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The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

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30 review for The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    I’m the first to rate and review this book. Guess not that many seashell fans out there? Well, that’s a shame. Consider reading this book and changing your mind. Every single thing you never knew you always wanted to know about seashells. And mollusks. A book that took the author six years to write and me an uncharacteristic several days to finish. There’s a chance I might have overestimated my interest in the subject, went in expecting a shorter book, GR’s page count is wrong, but the book actu I’m the first to rate and review this book. Guess not that many seashell fans out there? Well, that’s a shame. Consider reading this book and changing your mind. Every single thing you never knew you always wanted to know about seashells. And mollusks. A book that took the author six years to write and me an uncharacteristic several days to finish. There’s a chance I might have overestimated my interest in the subject, went in expecting a shorter book, GR’s page count is wrong, but the book actually proved to be surpassingly compelling, engaging, erudite and exceptionally informative. Not just a quaint beach souvenir, seashells have a fascinating and storied past as art and currency and building materials and food and collectors’ items. From abundantly present to alarmingly endangered, it turns out that seashells are so much more intricate, complex and interesting than just those things Sally sells by the seashore. The author traveled the world in creating this book, meaning it also serves as a travelogue for all you armchair travelers. But of course, she wasn’t the first one to go to great lengths (geographically and otherwise) for seashells, it’s been done for centuries by intrepid scientists and obsessive collectors, all featured within this book. Strange what people will go crazy for. Even stranger than the author will still eat the seafood nestled within the seashells that so fascinate her. It’s like…oh magical, but also delicious. But, while their innards don’t at all seem appetizing to me, the shells themselves do have a certain magical appeal, the precise intricate beauty of design alone…lovely. So, it wasn’t that difficult to understand the attraction of the subject and the book makes you appreciate it all the more, from a more informed position. I now know the difference between conchology and malacology, among many other things. The story of seashells and their inhabitants is, as it turns out, absolutely worth a 400some page book. Complete with a potent environmental message. Long read but worth it. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley. This and more at https://advancetheplot.weebly.com/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I have a large shell in my home. I remember seeing it in my grandparent’s home when I was a girl, and knowing that my grandfather had collected it. I would place my ear to it’s opening to hear the sound of the sea which I had never seen. Later in life I learned it was a conch shell, and I did see the ocean and hear it for myself. But I knew very little about conches, or where the shell came from, or how my grandfather came to own one. Early after picking up The Sound of the Sea, I turned to Cynthi I have a large shell in my home. I remember seeing it in my grandparent’s home when I was a girl, and knowing that my grandfather had collected it. I would place my ear to it’s opening to hear the sound of the sea which I had never seen. Later in life I learned it was a conch shell, and I did see the ocean and hear it for myself. But I knew very little about conches, or where the shell came from, or how my grandfather came to own one. Early after picking up The Sound of the Sea, I turned to Cynthia Barnett’s chapter on the Queen Conch. She tells of the Lucayan culture that harvested and barbequed the Queen Conch before they were exterminated by 1513. Queen Victoria had a preference for shell cameos, and commissioned wedding commemoratives made of the shell. By the 1940s, the conch was suffering from over harvesting in the Keys, and repopulation efforts failed. By 2018, scientists determined that there were too few conch left in the Bahamas to reproduce. Efforts are being made to farm the conch, but with the ocean heating up from climate change, they are one more example of what we are losing. “I had set out to listen to seashells as chroniclers of nature’s truth,” Barnett writes in her conclusion. “But as much as shells told about oceans, they had more to say about people.” Humans have used shells for food and to make tools. Shell collector’s mania drove up their value, driving over fishing. Shells decorated the boxes sold by an East Side London family who in a few generations turned the business into Shell Oil. Wealthy people ornamented their walls with shells and built grottos of shells. The were used for personal ornament and for money. As instruments they called alarms, were the voice of gods, and called people to worship. Christians who underwent the pilgrimage of St. James sewed shells onto their clothing, and giant clam shells were used for baptismal fonts. Every chapter is a beautiful, fascinating look into science, history, and nature through a specific shell. I learned so much, my interest never flagging. I knew about the history of the color purple from the murex shell. And had read about shells as money and how they were used in decorations. I have a hand made pin and earrings made of delicate shells that had belonged to my great-grandmother. But there was so much more to learn! I found her chapter on Triton’s Trumpet and Chavin de Huantar in Peru one of the most fascinating histories in the book. High in the Andes, this ancient city predates the Incas, and consists of temples and underground galleries with running water and reflective walls, all created for religious awe and wonder. They had no written language, but the art depicts the use of shells in ritual, especially the conch. To hear the ocean’s softest song, walk the Sothern beaches of Sanibel Island. Listen closely at the break line. As each wave pulls back to sea, a sparkly tinkle rises from the rumble; the roil of tiny shells. from The Sound of the Sea by Cynthia Barnett The book is a travelogue as well, with glorious descriptions of the places she visited. She mentions the Michigan roadside attraction Sea Shell City, with its billboard of the Man Eating Clam. I finally got to visit it when I was a mother with an eager son, and saw the bins of shells and the clam on display. Stories abound of the clam in nature grasping the hand or foot of divers who met their death. WWII Navy manuals even advised how to free oneself from the clam! After reading this book, I think about the beautiful shells I bought as a teenager, which later graced my mother’s shelf. The delicate Nautilus, the cream cone shell tipped in purple, the moon snail, the spiny armed shells. And, of course, about the conch sitting on the shelf in my home now. I had never considered the animals that had lived inside these beautiful homes, or about their impact on our world. We are arrived at the breaking point. We have been greedy and selfish and it has wrecked havoc. Climate change is already remaking the world. There is so much still to be learned about the multitude of life in the oceans and the answers they hold to problems we face. Some are adapting, while others are disappearing. Barnett’s book brings an appreciation for what we are losing. I received a free book through Amazon Vine. My review is fair and unbiased.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven M. Seibert

