Spineless by Juli Berwald


"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 been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than ...

Details Spineless

Release DateNov 7th, 2017
PublisherRiverhead Books
GenreNonfiction, Science, Animals, Environment, Nature, Autobiography, Memoir, Science Nature

Reviews Spineless

  • Arnis
  • Amy (Other Amy)
    The taste of the jellyfish was so subtle as to be almost nothing at all. I ate some more. It was a tasty, light, savory salad. In spite of all my anxiety about buying, soaking, preparing, and then eating it, jellyfish was completely unremarkable.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 som...
  • 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 charm...
  • 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 star...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Leah (Jane Speare)
    This is amazing! Now I kind of want to be a marine biologist when I grow up.....Are you worried about a world jellyfish takeover? I went into this thinking I'd learn some cool jellyfish facts and came out of it confident these amazing ocean dwellers will soon be ruling the planet. This story follows the author's journey to study jellyfish; she consults jellyfish scientists on evolutionary history, learns how to properly eat jellyfish (ew), and ex...
  • Susan
    I am not a marine biologist....just a retired RN. This titles just grabbed me "Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. I learned more about jellyfish than I ever wanted to know. This is a slow-read, but a fascinating one. A look into a jellyfish's world turns out to be fascinating and apparently important to global ocean ecology.
  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    Reading a book about jellyfish seemed like the perfect way to start a new year. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be quite the book about jellyfish I was looking for.Spineless is good, but like most creative non-fiction, or the New New Journalism, or whatever we call it today, it followed the mandate that the info on jellies must be interwoven with the story of the author’s own journey into this gorgeous and very strange gelatinous world....
  • Mark
    I have never gave jellyfish much thought, but this ended up being an entertaining and educational read, despite a few dry spots.
  • Tim
    I enjoy science memoirs. They’re great because it’s like you’re riding along on someone’s learning journey! And now I know a lot about jellyfish.
  • 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 pu...
  • Elentarri
    This book is more of the author's personal memoir than any type of science book about jellyfish. Berwald's enthusiasm for jellyfish is obvious and the writing style flows nicely. She includes some incredibly interesting information about the creatures, but there is simply too much personal "stuff" about her, her kids, her husband, her travel trips adn the people she meets to wade through. After a while the biographical pages became boring and wad...
    I would have never thought that jellyfishes could be so interesting. A dive into this special world that I enjoyed a lot, even if I had no background information on this topic.Non avrei mai pensato che il mondo delle meduse potesse essere cosí interessante. Un tuffo in un argomento che non conoscevo per niente e che mi é piaciuto parecchio!THANKS TO EDELWEISS FOR THE PREVIEW!
  • Lauren
    3 stars. While I was very excited about this book, I got off to a rough start with it. I found a typo on the second page (and several more throughout the book) and the author used the word "landlocked" 3 times in as many pages. I knew then that this book, as several others have noted, could have used some more careful editing (personally, I think it could have easily been trimmed by 50 pages or more). Also, as a few other reviewers have noted, th...
  • Judith
    The only caveat I have for this book is that it has no illustrations or photos of any of the jellyfish she describes. That would have been nice, but of course one can google them on the internet and even that way find some videos. Actually I would rate this a 4.5 book.What I liked about it was her intertwining her growing interest in jellyfish with the narrative. Though she is not an academic, she has done extensive research on these animals and ...
  • Kam
    However, the issue of climate change and its relationship to jellyfish is not portrayed firmly in the book’s narrative. The author does seem to aim for it throughout the course of the book, and does seem to reach the conclusion that jellyfish are vital to our understanding of the changing oceans as a result of climate change, but the journey to that conclusion is tenuous. The scientists themselves are still not in agreement as to whether or not...
  • Emily Onufer
    I received a copy of this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaways program. Juli Bernard is an incredible writer with a gift for turning seemingly insignificant moments into wonderful stories. This was a fascinating look at a narrow topic that I have not previously given much thought to. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in nature, evolution, climate change, the oceans, medicine and the field of science generally, and those lo...
