that "neurosurgeons are surprisingly squeamish" (perhaps one of my all time favorite lines), and that Horace Walpole ("around the time that Ben Franklin was killing wild turkeys with electricity in the colonies") coined the term "serendipty" and that there is more in science that is "serendipitous" than you might expect. There is a mother lode of material here for a novelist such as Jeanette Winterston and for all of us whose senses have become a little dulled by the daily grind. I believe that this is an important book, such that I will tell you that I found the first chapter slow going. I think that Wendy may have been trying to give us too much of an overview before the reader was sufficiently engaged. So, skip the first chapter if you must, but don't be deterred. You will go back to read it because, by the end of the book, you will be entirely engaged with the marvel of the squid and the writer's mind which encompassed it. Congratulations, Wendy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Porter on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't honestly say I loved absolutely every second. There were moments when I found Williams's prose a little cutesy, or her transitions jarring, or I wished there was more detail about something. But for a slim book, it packs in an incredible amount of breathtaking information and also does a great job of presenting enough of the basic scientific context to let you understand the material. (E.g., I understand how neurons work a lot better now.) Consistently enthralling.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lady Diver on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kraken. As a scuba diver I have long been fascinated by cephalopods, especially octopi and Caribbean reef squid. I marvel at their obvious curiosity and especially at their ability to mesmerize by changing their colors so quickly and beautifully. With reef squid, when you get close enough you can even see electric pulses going through their body that are iridescent and also very colorful. Kraken did a lot to explain how and why this occurs and goes even further to provide much information and discussion about the intelligence of these marvelous sea creatures. In addition to that, Kraken provided some big surprises. I had absolutely NO idea how valuable research on squid neurons has been to human research and medicine. That part of Kraken was truly fascinating. I highly recommend reading this book -- and you don't need to be a scientist or scuba diver to enjoy it and relate to it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By zibilee VINE VOICE on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Cephalopods, a group of animals that include octopuses and squid, may be some of the oldest creatures in the known world and can vary in size from a fraction of an inch to hundreds of pounds. In this wonderful exploration of one of the sea's most mysterious class of creatures, Wendy Williams explores the strange and unique aspects of the cephalopod and explains why this odd creature may have done more for the advancement of medical science than any other animal in the world. She shares the reasons people are so squeamish when it comes to this animal and the unique way they display intelligence that scientists are only now beginning to discover and tap into. Drawing upon research that stretches back hundreds of years, Williams shares the common misconceptions that have hounded squid and octopuses from their earliest days and delights her audience with the weird and wholly unexpected reality and astounding facts about the cephalopods that abundantly fill Earth's oceans.

I'm a nut for science writing, particularly nature writing. In my efforts to discover all that I can about the flora and fauna that populate the world, I sometimes come across a book that I can't ignore. This was such a book. I had never really given squid and octopuses much thought because, frankly, they seemed a little too gelatinous and slimy for my liking. But when the opportunity to review this book came up, I jumped on it because it fed my need to know more about nature and the strange things in the sea. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest by this book and found that Williams has not only a conversational and accessible style, but that she used the most fascinating analogies and illustrations to show just what being a cephalopod is all about.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Niklas Anderberg on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The New York Times Book Review characterized her 2007 book " Cape Wind" as a great summer read. That can certainly also be said of Wendy Williams's latest - KRAKEN - a survey into the wondrous world of squid, cuttlefish and octopuses. "Kraken" was the name given by seafarers to a mythological and allegedly dangerous sea-monster nobody had really encountered and of which there was only superficial knowledge. It reportedly could drag a whole ship, sailors and all, down to the bottom of the sea. Williams, who has written for the New York Times, Scientific American and many other publications, acknowledges that the size of animals might have been considerably greater in prehistoric times, but such a giant squid would even then have made an unlikely appearance.
As Williams herself says, the science of these animals is not for the faint of heart. There's a lot of catching, cutting and dissecting of the Cephalopods - animals with their legs attached to their head. This is graphically rendered in the b/w illustrations and might indeed reduce that great-summer-read experience. But with the recommendation of Neil Shubin, the quality of the science should be in order. One can think of his " Your Inner Fish" and another wonderful book " A Fish Caught In Time", written in 1999 by Samantha Weinberg. The latter relates the search for the " living fossil"- fish the Coelacanth, eventually found in the waters around Madagascar and named "Latimeria Chalumnae" after Marjorie Latimer who at the time was a junior member of the research team.
Not surprisingly, there is a journalistic feel to Williams's writing. It's casual and loose and makes for pleasant reading. Some sentences could perhaps have been looked over a bit more.
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