Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

In an attempt to change up and bolster my reading existence which has felt a little stale these past few months, I crowdsourced book recommendations on FB. One of those recommendations (from two people no less) was Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller of NPR fame. It’s a fascinating biography/memoir of a person I had never heard of, David Starr Jordan. Amazon describes: “David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered. Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world. When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet. Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.” I devoured this book in two days. And, while it narrowly wasn’t five-star for me (too many longer descriptions sometimes), it was pretty close. Highly recommend (and the cover is beautiful – I wish I had had a hard copy as I imagine the scales of the fish were embossed, so it would have felt as satisfying as it looks).

One thought on “Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

  1. Pingback: Summer Reading 2022 | Read Between the Wines

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