Reviews of Sentient by Jackie Higgins

Sentient

How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses

by Jackie Higgins

Sentient by Jackie Higgins X
Sentient by Jackie Higgins
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2022, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 1, 2022, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Herschbach
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About this Book

Book Summary

Perfect for fans of The Soul of an Octopus and The Genius of Birds, this remarkable book explores how we process the world around us by analyzing the incredible sensory capabilities of thirteen animals and reveals that we are not limited to merely five senses.

There is a scientific revolution stirring in the field of human perception. Research has shown that the extraordinary sensory powers of our animal friends can help us better understand the same powers that lie dormant within us.

From the harlequin mantis shrimp with its ability to see a vast range of colors, to the bloodhound and its hundreds of millions of scent receptors; from the orb-weaving spider whose eyes recognize not only space but time, to the cheetah whose ears are responsible for its perfect agility, these astonishing animals hold the key to better understanding how we make sense of the world around us. Eye-opening and captivating, Sentient will change the way you think about what it is to be human.

Chapter One

True to its various names, the peacock, painted, or harlequin mantis shrimp is one of the most colorful creatures on the Great Barrier Reef. Neither shrimp nor mantis, Odontodactylus scyllarus is more akin to a diminutive lobster with a kaleidoscopic carapace of indigos, electric blues, and bottle greens. Yet this captivating countenance belies a somewhat irascible temperament. One spring day in 1998, at the Sea Life center in the English seaside town of Great Yarmouth, a particularly pugilistic specimen named Tyson astounded onlookers by smashing through the thick glass wall of his aquarium. "He was clawing and snapping. Nobody dared touch him;' the manager told the national press. "All our visitors assume our sharks are the man-eating killers, but they are pussycats compared to Tyson. His power is incredible:' Tyson was not the first to attempt such a jailbreak; these marine crustaceans, known as stomatopods, have developed quite a reputation among aquarists and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Over the course of the book, Higgins introduces readers to a menagerie of creatures—from peacock mantis shrimps and octopuses to orbweaver spiders, cheetahs and duck-billed platypuses—to illustrate the ingenuous sensory mechanisms our animal kin have evolved in adaptation to the world around them. In each case, these examples serve as a springboard for discussing parallels in the sphere of human perception, showing that our senses are both more powerful and more varied than we may commonly assume...continued

Full Review Members Only (862 words).

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Herschbach).

Media Reviews

The Times (UK)
For all that it's stuffed with entertaining oddities, Sentient is not a book about oddities, and Higgins's argument, although colorful, is rigorous and focused. She leads us to adopt an entirely unfamiliar way of thinking about the senses.

Booklist (starred review)
Elucidated with scientific fluency and narrative verve...Higgins' in-depth tour of the senses recalibrates our sense of ourselves, other species, and the singular miracle of life.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Though full of arcane scientific information, the book is narrated in an easily readable tone, and Church's well-rendered illustrations are a bonus. An appealingly written, enlightening, and sometimes eerie journey into the extraordinary possibilities for the human senses.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Wildlife filmmaker uses discoveries about animal perception to explore human senses in this eminently entertaining look at the natural world...Fans of David Attenborough's documentaries or the works of Helen Scales will savor this delightful study.

Library Journal
An engaging, thoroughly researched work for thoughtful readers that will appeal to those who wish to explore the senses, neuroscience, and the extraordinary abilities of animals. Higgins is a patient guide, and her writing is accessible throughout.

Author Blurb Craig Foster, filmmaker and Academy Award winner for My Octopus Teacher
Jackie puts a mirror up to the natural world so we can sense ourselves through our animal relatives. I love this book because it reminds me of our wildness, it reminds me how powerful our senses are, and it celebrates animals and humans in a way that binds us together. The stories are so interesting and well researched, and the language speaks of an author with a deep sense of biological wisdom and wonder.

Author Blurb Richard Dawkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Greatest Show on Earth
How would the First Encounter with an extraterrestrial alien change our view of ourselves? Great science fiction explores the question. But we don't need science fiction. The aliens are all around us – the octopus with its mysterious body-image, the electric scanner of the platypus's bill, the magnetic compass of a migrating bird, the moth antenna that can detect the scent of a female in quadrillion-fold dilution. Jackie Higgins's lyrical, literate style will charm you while her book stuns your imagination with strange, other-worldly truths.

Author Blurb Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
Sentient is a revelatory book. Exploring animals' beyond-human senses opens to us whole new realms of experience. Thank you, Jackie Higgins, for enlarging our understanding of what the world looks, feels, tastes, and smells like.

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Beyond the Book

The Biodiversity Crisis

Great gray owl From the peacock mantis shrimp's remarkable ability to perceive polarized light to the orbweaver spider's time-tracking powers, Jackie Higgins' Sentient showcases the varied sensory powers of a wide range of animals, highlighting the rich diversity of life forms found across the natural world.

Yet as climate change intensifies and habitat loss accelerates due to human encroachment, that diversity is in critical decline, with species extinction rates higher than at any other time in human history. According to a 2019 United Nations report, about one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction—many within decades. Indeed, if the current trajectory persists, up to one-third of all species could be wiped out within ...

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