The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson: A Book Review

May 8, 2023

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural WorldThe Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World by Patrik Svensson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. By this book’s ending, I felt a bit gutted, like one of the fish (they are fish) that Patrik Svensson writes about in this incredible work.

How to describe it? Nature writing would define it, and like the best nature writing, Svensson’s a bit philosophical about the facts and statistics he shares. He ties thousands of years of historical documentation of the study of eels with his own experiences of catching them with his dad while growing up in Sweden.

The book also shares how the study of eels influenced Sigmund Freud in his development of psychoanalytic theory, and he shares the beauty and grace of Rachel Carson’s depiction of them in her first book. The fascination of eels for many, Carson included, stems from how confounding they have proven for efforts to pin them down and study them.

But Svensson does more than help us appreciate the slippery and hidden nature of the eel. By the time I finished this book, I felt that the eel was at the heart of the mystery of life. And one thing is certain. We are wiping them out. The parallels between them and humans are clear.

The Book of Eels is a gift to anyone who loves reading about the natural world. Whether you enjoy fishing for them, eating them, or appreciating them as overlooked wonders of the natural world, there is something in this book for you. I highly recommend this book.

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