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Sound of a Wild Snail Eating Paperback – September 6, 2016
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Frequently bought together
WINNER OF THE JOHN BURROUGHS MEDAL (2011)
NATIONAL OUTDOOR BOOK AWARD FOR 2010 in Natural History Literature
BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE AWARD, FINALIST for Inspirational Memoir
TOP TEN ADULT SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY BOOKS FOR 2010, Booklist
BEST BOOKS OF 2010: MORE OF THE BEST, Library Journal
GREAT TITLES TO ADD TO THE NYT BEST OF 2010, Huffington Post
“Beautiful.” —Edward O. Wilson
“Universal, deeply felt, and with an enormously generous soul, the gently told story grants readers a heightened appreciation for the ever-shrinking, ever-fascinating, secretive parts of our unkempt world.” —Alexandra Fuller for The Daily Beast
“How interesting can a snail be? Entirely captivating, as it turns out. [Bailey] is a marvelous writer, and the marriage of science and poetic mysticism that characterizes this small volume is magical.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[Bailey] found comfort in an unlikely companion--a tiny snail, whose micro-doings are the source of a surprising philosophy.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An exquisite meditation on the restorative connection between nature and humans. . . Bailey's slim book is as richly layered as the soil she lays down in the snail's terrarium: loamy, potent, and regenerative.” —The Huffington Post
“[A] small, quiet masterpiece, already destined to become a classic.” —Washington Times
“A spare, beautifully quirky grace note of a book.” —Family Circle
“Though illness may rob us of vitality, sometimes it can also help bring us understanding---albeit in improbable disguises . . . Perhaps there's something to be said for moving at a snail's pace.” —NPR.org
“This elegant little gem is a triumph.”—Maine Sunday Telegram
From the Inside Flap
Winner of the John Burroughs Medal
Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award in Natural History Literature "Brilliant." --The New York Review of Books "How interesting can a snail be? Entirely captivating, as it turns out. [Bailey] is a marvelous writer, and the marriage of science and poetic mysticism that characterizes this small volume is magical." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "[A] gem." --Susan Stamberg, NPR's Morning Edition "Survival, resilience, and intellectual curiosity . . . Deeply moving. . . Extraordinary." --Literature and Medicine, the journal of the Institute for the Medical Humanities "An exquisite meditation on the restorative connection between nature and humans . . . As richly layered as the soil she lays down in the snail's terrarium: loamy, potent, and regenerative." --The Huffington Post "[A] small, quiet masterpiece, already destined to become a classic." --The Washington Times
- Publisher : Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (September 6, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 161620642X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1616206420
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.52 x 7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #50,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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What I thought I was going to be reading:
I read this at the same time I began listening to another similarly themed nature memoir, “H is for Hawk.” I have not read any other nature memoirs, so I don’t have much of a background for the genre itself. I do, however, tend to enjoy personal memoirs, especially ones with emotional turmoil and grief. I saw that this was a rather quick read, so I downloaded the e-book and started reading.
What I actually read:
The book focuses on one woman’s journey to some semblance of recovery after experiencing a debilitating international infection that left her almost all the way paralyzed. The narrator receives a pet snail from a friend while she is at home on bed rest. The chapters switch from the author’s observations of the snail to actual scientific explanations of snails as a species to stories of the author’s illness and recovery. The author finds comfort in her observations of the snail, as she fights through mental and physical isolation.
What to expect:
This memoir offers a nice balance of scientific description on snails and a personal narrative of the author’s life and recovery. This was a light read, with chapters being only a few pages long. I enjoyed learning about snails and their habits and how the author weaves her story into her observations of her companion snail.
-Rosey the Reader.
Elizabeth is an excellent observer of nature, and her growing interest in the snail leads her to learn all she can about them. The book switches back and forth between Elizabeth's history that lead up to her illness, her current life and snail story, and everything she learns about snails in general—which is fascinating. I am not a fan of snails, and this book made me want to have one as a pet. This is proof of good writing! Snails are hermaphrodites, for one thing. They can meet, mate, and both snails can later lay eggs. But if there's no love to be had, snails can be do without, and fertilize themselves and lay eggs. Elizabeth's snail lays several clutches of eggs which eventually hatch into the almost microscopic teensy new snails.
