The best book on natural history that I've read in many years. Scholarly without being at all pedantic. Completely engrossing, it introduced me to an astonishing world of undersea life, connecting those fascinating artifacts that many of us have picked up along the shore with such diverse themes as paleontology, ancient trade routes, marine ecology and even the 17th century slave trade. Most fascinating of all for me was the lifestyle, reproduction strategies and adaptations of the vast array of creatures generally classed as molluscs and the beautiful, iconic shells that they leave behind.
The perfect book for those with mollusks on the mind-- the writing is accessible, yet thoroughly scientific, and Scales balances biological lessons with insight into humanity and its history. I wasn't expecting a chapter on the connection between sea shells and colonial slavery, for instance, but this surprising link is just one of the well-argued reasons that these shells really matter to who we are and how the world functions.
Boring. I found little emphasis on ecology and environment, instead the author focuses mostly on the pretty colours and shapes.
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