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

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

"Part travelogue, part memoir, part deep-dive (literally) into the world of jellyfish... Spineless can serve as inspiration for any of us to reclaim a creative space in the midst of family life." --NPR A former ocean scientist goes in pursuit of the slippery story of jellyfish, rediscovering her passion for marine science and the sea's imperiled ecosystems.Jellyfish have b...

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Title:Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone
Author:Juli Berwald
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Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone Reviews

  • Seth

    A fantastic book to understand a species not discussed that often unless you're a marine biologist or a scientist in a connected field. This book is definitely a passion project for the author with cultural history, scientific history, scientific discoveries and so much more. With a genuine grasp and love for her subject, the journey she takes the reader on is a fascinating one.

  • Rachel Smalter Hall

    I was completely charmed by this science memoir about jellyfish and chasing your dreams. Juli Berwald’s love of marine biology was reawakened when she started contributing to National Geographic to help support her family. Quickly becoming obsessed with jellyfish, she set out on an unexpected journey to find out if jellies thrive in climate change — and whether or not that’s disastrous for humans. The result is this audiobook, full of charming anecdotes about what happens to baby jellies hatched

    I was completely charmed by this science memoir about jellyfish and chasing your dreams. Juli Berwald’s love of marine biology was reawakened when she started contributing to National Geographic to help support her family. Quickly becoming obsessed with jellyfish, she set out on an unexpected journey to find out if jellies thrive in climate change — and whether or not that’s disastrous for humans. The result is this audiobook, full of charming anecdotes about what happens to baby jellies hatched in space, why jellyfish kiss their wounds better, and her 3 pet jellies named “Peanut,” “Butter,” and “Jelly.” Her narration isn’t super polished, which makes it all the more endearing — I love the moments when you can hear her laughing quietly to herself.

  • Arnis
  • Peter Tillman

    Good introduction to the biology of jellyfish. Definitely aimed at the general public, and usually pretty clear, though the book could have used more illustrations. Her interviews and interactions with jellyfish biologists are the highlight of the book. The memoir and travelogue (which are intertwined with the science) were pretty good, although I was getting a little tired of the details of daily life with young children by the end. So, 3.8 stars for the science, 3 stars for the personal stuff.

    Good introduction to the biology of jellyfish. Definitely aimed at the general public, and usually pretty clear, though the book could have used more illustrations. Her interviews and interactions with jellyfish biologists are the highlight of the book. The memoir and travelogue (which are intertwined with the science) were pretty good, although I was getting a little tired of the details of daily life with young children by the end. So, 3.8 stars for the science, 3 stars for the personal stuff. She's a good writer, and her enthusiasm for jellyfish is (to some degree) contagious.

  • Ann

    An interesting subject, a lot of marine biology information in detail, a whole lot of detail. I skimmed past a lot of the jellyfish detail with just enough to know they are scary and amazing, and pose potential for overpopulation dangers, and to enjoy the anecdotes about flying, diving and snorkeling. I still find them fascinating and did enjoy the memoir and travelogue parts.

  • Amy (Other Amy)

    I had a review typed up and the wi-fi crash at the library ate it, and I don't really feel like messing with this much more, so I'm going to go with pros and cons and be done with it.

    Pros:

    ★ There is some nice jellyfish science in here.

    ★ Dr. Berwald does

    I had a review typed up and the wi-fi crash at the library ate it, and I don't really feel like messing with this much more, so I'm going to go with pros and cons and be done with it.

    Pros:

    ★ There is some nice jellyfish science in here.

    ★ Dr. Berwald does manage to meet some interesting people during her jellyfish obsession, including the woman who found the kraken and a woman who swims from Cuba to Miami.

    ★ It is actually more coherent than

    , although I'm not sure more coherent comes out to better in this case.

    Cons:

    ☆ There isn't nearly as much jellyfish science in here as I was expecting.

    ☆ The author spends far too much time navel gazing; her own struggle to find meaning as a fairly privileged middle aged woman just doesn't relate all that much to the jellyfish.

    ☆ The author also fails to do any actual journalism around the 'Save the oceans!' theme she seems to be trying to go after. A look at

    would have served her very well, and I think if she had entered into some dialog with that book she might have had some interesting contributions to make.

    ☆ This is not so much a flaw, but the science doesn't actually answer the question she set out to address. (The question was 'Will jellyfish be the big winners after global warming and ocean acidification?') A refocusing might have been helpful.

    ☆ Overall, it comes across as a bland but breezy read with some nice jellyfish science thrown in. Jellyfish really deserve better.

  • Jennifer

    Positives: Spineless is written in a very approachable manner and is easy to understand. Part science/part memoir, a person who does not normally read science topics or who knows nothing about jellyfish will find the writing easy to understand and quite fascinating at times.

    Negatives:

    1. This book needed to go through another round of editing as there were several easily identifiable grammatical errors that really should have been fixed before publication. It actually made me wonder if this was

    Positives: Spineless is written in a very approachable manner and is easy to understand. Part science/part memoir, a person who does not normally read science topics or who knows nothing about jellyfish will find the writing easy to understand and quite fascinating at times.

    Negatives:

    1. This book needed to go through another round of editing as there were several easily identifiable grammatical errors that really should have been fixed before publication. It actually made me wonder if this was self-published.

    2. The second part of the subtitle: "...the Art of Growing a Backbone..." might as well not have been included as Berwald only addresses how she is now willing to speak out about the affect of climate change on the ocean and why that is important in the last 5-10 pages. In truth, I felt that the effect of climate change should have been stronger even throughout the book if she wanted to demonstrate a real backbone.

    3. The writing can be rather repetitive...there were multiple instances of her explaining something and then in the very next paragraph repeating it again using practically the same exact words. This irritated me to no end as I felt it showed a lack of confidence in the reader's ability to hold on contextually to what is happening in the narrative from one paragraph to the next.

    4. There seemed to be very little structure. As this was Berwald's journey to learning about jellyfish, there is a chronological nature to the events described, but it still jumped around rather oddly and with no context about why a certain section was relevant at times.

    5. I wish the memoir part that was weaved in had a little more "life" to it. I found myself not giving a whit about Berwald herself or really caring that much about why she, herself, in particular wanted to study jellyfish.

    Overall, an easy read. All the information about jellyfish was truly fascinating as I really didn't know much about them before starting this book. So mission accomplished in that sense. The rest of it...just meh.

  • Emma Sea

    jellies!

  • Kelly

    There's not a whole lot to learn here about jellyfish EXCEPT that there's actually little to learn about them because they're not studied very much. This is part science, part memoir, about Juli's love and fascination with jellyfish and the lengths she's gone to to learn more about the illusive creatures. I listened to it on audio, and Juli reads it herself. At times, it's clear how much she's enjoying reading the book and more, how much she loves the story she tells....and even if it's not perf

    There's not a whole lot to learn here about jellyfish EXCEPT that there's actually little to learn about them because they're not studied very much. This is part science, part memoir, about Juli's love and fascination with jellyfish and the lengths she's gone to to learn more about the illusive creatures. I listened to it on audio, and Juli reads it herself. At times, it's clear how much she's enjoying reading the book and more, how much she loves the story she tells....and even if it's not perfect, that delight is hard to not love while listening.

    If you like citizen science -- something she hits on in the last chapters, especially -- or love nature and want to be better about sharing that love and passion, this is a good one. Go in with few expectations on learning a ton about jellyfish, in big part because there is so little to learn.

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