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Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter
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Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  265 ratings  ·  37 reviews
When viewed from a quiet beach, the ocean, with its rolling waves and vast expanse, can seem calm, even serene. But hidden beneath the seaand reminding us of the need to protect it.
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by University Of Chicago Press (first published April 15th 2011)
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Bossypants by Tina FeyThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellOpen by Andre AgassiThe Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha MukherjeeLast Call by Daniel Okrent
From Fresh Air
14th out of 86 books — 62 voters
The Sea Around Us by Rachel CarsonStung! by Lisa-Ann GershwinNocturne, Opus 1 by Norene MoskalskiThe Empty Ocean by Richard EllisThe World Is Blue by Sylvia A. Earle
Ocean/Marine Conservation
7th out of 65 books — 18 voters

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Community Reviews

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Emma Sea
Prager takes a tack in this book that I've been noticing more frequently in non-fiction books. Each chapter ends in a section basically called (to paraphrase) "Who Give A Fuck?" This details the human uses, or potential uses, of the organism being discussed e.g. "In Korea, the deslimed skin of hagfishes is used to make 'eel skin' products such as handbags, shoes, wallets and briefcases" (p. 30).

Presumably this is what readers want and therefore how publishers direct writers to approach the mater
In a world in which what most people know about science could be nestled comfortably inside a toothpaste cap, Prager joins the ranks of such “popularizers” and “divulgators” of the arcane and mysterious “ologies” as E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, Stephen Jay Gould, and even, in his way, Farley Mowatt. In other words, with writers like these for colleagues, popular-science writers face a bar that is set fairly high. Prager, however, doesn’t even bother to stretch. As her title suggests, and as she ex ...more
Alex Templeton
I eagerly awaited for this book to come in to the library, as I adore weird sea creatures. They give credence to the ideas that the world is full of wonders, and science can be crazy interesting. I unfortunately found this book a bit of a disappointment. There were, indeed, many wondrous creatures to behold. Sea cucumbers can apparently eject their inner organs when threatened. Hagfish emit an astonishing amount of slime. And don’t even get me started on sea stars, whose many sucker-filled arms ...more
I hated this book! It kept me from doing my homework, I wasn't even able to eat (and that's hard). I couldn’t put it down for a single second.
This book focused on several marine organisms, from the smartest of cephalopods to the stinging cnidarians. I loved how at the end of each chapter the author wrote why these organisms were important and how they affected us. The writer has an amazing sense of humor, thus the title, Sex Drugs and Sea slime. She is a very creative author when introducing ne
Despite the promising title, I didn't actually finish this book. I'm kind of surprised that it was put out by University of Chicago Press. Like, it's all factual I'm sure, but... the writing is very repetitive and none of the information has stayed with me. Basically, she'll take a sea creature, tell you what it looks like, any distinguishing features/behaviors that it has, tell you how it mates, and bring up some use that modern medicine has found for it. Over and over. It's just uninspired. Pe ...more
There's a lot of really fascinating stuff in here, but does this book need more pictures! Prager goes through long explanations of what these weird creatures look like, but a picture would really do the job better. Anyway, her love of weird creatures is evident, and there's a ton of fascinating stuff. But there's also some rather mundane stuff, and the "what's important about these creatures" in every chapter gets a little repetitive--food chain, possible pharmaceuticals, blah blah. I would real ...more
Apr 15, 2011 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
As heard on "Fresh Air".
Last Ranger

Secrets of a Hidden World.

If there is a final frontier on Earth then it must be in the ocean. In many ways we know more about the Moon than we do about this watery realm. And there is life everywhere, from the tropics to the poles, in incredible numbers and diversity. In her book: Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime author Ellen Prager spotlights some of the strange and wonderful creatures that call the sea their home. Ranging in size from microscopic bacteria and plankton to the largest sharks, kelp, wha
Bob Stocker
The ocean is home to a myriad of intriguing species: tiny phytoplankton that produce much of the oxygen in our atmosphere; slimy hagfish; killer cone snails; Caribbean lobsters that migrate single file to deeper waters after the first autumn tropical storm; and mighty carnivores like orca whales and polar bears. In Sex, Drugs and Sea Slime, Ellen Prager describes these and enough other species to give the reader a sense of the wondrous diversity of life that oceans support.

Prager clearly hopes t
This is a warm and enjoyable survey of the less charismatic, but perhaps more important, forms of marine life. Prager writes in a light and humorous style, and her passion for these creatures comes through on every page.

