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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,799 ratings  ·  938 reviews
In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sens
Hardcover, 170 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Algonquin Books
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A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldWalden by Henry David ThoreauA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonPilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie DillardDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
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47th out of 402 books — 337 voters
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Interesting and Readable NonFiction
82nd out of 530 books — 308 voters

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Community Reviews

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Elisabeth Tova Bailey was 34 when she was struck with a mysterious, flu-like illness while traveling in Switzerland. Upon her return home, the flu symptoms subsided, but her health did not return. She found herself so weak and dizzy she was barely able to sit up, let alone stand or care for herself, and her doctors had no idea why.

Bailey's life changed radically at that point, shrinking to a single room almost entirely cut off from the outside world. On impulse, a friend brought her a pot of wil
Dear, dear was I to know that you are the epitome of elegance and strength of character?

Bailey develops a mysterious illness at the end of a trip to the Swiss Alps. While convalescing on her farm in Maine, she is trying to adjust to the sudden loss of control in her life. Practically incapacitated, and depending on the assistance of a caregiver and irregular visits from friends, she soon succumbs to depression and the monotony of the sick bed. A friend decides to bring nature to
I never thought reading a book about a snail could be such a rewarding experience. Who knew so many people had written poems about snails?
Who knew that snails have a life and intelligence? I do now. I know a lot about snails that I never knew before. Until this wonderful book came my way, I thought the only good snail was a dead one.

Come on, you know you think the same thing! Read this book, it may change your mind.

Elisabeth Tova Bailey's story about a garden snail, picked up in the woods one da
May 13, 2015 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sue by: John Speer
I allowed myself a long and slow read for this small memoir of one year during a woman's lengthy, 20 year convalescence from an unknown virus. That year was made special by the presence of a snail brought in from the woods outside by a visitor. The author, Elisabeth Tova Bailey, was unable to live in her own home at that time, was feeling alienated from life, her surroundings, and felt isolated. This small creature led her to a year of observation, learning, fostering, and companionship. I learn ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Almeta rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Almeta by: Artfullyoung1
I have often stated that I need to get my larnin’ in disguise; I need to be tricked into it.

Because of this, I have a fondness for biology books like Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body and The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, which do not read like textbooks; in which the author does not talk condescendingly and chapters read like an intriguing story book, with pictures.

I’m pretty sure that author:Elisabeth Tova Bailey never intended to be
I accidentally read this. Downloaded a sample to my Kindle> liked it> bought the book to read later but just wanted to read a few more pages> read it all.

This is a quiet, intimate book about a woman and her land snail. The youthful author contracts some unknown and completely debilitating virus while vacationing abroad. This virus changes her body permanently. One day she is brimming with joyeux de vivre and the next day she is bedridden, betrayed by her body and literally without the a
♥ Marlene♥
Loved loved it.

First I have to tell you something about myself. I am known as the snail saviour. I am always telling everybody when they are visiting and tread in my garden, beware of my snails.

They are scared when they accidently do step on one because they know I will get my whip out!

A few weeks ago I removed most of the snails I could find from my back garden to my front garden, because I knew my dad and brother would not notice if they'd walk on my snails, while they were installing a new f
Suzanne (Chick with Books) Yester
Is it a memoir or a beautiful piece of nature writing? It is both, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about a Neohelix albolabris, the common woodland snail, and encourage you to pick this book up and escape into a world you may never have known to exist...

Elisabeth Tova Bailey found herself suffering from a debilitating unknown illness that left her with severe neurological symptoms and virtually bedridden all the time. As her illness progressed, and as she had to move out of her farmhouse and to
May 25, 2015 Tara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: ecolit
"Humanity is exalted not because we are so far above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life."--Edward O. Wilson

This quote is an epigraph to one of the chapters. Oh, how I love the quote and this little gem of a book. I'm thrilled to see it has over 3k reviews and won two awards. It's beautifully packaged with soft pencil drawings reminiscent of the 1970s and telling quotes about snails and nature at the start of each small chapter.

The book is a be
I'm just enthralled, and suggest everyone go to to learn more about the author and this slim volume of pure inspiration. Thanks to Heather Sturm for bringing this to the attention of our book club--I plan to buy my own copy very soon.