    Pulitzer Prize-winner, Jack E. Davis, states that” Cynthia Barnett has given us a book for the ages.” Davis is right. The Sound of the Sea is magnificent. It is mostly science (Barnett does not shy away from deep diving into the science), but it is also history, literature, a travel log, with meaningful forays into religious and feminist studies. It made me want to see what Barnett saw; on Florida’s Sanibel Island, in Palau, the Maldives, Peru and Ghana. It tells us about Cahokia, about the Roya Pulitzer Prize-winner, Jack E. Davis, states that” Cynthia Barnett has given us a book for the ages.” Davis is right. The Sound of the Sea is magnificent. It is mostly science (Barnett does not shy away from deep diving into the science), but it is also history, literature, a travel log, with meaningful forays into religious and feminist studies. It made me want to see what Barnett saw; on Florida’s Sanibel Island, in Palau, the Maldives, Peru and Ghana. It tells us about Cahokia, about the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation and about a hundred other places, people and stories which should inform our perspectives about the planet. The quote that kept coming to my mind while reading The Sound of the Sea describes the genius of the Nobel Prize winner, Albert von Szent-Gyorgi: “Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.” That is what Barnett has done. She brilliantly observes the 500-million year history of mollusks and relates the lessons they teach the world. No one else has done that. Through an encyclopedic and fascinating narrative, she draws a grand picture of human mismanagement of the earth and seas (mostly), and yet inspires us to do more and better. The Sound of the Sea weaves a compelling story on the backs of those magnificent creatures we have paid too little attention to. This is a must read for 2021 and beyond.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    The idea of the book is easy enough to understand. Mollusks and invertebrates are proving to be like miner’s canaries. We can see the results of pollution, global warming, too much water acidity and over shelling on the population and health of our sea creatures. So far so good. So far a 4 rating. Cynthia Barnett specializes in reporting on water issues. I really enjoyed her book on rain. This particular book is really too long for the subject, although I liked it when she focused on particular The idea of the book is easy enough to understand. Mollusks and invertebrates are proving to be like miner’s canaries. We can see the results of pollution, global warming, too much water acidity and over shelling on the population and health of our sea creatures. So far so good. So far a 4 rating. Cynthia Barnett specializes in reporting on water issues. I really enjoyed her book on rain. This particular book is really too long for the subject, although I liked it when she focused on particular creatures. I feel she was a little hard on many people from the past. How were they to know? Anne Lindbergh for example. She lived on Captiva while writing her famous book Gifts From the Sea. She didn’t boil animals alive and recommended collecting one specimen instead of many. How come she gets sniffed at for tepid feminism (her book was published in 1950) and her ability to live in Florida while writing her book because she had the money to do so. The poor woman needed a break and solitude. Her first child was abducted and murdered, she had a near Nazi for a husband, Charles Lindbergh had seven illegitimate children by three different women and insisted she quit counseling for depression because it was weak. Give her a break.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is an interesting book, but not necessarily the book I was expecting given the title, subtitle or blurb. It is mostly a book about the history of people who were interested shells, as well as a more important exploration of the history of native people who understood & revered both shells & the animals who create them. The third section is definitely the strongest offering the above plus the promised examination of sealife & the future of oceans. The writing style is conversational, though This is an interesting book, but not necessarily the book I was expecting given the title, subtitle or blurb. It is mostly a book about the history of people who were interested shells, as well as a more important exploration of the history of native people who understood & revered both shells & the animals who create them. The third section is definitely the strongest offering the above plus the promised examination of sealife & the future of oceans. The writing style is conversational, though at times the same name or story is re-referred to as though it is the first time it was mentioned so there are some issues with flow The notes are good but not at all indicated in the main body of the text.