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The Must-Read Book Club

Brette Popper: The Soul of an Octopus was recommended by one of the participants in Amy Matthews’ Practices in Embodied Teaching program. We talk a lot about the concept of consciousness in those workshops and this book explores the awareness and intelligence present in not only Octopus (Octopi is not the plural of Octopus according to the book) but sea creatures in general.

I’ve always been interested in books about biology and nature. The idea that I can enter a universe that’s real but so different from my own yields insights into how we interact with both humans and other animals and what qualities and concepts run through many different worlds. Where do the microcosm’s and macrocosm’s meld.

In addition, my daughter Jessica has been fascinated with octopus ever since she was a little girl. It’s her self-identified spirit animal. And I thought I could understand her enchantment with these creatures better by reading the book.

YCNYC: Favorite quote?​

BP: “What drives these animals to make the choices they do? Why pick this mate, and not another? Why choose this route, this fight, this den, and not that one? Is this behavior random or conditioned by experience? Robotic responses to outside cues? Instinct? Do animals – or people – have free will?

Though the question remains one of the great philosophical debates of history, if free will does exist, research suggests it exists across species.”

YCNYC: What one person would you recommend this book to?

BP: Octopus are so different from us. They are invertebrates. They have eight arms and suckers that smell and taste. They have three hearts and yet the four main characters in the book Athena, Octavia, Kali and Karma exhibit qualities that we tend to think of as human. I would recommend it to anyone who grapples with the idea of what species qualify as senescent beings. And, anyone who is interested in how diverse communities are created around common interests.

YCNYC: What moment or part resonates with you the most?

BP: The author visits the Seattle Aquarium to witness the pairing of two Octopus named Squirt and Rain. Their courtship and subsequent mating resulted in fertilized eggs. After their public Valentine’s Day love match they are released back into the wild. And that made me very happy.

You can purchase Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness here.

Have a Must-Read book to recommend? Email us here.

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