This observation states my views most clearly:

"Like Seabiscuit's Laura Hillenbrand, this author is at the house-bound, often bed-bound extreme of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (brain stem inflammation), a condition similar to Lyme mockingly l
Waverly Fitzgerald
The most soothing book I’ve ever read. It moves at a snail’s pace. Small in size, lyrical in language, precise in observation, delicate in articulation.

The author, Elizabeth Tova Bailey, is bedridden due to a mysterious auto-immune disease. A friend bringers her a flowerpot containing a wild violet from the nearby woods, and along with the plant, a snail. Bailey watches the snail and becomes fascinated by its journeys. Up and down the pot to sip the water that collects in the saucer. She figures
Having a favorite animal is very childish, isn't it? When I was a kid I was nicknamed Turtle because of how slow I ran. My dad, who coached me in softball, used to say that I was the only one who could hit it over the fence and still get a triple. I owned that nickname and learned to draw both realistic and cartoon turtles and often received turtle items as gifts. Even my senior year in high school, my first boyfriend made me a metal cast turtle that I still have.

There are kids in my second gra
Diane Barnes
I picked up this book because it seemed to be a quick read (190 pages) while I was waiting for another download for a library book to be available. Wow! What a surprise. Who knew snails could be so facinating? The author is a victim of a strange disease that keeps her bedridden. A friend brought her a pot of violets she had dug up in the woods, and there just happened to be a snail in residence. She becomes fascinated with his movements and motives and begins her research. They are intelligent l ...more
A great book for someone who is chronically ill or wants a unique perspective on what it's like. I really identified with the main character in this book. As someone who is frequently stuck in bed with a chronic illness, I found a lot of not only similar sentiments in the narrator but also inspiring thoughts.

I never thought that I would enjoy a book about snails so much, and, to be perfectly honest, I think I took one star off because I got bored with the snail topic after awhile.
When Elisabeth Tova Bailey returns from a vacation with a debilitating disease, she is confined to bedrest. A friend found a woodland snail and a bunch of field violets in the Maine woods to cheer her up. The snail was soon transferred from a flowerpot to a terrarium full of woodland plants, with a shell holding water and mushrooms for food. Bailey found watching the snail to be fascinating and relaxing:

"Watching it glide along was a welcome distraction and provided a sort of meditation; my ofte
Clear, beautiful, easy to understand nature writing. Gave me a new appreciation of the humble gastropod. A friend brings the bedridden author a pot of violets with a snail under one leaf and the author spends one year studying her miniature companion, observing and reading all she could on her little friend. After the creature is moved to a terrarium with a habitat similar to its woodland home, the author can watch the snail's habits and life cycle. I learned its anatomy, that it cannot hear, ho ...more
This was a lovely book. I have always had a thing for snails and slugs so when I happened across this title I bought it without looking into what it was. I’m glad I didn’t because if I were to describe it to you it would sound dull. It was not.

The author contracts a mysterious, debilitating disease and is prostrate for months on end, needing care from those around her and unable to move from her bed without assistance. She doesn't dwell on her disease or personal circumstances, but you get the i
Susan Ideus
"Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house."

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating records a year in the life of author Elisabeth Tova Bailey—a year in which she struggled for her survi
"...the snail had emerged from its shell into the alien territory of my room, with no clue as to where it was or how it had arrived; the lack of vegetation and the desertlike surroundings must have seemed strange. The snail and I were both living in altered landscapes not of our choosing; I figured we shared a sense of loss and displacement."

