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Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  798 ratings  ·  105 reviews
A group of traders huddles around a pile of dried shark fins on a gleaming white floor in Hong Kong. A Papua New Guinean elder shoves off in his hand-carved canoe, ready to summon a shark with ancient magic. A scientist finds a rare shark in Indonesia and forges a deal with villagers so it and other species can survive.

In this eye-opening adventure that spans the globe, Ju
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Pantheon
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
SHARK WEEK FLOAT! from a couple of shark weeks ago but still so sharky!

oh my god i just saw this on the teevee tonight, so i am adding it to the review and you should all watch this clip because it is hilarious! to me. also terrifying.


today is the start of shark week, so get ready. i have been ready for a week now. last week, i watched the best of shark week on demand, i watched jaws for the very first time, and i read this
Lolly's Library
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sharks are not the best ambassadors for their own survival. The original sea monsters of yore, they are not cute and cuddly, warm and fuzzy. And while they may be photogenic, it's not in an “Aww” kind of way. It's more akin to an “Aaah!" So while other animals imperiled by man's actions, such as the playful otter and friendly dolphin, the majestic whale and the placid turtle, endear themselves to humans and thus find themselves saved from utter destruction, it wasn't until recently that anyone s ...more
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
To start off with, I've been a fan of sharks since well before "Jaws" was released back in the 1970s. I recall trolling new and used books stores for any book that had anything to do with sharks or the sea, but especially sharks. And that interest has never died for me, so I grabbed a copy of "Demon Fish" by Juliet Eilperin when I saw it.

This is not your typical book on the natural history of sharks. While most books on sharks will focus on one of a couple of things, i.e., the diversity and bio
Jul 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm a total armchair marine biologist. I will eat up book after book about any aquatic creature. But this in particular caught my attention, because, well, SHARKS!

I had a lot of trouble with sticking with it, though. Part of the problem is being in a library every day, surrounded by lots of books I haven't read, that I would be allowed to just take home. As if I didn't have any other books to read. Part of it is just the writing and pacing -- it's no The Secret Life of Lobsters, that's for sur
Alex Telander
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you’re reading this, chances are you have some sort of fear of sharks . . . and maybe by discovering what Demon Fish is about, you will confront these fears, learn more about these incredible fish, and in turn come to respect them as the amazing creatures that they are. Well, if there was a book that could help you with that, Demon Fish is certainly it.

Juliet Eilperin works for the Washington Post. Her first book was on politics, Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: marine-biology
This book is not so much a natural history of sharks as it is a social history of human attitudes towards sharks, and it fills an important gap in writings about sharks and marine ecology. Juliet Eilperin writes with an easy style that doesn't become breezy or flippant and presents some bitter realities in a palatable way. Overall, the book has an optimistic tone, but Eilperin doesn't sugar coat or shy away from disconcerting truths.

When she presents portraits of people involved with sharks, ei
Lee Anne
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Washington Post environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin, who in her dust jacket photo looks as exactly as "tote bag" as you expect her to, authored this book on sharks and people's adversarial relationship with them.

This book and I got off on the wrong foot. The first chapter, about shark callers in Papua, New Guinea, was so long, earnest, and dull, and the author seemed so uncertain as to how much to insert herself into the narrative, that I quickly lost interest. Although there are some interes
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: done, non-fiction
This book is not "Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks". It is more "Travels Through All the Ways Humans are Trying to Kill Off Sharks". I'm not sure why Eilperin wrote this book other than to maybe cash in on Shark Week hoopla. Whatever the reason, I wish she hadn't written it and I wish I hadn't read it. I kept reading hoping she'd get to something that didn't make me want to throw the book across the room but it never happened. Just killing sharks and more killing sharks. ...more
Brian Griffith
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals
Eilperin conducts a range of competent investigations that span the planet. She checks out shark callers in New Ireland, the shark-fin soup markets of Hong Kong, the science of tracking sharks with electronic sensors, the evolution of shark folklore, the impact of shark decimation on the globe's food chain, and the rise of shark tourism operations, such as Kim Maclean's Shark Lady Adventures for viewing South Africa's great whites. It's always good, detail-oriented journalism, the kind of thing ...more
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In Juliet Eilperin’s Demon Fish, however, it’s us humans who come off the most evil, rather than the sharks who share the Devil’s name. Eilperin, a national environmental reporter for The Washington Post, traces humankind’s history with the prehistoric critters and comes off proving that, other than the occasional attack or two, these beasts are really on the side of the angels.

Okay, so I exaggerate — some. Sharks are actually more submerged deity than winged angel, at least so far as the few re
May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a book about what people think about sharks and what people do to (and with) sharks. It also has the feel of a layperson's travelogue into a variety of shark-related hotspots, seasoned with interview summaries and the occasional personal reflection. Juliet Eilperin abruptly shifts from discussing early mythological depictions of sharks, to the controversies of shark fin soup, ecotourism, food chain hierarchies, sport fishing, marine biology, and the legacy of Peter Benchley. The end resu ...more
Sean Chick
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This is less a book about sharks than it is Eilperin's travels talking with shark experts and the occasional fisherman. The parts dealing more directly with the sharks are the parts I liked best, such as sharks in world mythology, shark sex, and other topics. Many of the activists and/or scientists she speaks with come across as dull and even nauseatingly self-righteous. When they did not it made for decent reading but I wanted to read more about sharks than people. Perhaps this though is less E ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
An incredibly well-researched and informative global adventure about sharks and their interactions with human beings. A great read for any shark lover!
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Way ahead of its time and super interesting. Bluntly stated the dire position sharks are currently in, which translates on to land as well.
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Sharks cannot be anthropomorphised the way other creatures have been. They are vastly different from humans in how they behave and won't ever warm the hearts of the public the way penguins can." A kind understatement from Juliet Eilperin, who goes to great lengths to explore the history, anatomy and behaviours of a creature so perfectly adapted to its environment, it has remained largely unchanged in evolutionary terms for 100 million years (pre-dating the dinosaurs!).

