What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe

304 Pages

Published in 2017 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Aside from the fact that this was a New York Times Bestseller, longlisted for the PEN award, and one of the 10 most popular science books of 2016, who wouldn’t want to know what a fish knows?

I for one would love to know! Scuba diver or not, this was just a fascinating read. I learned so much about different species of fishes, about our relationship to fishes, and about the incredible lives they lead. I have a newfound respect for fish, and a desire to observe them for even greater lengths of time than I already do, and of course to try to help conserve them.

If you still have fish on the menu at home, I urge you to read this book to learn more about the animal you believe to be without awareness or the ability to feel suffering. While this is not a book that advocates vegetarianism or veganism, it does shed light on the terrible ways fish suffer at our own hands; and on the impact we have on the ocean as we use it unchecked.

This book also sheds light on so many old stereotypes. Fish can’t feel pain? Wrong. Fish don’t have feelings and moods? Wrong. Fish can’t get attached or form bonds? Wrong. Fish don’t have cultures? Wrong. Fish can’t learn? Wrong.

Jonathan Balcombe—a well-known ethologist and author—expertly walks the reader through the latest science and learnings on fishes. He makes all of it incredibly fascinating too by sharing stories and anecdotes of fishes from across the world, all illustrating the incredible complexity of these creatures we think little of.

For anyone interested in fish, in science, or in the ocean, this is a great read!

And, if you’re into animal welfare, you can learn more about Jonathan on his website. He does have some other books that may be of interest too, including “The Inner Lives of Animals,” and “Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good.”

Written by Candice Landau
I'm an active Divemaster, a lover of marine life and all efforts related to marine conservation, a newly certified tech diver and a member of various scuba organizations in the Pacific Northwest. I write articles related to diving and spend my non-diving time writing and providing digital marketing services to nonprofits and businesses.