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    What a fascinating book for anyone with an interest in shells or just in marine biology in general. There is plenty of science about evolution and life cycles of different species, but what I especially enjoyed were the cultural and historical aspects of shells. They've been important in mythology, religion, art and trade/economics for centuries. The book is extensively researched and beautifully written. Cynthia Barnett took me on many journeys, to different parts of the world and to different What a fascinating book for anyone with an interest in shells or just in marine biology in general. There is plenty of science about evolution and life cycles of different species, but what I especially enjoyed were the cultural and historical aspects of shells. They've been important in mythology, religion, art and trade/economics for centuries. The book is extensively researched and beautifully written. Cynthia Barnett took me on many journeys, to different parts of the world and to different eras in history. Of course I enjoyed her forays to places I've visited myself, such as Sanibel Island, where I collected shells in the 1970s, and St. Petersburg's Tocobaga Indian mound in Pinellas Point, which my children loved climbing. But it was also fascinating to go with her and her son to the Maldives, Palau and Ghana. She has a lot to say about the challenges facing some of our most iconic shells, such as queen conchs, scallops and giant clams, which are being depleted by over harvesting and by climate change, which has made their waters warmer and more acidic. There are signs of hope--shell farming, protected areas, and research pointing to the value of shells in developing new medicines and technologies. In a way, the book is as much about people as it is about mollusks. Barnett introduces the reader to many of the people whose lives are entwined with shells as their livelihoods, research subjects or fascinations. One of the more interesting stories is that of the London shell craft business that morphed into Royal Dutch Shell. And, of course, it is we humans who represent the greatest threat to the long-term survival of shells. Even as individuals, we can do our part--don't buy shells and only pick up the dead ones when beachcombing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Exactly the sort of nonfiction book I love, great writing that intertwines science with history and expert details that illustrate a larger picture. I don't know too much about shells and enjoyed learning a great deal, and found there are many parallels between historic and modern shell collecting and the mineral collecting community with which I am more familiar, and looking at a tangentially similar topic that was new to me was thoroughly enjoyable. A 350-page book that was highly satisfying b Exactly the sort of nonfiction book I love, great writing that intertwines science with history and expert details that illustrate a larger picture. I don't know too much about shells and enjoyed learning a great deal, and found there are many parallels between historic and modern shell collecting and the mineral collecting community with which I am more familiar, and looking at a tangentially similar topic that was new to me was thoroughly enjoyable. A 350-page book that was highly satisfying but that leaves me excited to learn even more? If that's not 5 stars, what could be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    It’s better than I made it seem by my rating, but here is why. It’s thick. It’s a lot of information. The scope was overwhelming for me, and reading became a chore. I read this for a book club and probably would have done better breaking it into much smaller pieces. I switched to the audio book just to push me through.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    Always enjoy non fiction tidbits, sadly I was gardening while listening, and not walking the beach which would have enhanced this tenfold!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Honey