Breaking from the norm in a biological survey book, Prager does not arrange her book along taxonomic lines, but rather according to behavioral attributes (with the exception of the chapter on snails). In one chapter, she creates a fictional X-games to describe deep-diving, fast-
Michael Connolly
This was a short, easy book to read. The reading difficulty appears to be about high-school level. The author describes a wide variety of animals that live in the oceans. Many of them were quite strange and unfamiliar. This book is a good starting point for choosing which creatures to read more specialized books about. The invertebrate animals were the most interesting to me: zooplankton, salps, copepods, arrow worms, pteropods, siphonophores, and hagfish. There was lots of information on sex an ...more
I first had a bit of difficulty getting into the book because though it was not a large volume the typography was jammed in to the point that for me it made reading it a big tedious. Once I got into it I found it do be interesting and fascinating in many ways. The diversity and unusual things found in the oceans is pretty amazing. The conclusion delves into the ecological perils that we have created in our consumer oriented world that puts the balance of life in some jeopardy. It is easy to dism ...more
Ellen Prager does a fantastic job showing us was lurks in the oceans. Written in a layman's voice yet bringing the science to the forefront, she demonstrates the amazing creatures of the sea while relating it to "Why they matter." A positive, fun look at the strangest habits of the everything from bacteria to whales, all the while, helping us understand the importance in protecting and saving our greatest resource, the oceans. The photo plates embedded within the text bring to life some of the o ...more
Andrea Sampson
Great survey of important biodiversity in the oceans.
Laura Gilfillan
Fascinating. Fascinating. The world is full of strange creatures, especially the sea. The descriptions were brief and left me wanting more, but I suppose that's difficult because creatures in the sea are so difficult to observe. I was already familiar with a lot that she had to say, but I learned a lot of interesting new information too, and enjoyed reading about the old again anyway. Not a second read book, though, once was enough. A lot of talk about slime.
Although I think there was a fair bit of interesting material here, I really didn't like how this book was written. I kept finding my mind wandering. It was written a lot more like an essay than a book. The title and cover were great, and I think that had she written it more like a book and less like a paper for submission to a journal, it would have moved up a few stars in my rating.
I really liked reading this book! I got it on my Kindle and I'm thinking I may want to buy the physical book, so I have the pictures in color. It's a great way to learn about a lot of things that live below the surface of our oceans. This would make a great book for people who don't think about what we get out of this vast natural resource.
A relatively short exploration of some of the curiosities of the ocean, and their importance within their ecosystems and ours. This is a very user friendly book, designed for laypeople to be easy to understand and concise without seeming juvenile. Very interesting and not overly time -consuming, certainly worth a read.
As promised, this book provided an entertaining look at some of the very unusual animals in the ocean. I am now fully informed as to the peculiar habits of the bone-eating zombie snot worm. My only complaint? The book was too short... I would have liked to learn a little more about some of these undersea weirdos.
Claire Scott
Mediocre writing, but FASCINATING information! I would love to see this as a series of awesome nonfiction picture books, a la Nic Bishop. I think Prager's got the knack for describing in an accessible way, and that would parlay beautifully into a really good series of well-photographed, pithy, super neat nonfiction.
Very shallow in its coverage. If you have even a basic knowledge of marine life, you'll find little that is new or interesting. Would have like more detail in the "why they matter sections". We eat them and there are some potential drugs to be made from them is the general gist, but again not enough depth.
I hate to give this 2 stars but I've got to - reads like a textbook, no personalization at all. And this from someone who loves the ocean & its creatures. Good try - some good parts, and and I appreciate the effort to connect the dots between the creatures and why the matter, but dry...
I didn't end up finishing this. While I loved some of the interviews that I heard with Ellen Prager on Science Friday and NPR's Fresh Air, I couldn't stay engaged in the book. It felt too much like a beginner marine biology book at times, and with my biology background I got bored.
Emily Brown
a VERY fun book exploring the ocean at its coolest (yes, sometimes literally). highly recommended for anyone interested in science or just plain cool stuff. very easy to read but still leaves you with a great amount of interesting information.
This seems like a silly reason, but I had problems finishing this book because the type was too damn small. My eyes would get tired and I'd quit or fall asleep. But the chapters on hagfish slime are quite entertaining and educational!
Jonas Gehrlein
The book lacks overarching structure and can feel very samey until the end.
Where Prager talks about the enviromental problems in the oceans and a good list about what .
You can do lifts the book out of mediocrity
An interesting read with lots of neat facts about sea creatures. I skipped the last 3 chapters since they seemed to be all about environmentalism.
Jen Topp
Didn't read it from cover-to-cover but I really enjoyed the bits and pieces I did read. Who knew the sex lives of lobsters could be so interesting??
Maya Berinzon
While the facts were diverse and great, this seemed more like a great buzzfeed series than a cohesive piece of nonfiction.
This was a really interesting read. Clear and lay-person friendly, almost excessively so at times, but overall enjoyable.
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