  • Diane
    You go, Juli Berwald! She stumbled upon jellyfish in Israel, which inspired her study of ocean science (up to and including a Phd from USC), which inspired her science writing, which inspired her further travel and exploration, which inspired her thoughts about the future, which inspired her to write Spineless.To those who complain that she is not pure scientist/academic, or pure journalist, and who suggest that the inclusion of anecdotes about h...
  • Lane
    I really didn't know much of anything about jellyfish, just bits and bobs. This book definitely gave me an education on this amazing animal. The only part about the book I have a complaint about is how the author kept throwing in personal details of her life, which is fine in small doses, like how the person became interested in the subject they're writing about, etc., but she writes about her relationship troubles and other irrelevant personal s...
  • Jess
    Honestly I was really disappointed in this book. Juli Berwald comes across as a suburban stay-at-home mom who is playing scientist. She has a background in science but I wouldn’t have guessed that if she hadn’t mentioned it in the book. Some of the research in the book was interesting, but she failed to answer her research question (How will climate change impact jellyfish?). The portions where she discusses her life and what she has learned ...
  • Cristina
    I fell deeply in love with these incredible creatures after reading "The thing about jellyfish" by Ali Benjamin (a beautiful novel based on scientific research about jellyfish). When I saw this book at Barnes & Noble I knew I HAVE to read it. I was so excited to expand my poor and almost forgotten "knowledge" about jellyfish from Benjamin's book. I give Spineless 4 starts because as I was reading, I found too many personal anecdotes through the b...
  • Angela
    This was an enjoyable book about jellyfish. It covers topics such as the biology and chemistry of jellyfish and our interactions with them. This includes things such as using jellyfish as a food source or dealing with them clogging power sources by the water. The book covers conversations and interactions with many jellyfish researchers, fishermen, and enthusiasts. It also presents a lot of information without being too overwhelming. However, the...
  • Lara
    I never got hooked on this one, but I enjoyed the mix of science and memoir, and definitely learned a lot about jellies! I'll admit that I started skimming towards the end though...for whatever reason it just didn't completely keep my interest. In any case, I thought jellyfish were pretty awesome before I read this (which is mostly why I read this), and I think they're even more awesome and interesting now. I think I just would have liked more of...
  • Karen
    I usually love books like this: part science or history, part travelogue. This one is fine, but not remarkable.It is absolutely what the title says: a mixture of a story of a woman finding her way in life (growing a backbone) and the story of jellyfish. Science interspersed with travel and reminiscing. I listened to the audiobook. The author narrates, which I love in theory, but in practice she wasn't good enough. I got through it by listening at...
  • Gayle
    This is a book about jellyfish and how mysterious they are. How long have they been around and what if any purpose can and will they fill. They sting but they may also help out according to some of the studies that are being done. There are many different kinds of jellyfish and the author travels to learn the good and the bad things affecting them. A very interesting book.I got this for free in a Goodreads Giveaway.
  • Joseph Williams
    Listened to the audio.Clearly people have all sorts of passions. This book is in a similar genre to the excellent Soul of an Octopus and is very comparable. The best parts are the interesting little factoid about our spineless "friends" or "enemies." I found the narrative sometimes hard to follow, but that might merely be because I was listening to the book. Overall, three stars since as GoodReads ratings go, "I liked it."
  • Jeanne
    I was surprised that jellyfish are so fascinating. There are a lot of mind blowing revelations about jellyfish revealed in the author's extensive research. This book is part memoir, part travelogue, part scientific journalism. I wish the author had picked one out of those three formats for focus. Instead I lost interest about half way through because I enjoy a linear narrative and this was too disjointed to hold my interest to the end.
  • Emilia
    A somewhat personal memoir that goes into the history and study of jellyfish, while also focusing on modern impacts. For example, is climate change increasing jellyfish population or is the recent growth part of a natural cycle. It was a really interesting, informative book, plus it was overly scientific to the point you would need a degree to understand it. I liked it enough that I'll probably buy the edited version as soon as I can.