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Eloquence of the Sardine

Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea

Bill François; translated by Antony Shugaar

St. Martin's Press

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ISBN10: 1250272432
ISBN13: 9781250272430


192 Pages



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With erudition and charm, marine scientist and orator Bill François takes us on a deep dive into the secret lives of the world’s aquatic creatures, from musical whales and immortal eels to the cod that discovered America and the herring that almost caused a military conflict—to name but a few. We hear the songs of seahorses and scallops, eavesdrop on the conversations of lobsters, and swim in the glow of the fluorescent jellyfish.

A poetic blend of ancient myths, modern science, and storytelling through the ages, Eloquence of the Sardine is an invitation and guide to a dreamlike underwater world where the legends are often more believable than the incredible reality.

This is nature writing at its best—informative, captivating, and accessible, with a personal angle, about an endlessly fascinating and still mysterious subject.

A seafood platter or a day at the beach will never be the same.


Praise for Eloquence of the Sardine

"With an elegant mix of storytelling, science, and humor, Francoise delights us with his infectious love of life beneath the waves. These aquatic reveries pry open the oceans’ mysteries to reveal pearls within."—Jonathan Balcombe, The New York Times bestselling author of Super Fly and What a Fish Knows

"Delightfully told in stunningly beautiful language, Eloquence of the Sardine is a rare book combining deep scientific insight and first-hand experience with the sheer poetry of the sea. Take the plunge, immerse yourself, feel the beauty, and be amazed!"—Carl Safina, The New York Times bestselling author of Beyond Words and Becoming Wild

"We live on a planet that is mostly covered in oceans, but we hardly know the stories contained in them. In the tradition of Rachel Carson, Bill Francois reminds us that these stories come from many voices—lonely whales, educated octopuses, and insatiable tuna—if we're willing to listen. With lyricism and honesty, Francois speaks for these voices, whether they live far out on the blue water or show up on our dinner plates. The stories in this book will convince you that these voices are all worth knowing, saving, and celebrating."—Nick Pyenson, author of Spying on Whales

"In Eloquence of the Sardine, Bill François guides us on a fascinating journey to reveal dimensions beneath the seas rarely seen by most of us. With a talent as a storyteller and the insights of a scientist, he introduces us to a gallery of undersea inhabitants and considers lessons we can learn from them on the future of our oceans. Weaving personal stories with physics theory, history, and parables, Eloquence of the Sardine is an enchanting and insightful exploration of life in the underwater world of our rivers, seas, and oceans."—Vint Virga, author of The Soul of All Living Creatures

"Full of engrossing stories, gentle humor, and wit, Bill Francois's eye-opening exploration of the underwater world takes the reader on a fascinating scientific and philosophical journey into the secret lives of fishes. Eloquence of the Sardine is exactly that: eloquent, as well as revelatory and highly readable."—Marc Bekoff, co-author of A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World Without Humans

"An illuminating debut collection . . . François’s tone is conversational, and his passion and excitement are contagious . . . a fun deep dive into marine life."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


The boulder was so high that I had to take off my beach shoes so as not to slip while I climbed. It was more comfortable that way. With their rusty buckles and translucent plastic straps, these jelly shoes—or “jellyfish”...

About the author

Bill François; translated by Antony Shugaar

Physicist and naturalist Bill François has always been fascinated by aquatic life. After he graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris with a PhD in fish hydrodynamics, his passion for writing and public speaking propelled him into the world of words. Now he blends the two universes to highlight the importance of protecting our oceans and share his love for the marine creatures.

Vincent Breton

Bill François