The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  346 ratings  ·  51 reviews
The most mysterious and elusive of all sea creatures, the giant squid -at least sixty feet long and weighing more than a ton- is also one of the largest. With two whip-like tentacles, eight arms studded with toothed suckers, and two lidless eyes the size of dinner plates, Architeurthis has inspired myths and movies, nightmares and religious conversions. Yet it has never be...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1998)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 804)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
4 stars for the biology, 2 stars for the mythology. That evens out to a 3 right? The Giant Squid is a fascinating and elusive creature. Up to 60 feet long with nothing hard in it's skeleton except a vestigial shell (squids have evolved from mollusks like snails). All of our knowledge of the creature comes from remains that are washed ashore or the contents of whale's stomachs. No one has seen or observed an Architeuthis in its natural habitat so everything about it is open to speculation. What i...more
Danielle T
At the time of publication, this was one of the most definitive compilations on Architeuthis. Alas, that was 1998, and this book is now showing its age, but it's still a very good survey of the historical and cultural accounts of the giant squid. I checked this out shortly after the Discovery special aired January 27th, 2013 because I was curious about previous information in deadtree edition. Also swore to actually finish an Ellis book because I frequently check them out, but never get to them...more
May 18, 2010 Chriss rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone interested in sea monsters
Recommended to Chriss by: Neth Space
Shelves: reference
This is a good book to get a history on thought and theory about the giant squid and other large cephalopods. There's also an interesting section relating 'sea serpent' accounts and how other researchers have postulated that these were really giant squid sightings.

This is a scientific book, though, and while it is easy to read it is repetitious. Each chapter begins with several paragraphs that set-the-stage, then come a bunch of paragraphs of data and quotations, than the chapters end with sever...more
Nov 04, 2007 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Social Ecologists
This book was given to me as a birthday gift from my friend Chris Werle, entomologist and musician. He likened it to the book Wasp Farm and I related it to other books of the same style, identified below.

This is a great book in the marine social-scientific realm. It discusses the anatomy, mythology, historical context, and modern understanding of the giant squid. A favorite for me are the numerous "encounter" stories retold in the book, of tentacles chopped from an attacking squid or of a stran...more
of the known creatures of the world, the giant squid is one about which not a lot is known, so i recognize that this means that a lot of the info contained within such a difficult project as writing a scientific book about architeuthis, is going to be based on speculation and prior reports, rather than first-hand examination or research.

it would also make sense then, that in the interest of not plagiarizing, and not wrapping up within 50 pages, there would be a considerable amount of excerpting...more
Gosh this is a slow mover! The first part was really dry, a lot of biology and quotes from scientific journals. Here's my favorite, from Captain Arthur de Capell Brooke, who wrote of his travels in the northern seas: He trusts fishermen because they are "an honest and artless class of men, who, having no motive for misrepresentation, cannot be suspected of a wish to deceive." Therefore, he totally believes their accounts of sea monsters that are actually Architeuthis (giant squid).

OK, too much...more
Jesse Zellmer
I read this book around my "herp derp I wanna be a marine biologist" phase in middle school-early high school, and all I could think of was how fascinating this creature is. The book is a good read overall, but it's informative nonfiction so of course it's gonna be dry. Great for people like me who have heard we've explored space more than our own oceans, but yeah, a little dry.
Richard Ellis’s novel the search for the giant squid vividly compares and contrasts myth, legend, and fact about the giant squid. Richard Ellis carefully balances his information about this elusive sea creature with legendary stories and artifacts that tell us about this beasts long and forgotten past. Richard Ellis’s novel explores deeply into the unimaginable, while taking you on an adventure with a ghostly secret. I enjoyed this book mainly because of its pace. The books plot and information...more
If you know me, chances are you know my love for all things Giant Squid. It's an inside joke with some, it's on my favorite hoodie, and it's just kind of a casual interest of mine. So when I noticed this book on my buddy's shelf as I was helping him move, I asked to borrow it. It made for a pretty intriguing read, even if it was written pretty much entirely from a scientific standpoint (then again, it's a book about the search for the giant squid, so what did I expect?). My main issue is that th...more
Sep 30, 2008 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who like giant squid
Recommended to Amanda by: sale table at Borders
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has a lot of information about giant squid - all of the scientific knows and unknowns and legends & fiction about the gigantic mollusks. It was very fascinating and compelling to read, especially the speculations and explanations for sea serpents, and the thoughts on what sperm whale and squid battles are really like.

There were great drawings reproduced of squid sightings and photos and the like. The only thing I thought was missing was a diagram of what the giant squid's rough an...more
A bit of a let down. While the book does a decent job of compiling all the basic knowledge of the giant squid up until 1998, strandings, sightings, and its appearances in art and literature to boot, the author's writing style leaves a bit to be desired. I figured I'd blow through the book, because what could be more exciting than giant squid, right? Wrong. This book D R A G G E D on forever and I just wanted to be done with it. Reading this book felt like listening to a dry college lecture, whic...more
Nick Black
most of what was worth reading i'd already seen in Discovery or Nature or similar rags. the rest is, at times, border-nonsense and certainly rife with speculation, purple prose bursting forth like the jettisoned sepia of enraged giant squids presented with so many calamari taunts. all better texts teuthlogic, however, are so frightfully expensive as to render them, for all real purposes, nonexistent.



