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The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, May 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the 1980s, the lobster population in the waters off the coast of Maine was declining, threatening disaster for the state's lobster fishing industry. Government scientists attributed the drop-off to overfishing and recommended raising the minimum legal size of lobsters that could be harvested. Lobstermen disagreed, contending that their longstanding practice of returning oversized lobsters to the sea as brood stock would take care of the problem. In this intriguing and entertaining book, Corson, a journalist who has reported on such diverse subjects as organ transplants and Chinese sweatshops, brings together the often conflicting worlds of commercial lobstermen and marine scientists, showing how the two sides joined forces and tried for 15 years to solve the mystery of why the lobsters were disappearing. He brings the story to life by concentrating on the lobstermen and their families who live in one Maine fishing community, Little Cranberry Island, and alternating narratives of their lives with accounts of the research of scientists who, obsessed with the curious life of lobsters, conduct experiments that are often as strange and complex as the lobsters themselves. Corson provides more information about the lobster's unusual anatomy, eating habits and sex life than most readers will probably want to know, but he makes it all fascinating, especially when he juxtaposes observations of human behavior and descriptions of the social life of lobsters. However, by the end of the book, the answer to the puzzle remains elusive.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Some like their lobster dipped in drawn butter; others prefer their lobster laced with electronic monitors. Plunging into its cold North Atlantic home, a prizewinning alternative-press writer sheds the light of investigative journalism on a crustacean attracting as much attention in recent years from curious biologists as from hungry diners. As deftly as a lobsterman handling the coiled ropes of his trap buoys, Corson knots into a single brisk narrative the differing--often conflicting--perspectives of the fishermen who catch and sell lobsters, the marine scientists who track and explain the creatures, and the environmentalists who lobby for increased legal protections for the species. The narrative focuses particularly on the growing tensions between Maine fishermen, who harvested record numbers of lobsters in the nineties, and federal officials interpreting disputed demographic data as evidence of overfishing. The story of how these tensions intensify will teach readers a great deal about a species that deploys more than mere claws when it wages war over profits and seafood. A lively yet conceptually sophisticated work. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S. (Book 5)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060555599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060555597
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As a writer Trevor has been drawn to some of the most fundamental subjects of life: food, sex, science, religion, race, war. He has reported from restaurant kitchens, worked as a commercial fisherman, lived among Buddhist priests in Japan, followed marine biologists onto research ships, witnessed popular uprisings in China, and observed pornography shoots in Los Angeles. He has written about topics as diverse as the history of aerial bombing, the ethics of organ transplants, sustainable seafood, hybrid cars, Nordic social policies, and economic reform and military policy in Asia for publications including the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.

Trevor's first book, The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean, began as a centerpiece article in the Atlantic that was included in the Best American Science Writing edited by Oliver Sacks. The Secret Life of Lobsters was a Barnes & Noble Discover Award winner and was named a Best Nature Book of the Year by USA Today and Discover and a Best Book of the Year by Time Out New York, and went on to become a worldwide bestseller in the popular-science category. As part of his research for the book, Trevor worked for two years as a full-time crew member on a Maine lobster boat.

Trevor's second book, The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, was selected as an Editors' Choice by the New York Times Book Review; it was also named a Best Food Book of the Year by Zagat and the Best American Food Literature Book of the Year by the Gourmand Awards. To research the book, Trevor followed a group of apprentice American sushi chefs through their training and consulted previously untranslated Japanese sources.

Trevor began his career in writing as an editorial assistant at the Atlantic, and went on to serve for three years as the managing editor of the literary magazine Transition, published by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. Anthony Appiah at Harvard University. During Trevor's tenure at Transition, the magazine won three consecutive Alternative Press Awards for International Reporting and was nominated for a National Magazine Award in General Excellence.

Trevor is currently a teaching fellow in the writing program at Columbia University in New York City, where he serves on a curriculum development team and teaches writing classes in the core curriculum. He has been an adjunct professor at The New School, a faculty member at Brooklyn Friends School, and has taught writing workshops at the Key West Literary Seminar, the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University, and the Universities of Memphis and Miami. He gives talks around the country and has worked as the only "sushi concierge" in the United States, hosting educational sushi dinners at the Michelin-starred Jewel Bako restaurant in New York City. Trevor has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, ABC World News with Charles Gibson, NPR's All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, and Food Network's Iron Chef America, as well as numerous other television and radio programs.

