Book Review – ‘Spineless’ by Susan Middleton and Sylvia A. Earle

Eye-popping photography of fauna not everyone gets to see up close – and this is definitely up close.

Spineless Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Non-Fiction, Photography, Nature, Biology

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

In Spineless, acclaimed photographer Susan Middleton explores the mysterious and surprising world of marine invertebrates, which represent more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean. They are also astonishingly diverse in their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors—in nature’s fashion show, they are the haute couture of marine life.

This collection of more than 250 remarkable images is the result of seven years of painstaking fieldwork across the Pacific Ocean, using photographic techniques that Middleton developed to capture these extremely fragile creatures on camera. She also provides short essays that examine the place these invertebrates occupy on the tree of life, their vast array of forms, and their lives in the ocean. Scientist Bernadette Holthuis contributes profiles describing each species, many of them for the first time. Middleton’s book is a stunning new view of nature that harmoniously combines art and science.


A break away from fantasy and contemporary books to escapism of a different kind, ‘Spineless’ tempted my imagination as much as any YA novel or artwork in a gallery. Comprised of jaw dropping photography with just enough detail to awe and inspire, igniting the inner observer and scientist in us all. Plus, touching on the artistic with hues of colour and iridescence expertly captured through the lens.

I loved the literary and pop culture quotes scattered through the narrative it provided an additional tidbit grounding this amazing work in the now for folk who don’t have a science degree.

This whole book is a great snapshot of the environmental and scientific landscapes. ‘Spineless’ gives you a great deal of technical oversight, as well as educating the reader about our environment and its threats. But on the whole it simply illustrates the beauty of nature and adaptation in the invertebrate world.

The writing style is both academic and flamboyant at the same time, drawing the reader along on an adventure both informative and inspiring. I was certainly ready to jump back into my marine biology studies after reading the book.

A great addition (and better than a glossary) were the inclusion of Species profiles towards the rear of the book. A photographic reference and brief zoological description.

We also get a bit of the behind the scenes mechanics of how this photography was executed in the final pages, which I feel not only adds credence, but is yet another aspect of inspiration for those thinking about producing their own accounts of nature through the lens.

Overall feeling: Inspiring (and a little fish in shock and awe)

Spineless Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Spineless Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg


© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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