    A book about shells and our fascination with them over the years. There’s a little science but the history of shell use and purpose over is actually a good read in its narrative. I finish this book reminiscent about living near the sea, and with a research list of women who paved way for innovation (albeit maddening how gender bias have kept them yet again away from the limelight). Feel good non-fiction.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Lemon

    I've always been interested in oceans and any topic about ocean creatures, especially seashells. This book is so well researched and I enjoyed all the stories in history which revolved around seashells. I enjoyed everything about this book as it was fun to read and exceptionally informative. I just kept one star back because at times the narrative seemed to me to jump around a bit and needed a bit more directed focus. But, that is such a minor criticism about a really wonderful reading experienc I've always been interested in oceans and any topic about ocean creatures, especially seashells. This book is so well researched and I enjoyed all the stories in history which revolved around seashells. I enjoyed everything about this book as it was fun to read and exceptionally informative. I just kept one star back because at times the narrative seemed to me to jump around a bit and needed a bit more directed focus. But, that is such a minor criticism about a really wonderful reading experience on a timely and vitally important subject. Recommended !

  12. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Dean

    One of my favorite books read this year. Barnett weaves a fascinating and informative narrative about shells, people, and the natural world. Highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brandi

    A book of all things shells. This book reads as a textbook and provides anything and everything you have ever wanted to know about shells. I was disappointed that there were not any photographs. There were multiple drawings., but it wasn’t the same. Shells have so much beauty and uniqueness, I felt like something was missed by not capturing some of the color and images they represent. All in all though, very informative. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley and all op A book of all things shells. This book reads as a textbook and provides anything and everything you have ever wanted to know about shells. I was disappointed that there were not any photographs. There were multiple drawings., but it wasn’t the same. Shells have so much beauty and uniqueness, I felt like something was missed by not capturing some of the color and images they represent. All in all though, very informative. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley and all opinions expressed are my own, freely given.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lady reading365

    The sound of the sea by Cynthia Barnett (W.W Norton group) 4 stars This fantastic nonfiction book tells the story of the history, science and climatic impact of shells and their environments. I found this book very interesting and informative. I learnt so many new things and it wasn't hard to read or understand. I never understood that shell collecting was so advanced that people actually take the live creatures from the sea to harvest their shell. I found it so interesting learning about the amaz The sound of the sea by Cynthia Barnett (W.W Norton group) 4 stars This fantastic nonfiction book tells the story of the history, science and climatic impact of shells and their environments. I found this book very interesting and informative. I learnt so many new things and it wasn't hard to read or understand. I never understood that shell collecting was so advanced that people actually take the live creatures from the sea to harvest their shell. I found it so interesting learning about the amazing creatures that live and hide within or seas and oceans , also learning how they have evolved to cope with climate change or not so in many cases. Each wonderful chapter starts with a beautiful pencil drawn piece of artwork showing these amazing and fascinating sea creatures. The most interesting fact for me was that 90% of people do not know how shells are made. This misinterpretations are fully explained by the author. She writes to help people understand the nature that surrounds us and the impact we unwittingly have on our most precious environment. So much praise goes to the author and her publishing team for producing such a wonderful and insightful book that can be enjoyed and understood by all. Also posting the same review Barnes&noble, waterstones, kobo,Google books and amazon where available.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    “Seashells were money before coin, jewelry before gems, art before canvas,” Cynthia Barnett writes in this book that offers an engaging mix of natural science and history to tell a story that is also very much of the impact humans have on our planet. She captures so well the amazing diversity of animals that create the shells we love to find, “Marine mollusks are vegetarians and cannibals, fish hunters and filter feeders, algae distillers, and carrion eaters. They are sedentary blobs that leap an “Seashells were money before coin, jewelry before gems, art before canvas,” Cynthia Barnett writes in this book that offers an engaging mix of natural science and history to tell a story that is also very much of the impact humans have on our planet. She captures so well the amazing diversity of animals that create the shells we love to find, “Marine mollusks are vegetarians and cannibals, fish hunters and filter feeders, algae distillers, and carrion eaters. They are sedentary blobs that leap and swim. Shy beings that create the showiest architecture of all time. Squishy invertebrates that make some of the hardest building materials known. Vulnerable species with the longest evolutionary history of any living today.” She also names the detestation wreaked by plastics from bottles and bags to lent from pile jackets to yoga pants. I was continually amazed by the ongoing connections from mollusks to human cultures.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Esan

    Thank you Goodreads Giveaway for this book. I loved this book. As a retired Chemistry/Biology teacher, I have read scores of science based books, but very few have measured up to the Sound of the Sea. It is a well researched and written history of shells and the organisms that inhabit them. Every page was filled with another interesting nugget about sea creatures. Cynthia Barnett writes about respect and conservation of the oceans. She is not preachy, but rather imparts logic and facts for the n Thank you Goodreads Giveaway for this book. I loved this book. As a retired Chemistry/Biology teacher, I have read scores of science based books, but very few have measured up to the Sound of the Sea. It is a well researched and written history of shells and the organisms that inhabit them. Every page was filled with another interesting nugget about sea creatures. Cynthia Barnett writes about respect and conservation of the oceans. She is not preachy, but rather imparts logic and facts for the need to protect the oceans and all the life within. I highly recommended this book. In fact, if I was still teaching Marine Biology, this would be required reading. I know that my students would enjoy it as much as I have.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle DellaCamera

