The Deep Blue Sea: Science Previews, Jul. 2021, Pt. 3 | Prepub Alert

Science titles have become increasingly prominent, but three major books on the sea in a single month is a standout. 

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Barnett, Cynthia. The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans. Norton. Jul. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780393651447. $27.95. NATURE/SEASHELLS

While offering a cultural account of seashells as money, adornment, and art throughout human history, Barnett also argues that the fate of the mollusks who create them constitutes a dire warning about the consequences of climate change. Following Barnett’s Rain, long-listed for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science Writing.

Scales, Helen. The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean, and the Looming Threat That Imperils It. Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780802158222. $27. NATURE/OCEANS & SEAS

The deep blue sea boasts multitudinous life forms we are only now encountering and topography craggier than the Himalayas, creating a remarkably interconnected ecosystem that’s our newest frontier. Argues Scales, who teaches marine biology and science writing at Cambridge University, getting to know it better is essential because it hugely influences our lives.

Widder, Edith, Ph.D. Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea. Random. Jul. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780525509240. $28. Downloadable. MEMOIR/NATURALISTS

Cofounder, CEO, and senior scientist at the nonprofit Ocean Research & Conservation Association, MacArthur fellow Widder takes us beneath the waves to explore bioluminescence, among the most common and important means of communication in nature. As she explains, temporary blindness after surgery during college left her fascinated with light, but diving down 800 feet and witnessing wild bioluminescent activity really got her hooked.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Book Review; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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