When it comes to sharks, t
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was drawn to this book by the subject matter, and the title, and the jacket art, which features a looming shark staring straight at the viewer from behind text that appears to be sliding out of gill slits.

The book itself falls into a category I have no name for, but that I describe as "stuff that makes me feel powerless." While there are some positive notes of potential recovery amid the warnings of shark extinctions, the frequent mention of China's obsession with the tasteless practice of "fi
Paul Pessolano
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
“Demon Fish” by Juliet Eilperin, published by Pantheon Books.

Category – Animal/Nature

Most of us have a preconceived idea about sharks, this stems from the hit movie “Jaws” and the sensational articles that have been written about shark attacks. These two events, and there are others, have led to an unprecedented killing of sharks around the world.

Another major reason for the killing of sharks is the Asian desire for Shark’s Fin Soup. A soup, by the way, that most people find very bland and only
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vine, non-fiction
Did you realize that the great culinary delicacy for which millions of sharks are killed each year, shark fin soup, only contains one tiny, tasteless strand from the shark's fin? I didn't until I read this book.

I expected the book to be more about the natural history of sharks-- their biology, behavior, habits, migration pattern, etc. Instead, it was a book about the relationship between sharks and humans. Author Juliet Eilperin travels worldwide, from Papua New Guinea to the fish markets of Hon
George Brett
A wonderful overview of our often complicated history with Sharks. Many themes are woven together and current (well, currrnt at the time) issues in Elasmobranch conservation are discussed. Great for the layman.
Eva Seyler
This had a slow start for me, and then it picked up. It bogged down again at one point about halfway through (political stuff) and if I hadn't been determined to finish it THIS WEEK (because I've been reading it since JUNE) I probably would have set it aside again.

There was a lot that was really interesting about sharks in this book that I did not know previously, and I feel I learned a lot. I didn't care so much for the overwhelming amount of text devoted to the political and activism sides of
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, ocean, non-fiction
As a die-hard "shark fan" I have to say that I was a little disappointed with this book. A lot of the facts continue to be a regurgitation of the same information that has been published through Shark Week. And despite many references about how "everything we know now about sharks is so different" there wasn't really enough evidential support of this rather broad statement. That being said, if you missed Shark Week the last few years, and you can't wait until August, then definitely pick this bo ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it
I liked reading about different shark myths across cultures, as well as DNA origins, but this book didn't teach me much about sharks themselves. While I appreciate the conservation approach, I think Peter Benchley's SHARK TROUBLE does a better job explaining the importance of sharks to different ecosystems. ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: other
Demon Fish or Demon Man?

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

Are sharks nothing but ruthless killers that deserve to be killed solely because the media machine is focused more on sensationalizing news and perpetuating basic fears than reporting simple truths? Has the blockbuster film "Jaws" created an unnecessary hysteria of hatred toward all sharks? Is man's craving for a particular delicacy reached a point where we are systemati
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wow yep I'm depressed now ...more
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Sharks cannot be anthropomorphised the way other creatures have been. They are vastly different from humans in how they behave and won't ever warm the hearts of the public the way penguins can." A kind understatement from Juliet Eilperin, who goes to great lengths to explore the history, anatomy and behaviours of a creature so perfectly adapted to its environment, it has remained largely unchanged in evolutionary terms for 100 million years (pre-dating the dinosaurs!).

When it comes to sharks, t
Jonathan Schildbach
Dec 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I find sharks fascinating, and as much as they scare the hell out of me, they definitely need to be protected--which was basically what the book was about (the protection, not the scares). Eilperin provides plenty of information to make the case that sharks need to be saved from over-fishing, but often the information was padded with repetitive observations--for instance, that protecting sharks in one geographical area would not provide enough p ...more
Julie Dawson
Jan 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Reviewer note: My review copy was an uncorrected bound proof and may not match final book.

I am a huge fan of sharks. I have been since childhood, and even today I have an entire shelf dedicated to shark figurines and toys. So it was with great excitement that I began to dig into the pages of Juliet Eilperin's Demon Fish. Demon Fish is less a traditional book on sharks than it is a study into how humans have interacted with them throughout history. Or, at least, that is how the book is marketed.
Jun 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: animal lovers
Recommended to Emily by: NYTimes, I think
Shelves: nonfiction
"But the best example of how we should treat sharks came from perhamps the unlikeliest conservation hero of them all, George W. Bush, in June 2006. For years environmentalists had been pressing the White House to fully protect the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Another remarkable series of Pacific atolls stretching fourteen hundred miles lng and a hundred miles across, the uninhabited chian boasts more than seven thousand marine species, at least a quarter of which are found nowhere else on earth. ...more
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2013, e-books
Demon Fish is not so much a book about sharks as about shark conservation in the face of the depredations of commercial fishing and adventure tourism. A reader who comes to this book expecting to learn about the animals themselves, as I did, is likely to be disappointed.

Eilperin places sharks within an evolutionary and cultural context that goes back to pre-history. Civilisations across the globe, from PNG to the Aztecs to the Chinese, have revered sharks. In the latter case, this has transmuted
Ann Rufo
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
To me, sharks come in only second to alligators as the animal I am so terrified of that I have instructed my husband in a time of attack to shot me, not the animal. I don't want live through that shit. Sharks rank second not because they are less terrifying than alligators, but only because my landlocked Midwestern unadventurous ways make it less likely I will ever cross paths with them, unlike alligators which seem to be showing up all over the place lately instead of staying in Florida with ev ...more
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