    This is an intriguing read, but not at all what I was expecting. It is full of history and not just that of shells and their life forms. A topic related to shells sets off a chain of historical facts in each chapter that is eventually brought back to shells and the topic they are related to. Chapters 10-13 were my favorite, because they truly focused on the shells, the life inside of them and the risks they are at. Chapters 5-9 taught me a ton of interesting facts, for example the Maldives had a This is an intriguing read, but not at all what I was expecting. It is full of history and not just that of shells and their life forms. A topic related to shells sets off a chain of historical facts in each chapter that is eventually brought back to shells and the topic they are related to. Chapters 10-13 were my favorite, because they truly focused on the shells, the life inside of them and the risks they are at. Chapters 5-9 taught me a ton of interesting facts, for example the Maldives had a queen in the fourteenth century and was one of the earliest leaders of an Islamic nation. It’s a detailed piece of work that the author truly took the time to research and understand, however, it can be overly full of information at times.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans is exquisitely written. It is an artfully crafted piece that weaves history and science into a poignant tale of seashells, the animals that build them, people, greed, and the human condition. Running through it all is a warning. "Shells were jewelry and art. They were money and weapons. Their makers, the mollusks, symbolize all of nature in being exploited and brought to the brink of what is bearable - the dissolution of their exquisite The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans is exquisitely written. It is an artfully crafted piece that weaves history and science into a poignant tale of seashells, the animals that build them, people, greed, and the human condition. Running through it all is a warning. "Shells were jewelry and art. They were money and weapons. Their makers, the mollusks, symbolize all of nature in being exploited and brought to the brink of what is bearable - the dissolution of their exquisite homes in the acidifying sea."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dale Dewitt

    I loved this book! I learned so much about seashells and as someone who cannot visit a beach from our home in Central Florida and now bring home shells, this was the perfect read. The way that Barnett focuses not only on the shells but the animals inside them, the way people have interacted with shells and how the future of these mollusks means for all of us on this planet is both engaging and important.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    I really loved learning about shells from the past to the present and even how they can tell us about the future. There were a few occasions, though, that I felt like she was info dumping unnecessarily. But, I loved the stories and writing and and learning about what inhabits the shells I've collected over the years. I've never bought shells because I feel that's "cheating", but I've definitely kept the ones I find most appealing. I really loved learning about shells from the past to the present and even how they can tell us about the future. There were a few occasions, though, that I felt like she was info dumping unnecessarily. But, I loved the stories and writing and and learning about what inhabits the shells I've collected over the years. I've never bought shells because I feel that's "cheating", but I've definitely kept the ones I find most appealing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This was a solid non-fiction read. It was very interesting at times, but I wasn't really in a rush to finish it. It also made me extremely sad about the negative impact humans have had on ocean life. Now I know more about how Tyrian purple is made. This was a solid non-fiction read. It was very interesting at times, but I wasn't really in a rush to finish it. It also made me extremely sad about the negative impact humans have had on ocean life. Now I know more about how Tyrian purple is made.

  22. 5 out of 5

    angel sudberry

    I joined Literati and this was my club's selection. I thought what in the world can you say about seashells in a novel. Boy what little did I know. I love nature. This is a must read for anyone wishing to expand your horizons. Simply fascinating. I joined Literati and this was my club's selection. I thought what in the world can you say about seashells in a novel. Boy what little did I know. I love nature. This is a must read for anyone wishing to expand your horizons. Simply fascinating.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    Atlas Obscura’s Finding Wonder selection for August

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda Powell

    I learned so much from this book! I will definitely want everyone to read. I’ll look at shells as homes forever more! And try to be less of a consumer!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    Very educational for someone who knew nothing about seashells and their history. Very detailed and carefully researched.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Lots of good info but also boring and also sad because humans are trash.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    NF 347 pages Each shell you see was a home for a creature. They are unique and amazing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Grover

    Never got into it. If you are in to shells, go for it. It was part of a 'book club' and I have no idea why the club chose this one. Never got into it. If you are in to shells, go for it. It was part of a 'book club' and I have no idea why the club chose this one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard Fitzgerald

    Cynthia Barnett writes as many people converse associatively. One topic uncovers another topic which uncovers a third, and so forth. Barnett, like associative talkers, moves through these various topics as though they were connected by more than their personal memory triggers. Sometimes the new topic is related to the previous, but only accidentally. The result is that associative thinkers touch on a breadth of ideas but with no real depth or cohesive theme tying the stream of consciousness comm Cynthia Barnett writes as many people converse associatively. One topic uncovers another topic which uncovers a third, and so forth. Barnett, like associative talkers, moves through these various topics as though they were connected by more than their personal memory triggers. Sometimes the new topic is related to the previous, but only accidentally. The result is that associative thinkers touch on a breadth of ideas but with no real depth or cohesive theme tying the stream of consciousness communication together. This book could have been good, but it is not good. It contains many interesting and challenging thoughts but never settles on its identity as social history, science history, social commentary, personal memoir, or scientific study. The book is too short to deal with the diversity of thought streams. The book is too long because it never knows why it began.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Read it as part of a book club. It took forever to get through, and it never did pay off for me. There is a lot to learn about mollusks in there, but little entertainment value.

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