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Spineless: The Science of the Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald

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PUBLISHED BY BLACK INC
REVIEW BY HAYLEY ROHEAD

Presented as a serious yet witty summary of her research delving into jellyfish, Berwald tells a tale of discovery. The book is a collection of stories on Berwald's path to understanding jellyfish and their place in the global environment. Each story is a significant learning point for her, where she interviews experts and traders, and shares some of her own experiences. Through Berwald we learn that jellyfish are poorly understood in comparison to other marine life, that they are an exotic pet, and that in some parts of the world they are food.

Above all, Spineless is a humorous narrative of Berwald's quest to find meaning in her professional life through finding the meaning of jellyfish. A scientific person at heart, having left academia to raise her children, Berwald seeks to reclaim her academic pursuits, making her way back into the field of marine science. This book is a summary of that journey.

In presenting this story of jellyfish to us, Berwald is also telling us of the complex nature of the oceans. The predator and prey relation of various species are all interwoven into a story of species loss and introduction. While there is not a lot of hard science in this book, for someone interested in jellyfish and the oceans it is well worth a read. I found the book easy to read and interesting; the science is presented in a clear yet concise manner, making it easy to understand (for someone not familiar with jellyfish) but also entertaining and full of information.

 

Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.