The Sound of the Sea: Book summary and reviews of The Sound of the Sea by Cynthia Barnett

The Sound of the Sea

Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans

by Cynthia Barnett

The Sound of the Sea by Cynthia Barnett X
The Sound of the Sea by Cynthia Barnett
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Book Summary

A compelling history of seashells and the animals that make them, revealing what they have to tell us about nature, our changing oceans, and ourselves.

Seashells have been the most coveted and collected of nature's creations since the dawn of humanity. They were money before coins, jewelry before gems, art before canvas.

In The Sound of the Sea, acclaimed environmental author Cynthia Barnett blends cultural history and science to trace our long love affair with seashells and the hidden lives of the mollusks that make them. Spiraling out from the great cities of shell that once rose in North America to the warming waters of the Maldives and the slave castles of Ghana, Barnett has created an unforgettable account of the world's most iconic seashells. She begins with their childhood wonder, unwinds surprising histories like the origin of Shell Oil as a family business importing exotic shells, and charts what shells and the soft animals that build them are telling scientists about our warming, acidifying seas.

From the eerie calls of early shell trumpets to the evolutionary miracle of spines and spires and the modern science of carbon capture inspired by shell, Barnett circles to her central point of listening to nature's wisdom―and acting on what seashells have to say about taking care of each other and our world.

12 black-and-white illustrations

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this well-researched, consistently illuminating work, the author smoothly combines environmental science and cultural history to trace the origins and decline of mollusks...Fans of Rebecca Giggs' excellent Fathoms will find much to savor here as well. An absolutely captivating nature book." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] riveting study...Barnett delivers the goods with erudition and evocative prose...an entertaining, colorful tour of a surprisingly dynamic part of nature." - Publishers Weekly

"In the deeply researched tradition of Rachel Carson's sea trilogy, Cynthia Barnett enchantingly weaves poetic musings with deep-seated conservation wisdom and ocean science. An instant classic of nature history―a science-driven work of literature full of seaside grandeur." - Douglas Brinkley, best-selling author of The Wilderness Warrior

"Writing with clarity and heart, turning science into prose and history into useful knowledge, Cynthia Barnett has given us a book for the ages. The Sound of the Sea is timely and mind-opening, echoing voices from the wondrous world of shell-harbored creatures of the sea. She urges us to give them our ear in ways we never have before, for in this transitional age, their truth is our fate, their wisdom our answer, and their future our hope." - Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gulf

"The Sound of the Sea is as exquisite, many-chambered, and luminous as the shells Cynthia Barnett describes in her wild and hybrid book. It is a travelogue, a finely argued indictment of colonization and capitalism, a reanimation of scientists lost to the official narrative, and, most ringingly, the story of the way shells and the soft and vulnerable animals within them reflect back both the greatness of human ingenuity and the equally immense and rippling effect of human harm to the natural world. This song of mingled praise and warning left me shell-shocked, wonder-struck, utterly delighted." - Lauren Groff, best-selling author of Florida

This information about The Sound of the Sea was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Cynthia Barnett Author Biography

Photo: Jennifer Adler

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on water and climate change around the world. Her new book, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans, was released in July 2021 from W.W. Norton.

Ms. Barnett is also the author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the 2016 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis, which articulates a water ethic for America. Blue Revolution was named by the Boston Globe as one of the top 10 science books of 2011. The Globe describes Ms. Barnett's author persona as "part journalist, part mom, part historian, and part optimist." The Los Angeles Times writes that she "takes us back to the ...

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