Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2020
This book is currently listed as #1 in Amazon's ichthyology category, so a potential reader might surmise that there's actually something to do with that subject is this book, or perhaps at least the taxonomy of fish generally. There is not. Instead this is a biography of taxonomist David Starr Jordan (also first President of Stanford, which is considerably more important to the book's content in several ways) melded with a personal memoir of the author. It is highly readable and engaging, and offers an interesting discussion of the philosophy of life from a non-religious perspective. However, I feel it is important to note that this book has essentially no information about science, the scientific process, or even Jordan's place in the history of science.

The only substantial discussion of ichthyology in this is text is in fact directly parroted from an different work Naming Nature, by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. I have read that work, this one contains hardly any original material on the subject and frankly rather abuses the fairly complex taxonomic point that 'fish' as referenced in common parlance do not form a monophyletic group using cladistic methods and in doing so completely fails to answer the question possessed by its title (something Yoon's text, for what it's worth, at least tries to do). Instead, it chooses to deploy this particular factoid as a rather complex metaphor.

There is much to recommend about this book, as a memoir of a young woman in the United States interlaced with a biography, and the illustrations by Kate Samworth used for the chapter headings are quite lovely (and quite non-creditted on main page, come on Amazon), but if you're looking for a book that's even remotely about fish, look elsewhere.
38 people found this helpful
22 comments Report abuse Permalink

Product Details

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
454 global ratings