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Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures
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Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  84 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
The Smithsonian's star paleontologist takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research

Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam ent
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Viking
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Nicholas Deceptively tricky question, but a pretty simple response: I like figuring out the answer to mysteries in evolution. With whales there's mysteries to…moreDeceptively tricky question, but a pretty simple response: I like figuring out the answer to mysteries in evolution. With whales there's mysteries to nearly every aspect of their lives -- and certainly about their evolutionary past and future too. Focusing on whales, as a scientist, means that there's a lot still yet to uncover. Also, a big part of the fun is working with other scientists, who bring different expertise and viewpoints to the effort. I hope the book successfully conveys the fun of how scientists figure things out about these mysterious organisms.(less)
Nicholas I'm a bit biased, but I wrote the book because I mainly wanted to share stories about how scientists figure out mysterious things -- in this case,…moreI'm a bit biased, but I wrote the book because I mainly wanted to share stories about how scientists figure out mysterious things -- in this case, some of the most mysterious mammals on the planet. So, yes, if you're into nature, but also if you're into detective stories, and the thrill of making new discoveries. Hope that helps, and hope you find a copy! (less)

Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I finished reading “Spying on Whales” by Nick Pyeson. I found it to be an informative book on everything whales. I learned quite a few new things about whales. Beautiful animals!
Steve Nolan
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think having read "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" right before reading this really soured this one for me - there was more paleontology in this book than there was in the dino book.
Melissa McGuire
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Since i was little I always was so intrigued about whales. This book lived up to what I was expecting and I learned quite a fee new things.
Allen Adams
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it

Writing about science in a manner that is entertaining and accessible while also conveying the desired information with clarity and concision – not an easy task by any means. Finding the proper balance of wonky jargon and narrative engagement requires a backwards-and-forwards depth of knowledge about the subject matter AND significant storytelling acumen. It’s a shot at harmony while dodging discord.

In short, there’s a real art to science writing.

Nick Pyen
Jul 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received an advance reading copy of this book, for free, through Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for my honest review.

As the curator of fossil marine mammals at Smithsonian, there is no denying that Nick Pyenson is an expert in his field. The research he conducted while writing Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures is meticulously documented in over 40 pages of notes at the end of the book.

The first half of Spying on Whales (“The Past”) is
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of my first favourite books was The Whale Tale, which featured Kermit the Frog and his nephew Robin saving some whales from evil (pig) whalers. I also did a few projects on whales in elementary school; I've always been a fan of the giant marine mammals. My interest in maritime and nautical history has led me to read a bit about whales especially in the context of whaling, but I'm not at all knowledgeable about their biology. I learned a ton from this book, both about whales' evolution and bi ...more
Natalie Keating
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is SO good! I have always been interested in whales and paleontologist Nick Pyenson definitely has a deep and abiding love for them that comes through in this book. He divides the book into three sections—past, present, and future—and writes eloquently about whales. Ancient whales that were fossilized, whales whose populations were decimated by whaling, and what the future may bring for whales in a world populated by more and more humans.

I think the most fascinating thing I read was ab
Rick  Jackofsky
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I saw this book listed as a Goodreads giveaway. I thought it looked interesting and I was pleasantly surprised when I got the email informing me that I was a a Giveaways winner. The copy I received was an "advance uncorrected manuscript", (hopefully the typos, were corrected before it went to press), typos, missing index, missing glossary, and blank (TK) Whale Lineage Diagram aside, I found this to be a very well written and informative essay. The author, obviously very knowledgable in the field ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I won this book on Goodreads. I had a difficult time with this book, it just didn't really hold my interest. At first I was thinking, oh no not another book spewing global warming/climate change and the inaccuracies and political spin that surround it but thank God it was limited to just a few sentences about it here and there. There are some interesting facts about whales here but also some mundane as well. It is mostly a book on whale bones rather than living ones, but nonetheless a lot of inf ...more
Robert Leet
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Informative, enjoyable

An enjoyable read on whales, both entertaining and enlightening (with a nice bibliography if you want more). Not just about science, but also the pursuit of science.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway.
Fascinating! Love when I learn new things and I learned a lot when I read this book. I now love whales.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Won as a goodreads giveaway. Thoroughly enjoyed. Made me ask a lot of questions about whales I'd never really asked myself before. Informative and well written.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-read
This book was a bit of an impulse buy on my part but it turned out to be a great move as it was a fascinating and informative read.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really love whales, okay?
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: from-publishers
Loved this book - learned so much and was so entertained the whole time
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
NF Science
265 pages

Nick Pyenson takes us along in his scientific journey
as he studies the history of whales. Informative
and enjoyable.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
this is an informative book, easily accessible to people who aren't familiar with science. I enjoyed reading it and while I had to often refer to my dictionary, it was met with a lot of new learning, something I love doing.
May 25, 2018 marked it as to-read
Won this from goodreads giveaways. Will update review when I receive and have read it. Hoping that the research referred to in the book is field research and is humane so I don't end up hating it.
Abdikaafi Elmi
rated it it was ok
Jun 02, 2018
Abbey Eoff-Thomas
rated it it was amazing
Jun 29, 2018
rated it liked it
Jul 12, 2018
Aristea Stecos
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Jun 22, 2018
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Jun 28, 2018
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Jul 05, 2018
rated it did not like it
Jun 09, 2018
Trish Lee
rated it liked it
Jul 08, 2018
שלומית טביבי
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“We, as paleontologists, are used to asking questions without having all the facts.” 0 likes
“We sent whalesong into interstellar space because the creatures that sing these songs are superlative beings that fill us with awe, terror, and affection. We have hunted them for thousands of years and scratched them into our mythologies and iconography. Their bones frame the archways of medieval castles. They’re so compelling that we imagine aliens might find them interesting — or perhaps understand their otherworldly, ethereal song.” 0 likes
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