Before that, the pot is exchanged for a large aquarium, and the snail's territory expanded to include a small rotten log, moss, pine needles, ferns, bark with lichens, and other materials taken from the woods outside (the natural environment of the snail). Despite no voice or mammal-type facial features, the snail is able to communicate well with regards to what it likes and doesn't like. The author describes it as a “tireless and fearless explorer” as it makes its rounds inside and out of its area.
Other books, both fiction and non-fiction, are referenced. Some notables include the poem by A. A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) who wrote about a snail named James who journeyed (with a compass) from one of a brick to the other. Another was the horrifying story The Quest for Blank Claveringi, about giant, man-eating snails who slowly but relentlessly trail their prey. Non-fiction includes everything from Aristotle's writings about snails, to an old children's book call Odd Pets. The snail's teeth, grooming habits, and food needs are charmingly discussed.
The entire book is fascinating and leaves you with an appreciation for a creature that most of us ignore or even dislike. The author takes something that probably creeps most people out, and makes it downright irresistible!!
Each chapter is perfectly satisfying on its own, yet I do tarry over thought-provoking quotes gracing each fresh start.
Best of all, I can relate to the author's ability to find a whole new world without moving an inch! What better way to meander through life's "down times" than to indulge in this exquisitely detailed chronical of a small creature's life
Top reviews from other countries
A remarkable experience, for the author and the reader. The ease and fluidity of the writing is gorgeous.
Things I loved:
The atmosphere of the authors life before, during, and recovering from her illness.
The research into snails and her snails life.
I’ve learnt so much from this book. I was a snail lover before, but after reading this book I’m now even more enthralled by their incredible lives and ancestry.
Things I don’t love:
People who don’t read this book. No seriously, you need to read this book. Even if you think it isn’t your type of thing, please give it a try.
I think this is a bit of a marmite book. If reading about a snail's sex life, for example, sounds like something you'd only do on pain of death, this is probably one to avoid. It's slow, gentle, informative, contemplative; Tova Bailey clearly did masses of research on snails, and there are masses of fascinating facts to be learned. For someone like me, who is interested in stuff like this, it was engrossing, if slightly disgusting at times... I'm no big fan of snails, and sometimes when talk of slime got too much I had to put the book down! I certainly have more respect for and interest in them now than I did when I started, though.
It's also a fascinating insight into chronic, crippling illness. For those who have suffered in similar ways, as I have, it's a comfort to know "it's not just me", and I think this book will give those who've never been chronically ill a little insight into what it is like being confined to a house, a room, or even a bed for long stretches of time.
Overall, I wouldn't call this a must-read, and it's definitely one to "look inside" before purchasing, but personally I enjoyed it. It was a book I dipped into over the course of several months. The writing style is gorgeous, the snippets from poetry and scientific books are apt, and the information is really interesting.
I found the subject matter fascinating - the idea that one could observe life through the eyes of a snail and in the process come to some startling conclusions about how we human beings live our own lives, helping us to appreciate quite literally, the smaller things in life. The book is part spirituality, part science, which helps show how the two are so intimately connected, and how nature which is by definition part of the scientific world, affects us in ways that do not fully appreciate or comprehend. The book for me at least, also illustrates the power of silence, and of illness and how much we can learn from both, for eveything has meaning, and we give, to coin a phrase from A Course in Miracles, all the meaning that it has to us.
It's so well written that I actually wanted to find out what happens next - If you'd told me I'd be reading a book about a snail and desperate to know what happened to it, I'd have said you were mad, but the author draws you into her world and describes things so beautifully, you are compelled to keep reading.
It made me want to go out and find a snail so I could study it too. There are so many fascinating facts that I never knew about snails, such as how many teeth they have - amazing!
I was sad when I got to the end as I wanted the book to go on and on. That's due to the wonderful way it's written, as well as the subject matter.
I thoroughly recommend it.