For more information, please visit Trevor's website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For anyone with an interest in Maine lobsters which goes beyond the plastic bibs and melted butter, this is the "Everything You Always Wanted to Know..." resource. After spending two years aboard commercial lobster boats, meeting scientists dedicated to conserving the lobster as a natural resource, and studying the research about the lobster's habitat, breeding habits, and possible endangerment, author Trevor Corson has produced a highly readable, balanced account of what is happening in the industry and the remarkable co-operation which has evolved between some lobstermen and scientists.
Little Cranberry Island, just south of Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park in Maine, is a lobstering community with the perfect lobster habitat just off its coast, its lobstermen as concerned about preserving their livelihoods for the future as are scientists (many working for the government) about protecting the coast from "over-fishing." Until recently, however, the two groups had not pooled their knowledge, and scientists had not done enough on-site studies of how and where the lobsters live and breed and what constitutes the true threats to their continued existence. No one on either side really knew whether cyclical declines in the number of pounds caught were natural or induced by man.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By CS Parmelee on July 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Dust cover makes the book look old and worn, but this up-to-date book has astonishing new information, even for someone who has known about lobsters for decades. You won't believe the life of these interesting critters down at the bottom of the cold sea!

But the story is almost equally about the scientists who study the lobsters and their stories are fun and interesting too.

This book kept me turning the pages and chapters to find out more about the personalities under water and the guys on the surface.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I was predisposed not to like Trevor Corson's THE SECRET LIFE OF LOBSTERS. I know that I like to eat lobsters, that I prefer not to cook them myself, and that I need to have someone else help me crack the claws open to get out the meat. That's about all I ever knew, or cared to know, about lobsters before reading this book. I was skeptical that someone could actually write a whole book about lobsters, let alone that I would want to read it. That's why I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this nonfiction book that is part scientific mystery, part adventure story, and even part romance.
There are two main groups of human characters in Corson's book. One group is the lobstermen of Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine. These rugged men, many of whose families have been lobstering for generations, work incredibly hard and understand more about lobsters than just about anyone. They're also surprisingly complex folks, some of whom hold degrees in economics or marine biology or who dabble in painting.
The other group is the scientists who are dedicated to understanding lobster habitats and behavior in the hopes of swelling their population. These scientists alternate between skepticism of the lobstermen's own theories for ensuring a healthy lobster population and grudging respect for the lobstermen's time-tested methods. The scientists are a quirky bunch, too. One fellow plays a flute made out of a lobster claw, and one scientist becomes a waitress --- at a lobster restaurant --- because it's the only job that gives her enough flexibility to conduct her research.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Fraser on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a recreational lobstermen myself, I became really interested in the critter. My kids enjoy seeing what comes up in the traps and we can only imagine what takes place down there when you see a 4# lobster with only one claw and the other is in the midst of regeneration. We talk about them for hours.

This book sheds some fascinating facts and observations as well as a few funny stories. It even casues one to reflect on some "people-behavior" from a different perspective, as in some cases it is similar to the lobsters. Great stories and nice supporting web site.

Sorry I missed the author at my local favorite bookshop last summer. Will catch him in 05' at a nearby bookseller. Best book I read in quite some time.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sheryl L. Katz VINE VOICE on May 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Lobster is my "favorite" food. As a child my mother would always say that lobster was the most festive meal. We didn't have it often, but emotionally it took on great significance.

That's why I picked up this book to read. It also happens that I love to read natural history, travel stories, and non fiction essays. "Secret Life of Lobsters" did not disappoint. Others have mentioned John McPhee, and this book certainly evokes his writing. It intertwines the lives of the fishermen, the ecology and behavior of lobsters, and the lives of the scientists who study the lobsters. It reads with the suspense and pull of a detective novel. My only criticism is that it does not follow a linear chronology and involves a myriad of characters; at time the threads become hard to follow.

Someone criticized this book for being pro-industry propaganda. I seriously disagree. Yes, the government scientists are portrayed as basing their decisions on prejudice and a lack of information. I personally spent 10 years in the government, 5 of them as an attorney for the Department of the Interior, and I think the portrayal of the government scientists is pretty accurate. I do think though that it's unlikely that all lobster fishermen are quite as thoughtful about conservation or as scrupulous as the protagonists in this book. Overall though I think this book is a great read, and if you like natural history books you will not be disappointed.
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