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, Audiobook, Biology, Science Nature, Biography, Natural History

Reviews Spineless

  • 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...
  • Arnis
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Noah
    Interesting stories about Jellyfish in regards to their biology, the fishing industry and chasing them across the oceans, but about half of it was personal and uninteresting details of the author's personal life.
    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!
  • Bill Leach
    The author relates her travels in search of information on jellyfish, providing good material on these animals.Jellyfish periodically increase in numbers to the point where swarms harm fisheries and even block industrial cooling systems. Great controversy as to why these population explosions occurs with the blame being variously put on pollution, removal of predators from over-fishing, and of course climate change.Jellyfish are eaten, with China...
  • 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...
  • Julie
    I enjoyed this book but the contents weren't comparable to other science books I've read. I was hoping to read about Berwald's own research on jellyfish but her book focused on the research of other jellyfish scientists. additionally, Berwald's discussion of jellyfish science drifts in a disconnected, dreamy haze from chapter to chapter. towards the end she discusses coral bleaching and ocean acidification which didn't seem to be related to jelly...
  • 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 ...
  • Robin
    I got this book for a book nerd challenge. I never would have read a whole book about jellyfish otherwise. I'm glad I did, though! The author writes many, many interesting facts about jellyfish, but you don't feel like you're reading a textbook. She also tells us about her life as a married woman with two kids, about the love of her life before she'd met her husband, and some of her social life with other jellyfish scientists around the world. Sh...
  • Paula
    FABULOUS! On par with Moneyball and Born to Run, maybe better. This has been sitting around for a while, because, well, jellyfish? Turns out Berwald is a top-shelf raconteur with an eagle eye for editing. She's an objective scientist with the rare skill of also being a gifted science teacher- the kind who's class goes by in the blink of an eye and you realize you've been on the edge of your seat at the same time you're sorry its over. She dumbs-d...
  • Britta
    The science of this book is SUPER cool, but I could have done without all the personal anecdotes from the author. Perhaps I'm cold-hearted but hearing her go on about the surfer she loved who didn't love her back kindof took away from the awesomeness of the jellyfish research. (I DID love her details of visiting Japan though--her descriptions immediately transported me back.)The science-end of the story, however, is amazing. While the "moral" of ...
  • Zach
    Want to learn some fun facts about jellyfish? This is the book for you!It's also the story of how the author learned to stand up for what she believes in and not let opportunities pass her by.The jellyfish facts are interesting, especially the focus on what we don't know and what current methods are being used to try and illuminate those areas. Specifically, where jellyfish polyps actually are in the ocean and when / where jellyfish blooms occur....
  • Ashley
    When the book was a pop-sci exploration of jellyfish in a variety of ways, from explaining their surprising anatomy to their crazy reproductive cycle, I really liked it. Really, really liked it. Jellyfish fascinate me because they challenge my sine qua non definitions of "alive", so I loved getting to know them in more detail.When the book was a travelogue, those parts were somewhat interesting but definitely subpar. {And in the audiobook, somewh...
  • 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...
  • Nathan Meyers
    This book contains an average memoir and above-average science writing on jellyfish mixed haphazardly together. The organization in the first half of the book is a rollercoaster. The second half of the book is better-organized, but is mostly a very average travelogue.Some other comments:The science writing on the jellyfish was nice, but separated by too much filler.The science writing on the "save the oceans!" theme that Juli says is one of her m...
  • 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...