Shark Tales | Remarkably Readable Science

Two wonderful books explore marine science and the science of sharks.

Graham, Jasmin. Sharks Don’t Sink: Adventures of a Rogue Shark Scientist. Pantheon. Jul. 2024. 224p. ISBN 9780593685259. $28. MEMOIR

Marine biologist Graham specializes in small tooth sawfish and hammerhead sharks. This memoir about her journey to becoming a shark scientist will grab readers from the start. She describes the many obstacles she faced as a Black woman trying to make it in a profession dominated by men. Navigating the confines of traditional academia proved to be rough waters for her too, so she took a different route to becoming the award-winning scientist and independent researcher she is today. Graham, along with three other Black women, cofounded Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS), which has a mission to support and to provide opportunities to other Black women in the field. Her book is about the sharks too. Written in a way that educates and gently informs, it shows readers why they should care about the possible extinction of various species of sharks. Graham asserts that while sharks are predators, the ecosystem needs them. VERDICT Readers certainly do not need to be scientists to enjoy this exceptional, well-written book, but it’s an excellent title for people, especially women and people of color, who are considering a career in marine science. This heartfelt story offers insight into both the stresses and excitement that await them.—Amy Lewontin

Long, John. The Secret History of Sharks: The Rise of the Ocean’s Most Fearsome Predators. Ballantine. Jul. 2024. 480p. ISBN 9780593598078. $35. NAT HIST

Long (paleontology, Flinders Univ.) gathers past and current research to tell the story of sharks throughout roughly 500 million years. He details fossils found all over the world and notes how these finds have contributed to people’s understanding of this group. These findings include megalodon teeth in Japan, a great white shark skull in Chile, toothed whales in New Zealand, and Mesozoic sharks in Montana. In the human era, sharks show up in mythology, industry, and art. Long’s book shows that fossils can reveal information about size, shape, movement, growth and feeding habits, as these remains depict sharks in the moment of eating prey, scavenging, and mating, all of which reveal much about their behavior. They can also tell scientists much about marine ecosystems today, such as the processes of adaptation, extinction, hunting, metabolism, migration, and parasite management. As databases of fossils grow, scientists worldwide can craft theories about shark origins and evolution. Long shares the work of many scientists he has met or admired in his decades-long study of sharks. VERDICT This chronological shark history is thorough, remarkably readable, and recommended for general readers and specialists alike.—Catherine Lantz

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