Elisabeth Tova Bailey was in her mid-thirties when struck with a mysterious illness that soon led to her complete incapacitation. Without knowing the cause,
The writing and the premise of this book were great but the execution left a lot to be desired. I sympathized with the author’s horrible debilitating condition and felt the book offered a lot of insight about disability. However, the snail facts felt choppy and disconnected and I wish they had been incorporated into the narrative a bit better. The constant personification of the snail made me feel like the author kind of didn’t understand the animal very well. For instance, constantly feeling ba ...more
I really wanted to write a full review, but it got erased as I was halfway through typing it. Since my health will not allow me to rewrite it, I will instead simply share a few of my favorite quotes, found below. While all the quotes are about illness (which resonated with me deeply, for obvious reasons), this book is much more about Bailey's observations of the mysterious life and behaviors of an unexpected companion at her bedside: a small snail given to her as a gift. It is a beautifully writ ...more
One of the many fun things about goodreads is being inspired to leave my reading comfort zone. This is usually a win-win proposition. When I end up liking the book, I feel excited that I expanded my horizons. When I end up hating the book, I get to write a snarky review. Worst case scenario, I feel kind of neutral or ambivalent about the book in which case I may or may not finish it but at least I can say I tried.

“The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” fell into the latter category. Animals are reall
Welp, if there is any one book to make you feel like you've just wasted two months of bed rest, it's this one. ;)

Although I have not been confined to the degree the author was, and I have known all along that the end is in sight for me, the frustration of bed rest can be all-consuming. I did find ways to deal with it, but nothing quite so beautiful as the author's snail adventure, except for maybe observing the fascinating developments of my belly...but those observations for me have been couple
Julie Markham
"Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail....the snail kept my spirit from evaporating."

Having an isolating and chronic illness myself this book struck a very personal chord. The author Bailey contracts what is later revealed to be tick-borne encephalitis and CFS and while she is bedridden she becomes fascinated with her "pet" snail. The majority of the book is made up of snail facts, from their anatomy to behaviors and everything in between,
A short, uplifting memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is the story of Elisabeth Tova Bailey's illness and recovery. A healthy, active woman, she is quite suddenly struck down by a mystery illness, which proves difficult to diagnose and treat. One day, she is brought a pot of violets as a gift by a friend, and inside the pot is a snail. As she is bedridden, the snail becomes a kind of pet, as she observes its daily movements, becomes accustomed to its habits, and begins to feel emotionally ...more
I listened carefully. I could hear it eating. The sound was of someone very small munching celery continuously. I watched, transfixed, as over the course of an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for supper.

When my daughter was in grade nine, her science class was given an interesting project: Go out and collect live snails, samples of the soil and vegetation around where they were found, and bring it all back to make terrariums in 2 litre pop bottles. Kennedy was able to fi
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of a woman who becomes extremely ill after a trip overseas, and is "gifted" a snail. As she is confined to her bed she begins to pay attention to what her little snail is up to. What ensues is a fascinating look at a snails life. I will never look at a snail the same way again. Their little lives are designed to perfection, and they can teach us all to slow down a little, and smell the roses (or snails)!
Perhaps one of the best outcomes of getting my kindle is that I have branched out in my reading choices. Typically, I stick within the genres of murder mystery or thriller/suspense. If I go to a bookstore, I make a beeline for those sections, and barely glance at any others. However, since getting this device (thanks, Honey!), I have perused the Amazon daily deals religiously each morning, and bought several titles that are well outside the norm for me.

As a result, this book. Quaint, informative
Anderson's Bookshops
Gail Wetta said: "This slender volume is packed with peacefulness--I truly felt myself relaxing as I read it--perhaps slowing to a snail's pace? The story centers around a woman confined to bed rest because of an odd neurological illness. She receives a woodland snail as an unlikely companion and so begins a tale of natural history and human nature. Having read my share of dry biological articles and texts in college, this was a rare treat. Ms. Bailey provides "tons" of scientific info on these ...more
Bob Schnell
A thoroughly charming, educational and entertaining book about one woman's year-long close observation of a snail from her convalescent bed. It is also an ode to the joy of small, quiet wonders that often get missed in today's busy, noisy world. I now know more about woodland snails than I ever thought possible and am richer for it. As the old joke says, "Look at that S car go!"
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Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s essays and short stories have been published in The Missouri Review, Northwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. She has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and a Notable Essay Listing in Best American Essays. She lives in Maine.
More about Elisabeth Tova Bailey...
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“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail....the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.” 18 likes
“Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility. Or something more ephemeral: the way the sun passes through the hard seemingly impenetrable glass of a window and warms the blanket, or how the wind, invisible but for its wake, is so loud one can hear it through the insulated walls of a house.” 11 likes
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