An interesting and rather detailed exploration of the giant squid. The author covered the topic well, considering no one has ever seen a healthy living giant squid before. I especially enjoyed the many photographs it contained. Stop after the chapter Battle of the Giants. The rest of the book focuses on Architeuthis in movies, literature, and museum models. To me, this seemed really out of synch with the other chapters, as though he just wanted to pad his scientific material with an extra fifty...more
I wish this book was better...My wife gave it to me for my birthday some years ago, and I anticipated inky deep-water unknown science, like James Burke or Lawrence Weschler (who wrote "Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder" which I loved). The story is compromised by a confused timeline and too many stories of squid pieces washing up on indistinguishable shorelines. Neither enough science, nor enough human quirky stuff (like E. Annie Proulx might have included).
This book sort of covers all aspects of giant squids - the myths, the biology, the natural history, etc. Good primer. Some fascinating details, but the real charm of the book is that even in our time, when everything seems to have been discovered, examined, analyzed, and there's nothing left to see, there is still mysteries out there that are unexplained.
Emily Larson
Thorough coverage and an amazing range of sources made the historical/mythological portion of this book extremely interesting. The science was also well compiled and presented, but I kept thinking how unfortunate that it was written prior to some of the recent captures and video... though it was interesting to note that the author was quoted in some of the news sources reporting the catches.
Jenessa's bookshelves are yielding some really amazing things that I never even thought of reading before: the Raymond Chandler was one, and now the Giant Squid! It's really, really nice to have friends who have great taste in books that you've never read or even heard of before
The first part of the book is Ellis' exhaustive search of various old reports of "seam monsters, mermaids, etc" and how their desciptions fit that of the Giant squid. Which starts out interesting but 75 pages later of still documenting report after report gets boring! By the time you get to the biology of the Giant squid your too bored to be interested anymore.
Jessie B.
Before I read this book, I didn't think much of squids, but I discovered that they are fascinating creatures and while I was reading this book there were actually a few news reports of large squid being found around the world. I wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't read this book, but the ocean is a lot stranger and cooler than I imagined.
Aug 11, 2008 Jaime marked it as started-reading-never-finished
I really wanted to finish this - I only had a few chapters left - and then....someone else at the library requested it and I couldn't renew it. I would love to know who the other person in town is that just had to read about giant squid. I think we could be good friends. As it stands, I'm just irritated that I couldn't finish the book.
When this book was published, no one had ever seen a living giant squid in its natural habitat. Much like the Colossal Squid today, we'd seen dead and dying ones and remnants in predator's stomachs, but never the real thing. Ellis's book paints a fascinating picture of this elusive creature and its understudied deep ocean habitat.
This offering from Richard Ellis was a bit lackluster -- since not all that much is known about the Giant Squid, I was hoping for more, better-written information on the mythology and pop culture surrounding this critter. There's quite a bit here, but it's not very well organized and not well-explored, I didn't think.
Jul 11, 2007 Justin rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: squidheads
Boooooooring. Reads like an outline for a book that could have been awesome. Should have been called The Giant Squid Mini-encylopedia. Yawn. Richard Ellis is a badass researcher, but is clueless when it comes to important elements like pacing and progression. That said his fact finding is unsurpassed. He leaves nothing out.
How can you pass up a book with this title!? Ellis did a great job of offering information on the myth and fact of the giant squid. I can't wait until they finally get footage of a live giant squid in it's natural habitat. Proof that mother nature still has lots of good stuff in store for us!!
Laura Jean
Any book that takes note of "the giant squid in literature" gets at least three stars. This one gets four because it also includes so many fantastic cocktail party anecdotes about why squid really are the most amazing creature in the sea, that I can't help but make a little room in my heart.
I expected to enjoy this more. I am utterly fascinated by the giant squid.
Unfortunately, though we know so little about the creature, this book is exhaustive in enumerating what we do know - to the point of being somewhat tedious.

Still, you'll learn a lot about the subject.
A lovely portrait of the world's only real monster. Soon we will all have giant squid living comfortably in our swimming pools, snacking on flounder and the neighbor's babies, demanding frozen margaritas with extra extra salt, and listening to Slayer and Jimmy Buffett.
Totally awesome subject. I learned so much incredibly cool stuff about both squid and octopi. Things both historical and biological are covered. Only reason it has only 5 stars is that the materail felt a little stretched. Should have been a shorter book.
Rita Brinkerhoff
Jan 30, 2008 Rita Brinkerhoff rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: deep sea nerds
I learned all about my BFF Architeuthis. If I could dance around to "No One" by Alicia Keys with a variety of Teuthids under the ocean, I'd call that HEAVEN. "YOU AND ME TOGETHER/THROUGH THE DAYS AND NIGHTS!"
This was really interesting and accessible, not like most science writing. Really held my interest and then a few months after reading this, they did find a giant squid - synchonicity!!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 26 27 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality
  • A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals
  • Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans' Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter
  • Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras & Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature
  • Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid
  • The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss
  • Seeds of Change: Six Plants That Transformed Mankind
  • The Unnatural History of the Sea
  • Shark Trouble
  • The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One
  • Ocean: The World's Last Wilderness Revealed
  • The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean
  • The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
  • The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder
  • A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth
  • Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish
  • Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution
  • The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450
From the author's website:

Richard Ellis is one of America's leading marine conservationists, and is generally recognized as the foremost painter of marine natural history subjects in the world. His paintings of whales have appeared in Audubon, National Wildlife, Australian Geographic, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and numerous other national and interna­tional publications. His shark paintings have...more
More about Richard Ellis...
Monsters of the Sea The Empty Ocean Tuna: A Love Story Great White Shark Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea

Share This Book