Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book fifteen: The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson (A.K.A Art Lobster: Literary edition).

I stumbled across this book while browsing Amazon.com.  And with a blog titled Art Lobster, and as an avid reader, how could I not buy The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean by Trevor Corson.  I like books like this.  Whether it's bridge, butterflies, or invented languages, I like non-fiction books that focus intently on a single, unexpected subject.

This book about lobsters didn't disappoint.  Holy cow, lobsters are weird.  And Corson delights in tracking down scientists who are trying to figure out their strange lives.  Let's start with the molting, which requires the lobster to shed the entire hard shells.  And the hard shells run down their throats and through their digestive systems.  Ouch! And Gross!  The poor lobsters are momentarily little more than vulnerable, gelatinous blobs while they wait for their new larger shells to harden.

Then there's the mating, which can only happen immediately after the female has shed her shell. And since the males are normally very aggressive, the female lobsters have to deploy a flotilla of chemicals to stay attractive and keep her partners from eating them.

The book also includes a lot of interesting information about how science is working with the lobster industry to ensure a sustainable harvest.  This story made a "tree hugger" like me question my usual, immediate assumption that the environmentalists are always right.

The book isn't perfect.  It's got lots of redundancy. In fact, sometimes I was pretty sure I was re-reading the book.  And it feels more limited that other single-subject books I've read. The books focuses almost exclusively on lobsters off the coast of Maine and on science and the lobster industry.   With so many species of lobsters around the world, with a culinary industry that seems entranced by lobsters, and with (HELLO) so many lobsters in the world of fine art, I think this book would have been better if it had expanded it's scope.  

Nonetheless, The Secret Life of Lobsters makes for a fun read and a great blog post.

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