4 Stars · Reviews

Review: Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge by Susan Hand Shetterly

As those of you who follow me on the ‘gram might already know, for this first time, I used the Bookly app. Because I started using it when I was already halfway through the book, I don’t want to share the cutesy little infographic that it generated but I do plan on sharing it for the next book I read. I would love to get some recommendations about what other features of this app you enjoy, or which app you use if you don’t use Bookly to track your reading.

Meanwhile, I would love to share my thoughts on this cute little seaweed guide, Seaweed Chronicles by Susan Hand Shetterly. I did initially think that this book was about C6CF0BB6-F2F0-4EF0-B33E-1A7A92BF5701mermaids or some other sea setting magical realism, which slightly disappointed me but the content in this book was very informational and more than made up for it. Here is what the official synopsis says:

“Seaweed is ancient and basic, a testament to the tenacious beginnings of life on earth,” writes Susan Hand Shetterly in this elegant, fascinating book. “Why wouldn’t seaweeds be a protean life source for the lives that have evolved since?” On a planet facing environmental change and diminishing natural resources, seaweed is increasingly important as a source of food and as a fundamental part of our global ecosystem.

In Seaweed Chronicles, Shetterly takes readers deep into the world of this essential organism by providing an immersive, often poetic look at life on the rugged shores of her beloved Gulf of Maine, where the growth and harvesting of seaweed is becoming a major industry. While examining the life cycle of seaweed and its place in the environment, she tells the stories of the men and women who farm and harvest it—and who are fighting to protect this critical species against forces both natural and man-made. Ideal for readers of such books as The Hidden Life of Trees and How to Read Water, Seaweed Chronicles is a deeply informative look at a little understood and too often unappreciated part of our habitat.

This was absolutely a wonderful and informative read. Before I get into the specifics of all the things I liked and didn’t, however, I would like to talk about my own feelings on the subject matter at hand. Reading this book frustrated me immensely. I hated reading about all this disappearing wildlife, and its habitat, and not being able to do anything about it. I was even more frustrated when Shetterly described the efforts being made to stop the industries that are trashing habitat and chewing up seafloor, and the readiness of certain key individuals to kiss up to these industries instead of working to preserve these wild resources for our future. I really hope that, if not this book, then something else will have a profound effect on our society, and that much like the birds of Silent Spring, the creatures of Seaweed Chronicles will be saved before it is too late.

‘Everybody’s talking about food security, but nobody’s talking about nutrient security,’ she began.

sea nature ocean fish
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Putting aside my frustration with out species, here are some of the things that caught my eye and I enjoyed reading about in Seaweed Chronicles:

1. Complexity of ecosystems – the ecosystem of any area is a complex thing. The ocean, while seemingly self-contained and less complicated, actually is awe-inspiring in its complexity. I never really realized just how much all the different species and habitats affect each other, and just how much the temperature, acidity, and currents of the ocean can affect these interlocking species. If you don’t think the ocean in complex, or that there are many many resources worth saving, read this book. It may appear to be about seaweed, but in reality it is about the many separate wild lives that seaweed supports.

2. Political and cultural effects – Even more shocking than the complexity of the ocean and the sheer amount of life that seaweed supports was the realization that this industry has enormous political and cultural potential, in both cases – whether the seaweed is conserved or completely destroyed. I got to read about the effects of the nuclear reactor

adventure beach boat coast
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

in Fukushima, and about the poverty in the Phillipines. I never realized just how much these seemingly unimportant seaweeds tie us all together. Reading about all this was most definitely eye opening.


3. Personal stories – my favorite part about the book was actually not the global impact it conveyed, but the personal, down to earth people that encapsulate the global reach of seaweed. I really enjoyed reading about all the scientists’ stories, all the fishermen and gatherers for whom seaweed is actually a way of life. I think its really hard to get people to connect to a nonfiction read, but Shetterly really draws you in with her ability to relate these real world figures through the pages. Reading about them and their way of life made me more aware of my own actions and the increasing need of awareness in others.

And my thought is, right then, that we all need to feel the hot touch of a wild life against our skin like this…

I have little to say in terms of what I didn’t like, but one thing that I could recommend to the author, and that would have made the read a little bit easier would be the addition of graphics.There were no images or graphs and I ended up having to draw in the

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetmargins in the more detailed explanations to make sense of them.  Perhaps someone understanding something about seaweed, or having a background in it, would not need help in this, but in my personal experience, it was a little confusing. There is a glossary at the beginning of the book, but as it is missing pictures of the species described, I didn’t find it to be much help.

Now that I am finished reading about something that isn’t very well known or appreciated, and being frustrated by people’s inability to appreciate it, I am planning to take a break from nonfiction. Hopefully, I can do a little catch-up on my TBR because I am way behind. And while I do that, if this subject matter interests you, give this book a shot – perhaps you’ll learn something that you never knew you never knew.

13 thoughts on “Review: Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge by Susan Hand Shetterly

  1. You were tricked but like you, I probably would have read it anyway as well, I eat a lot of seaweed – it is healthy and delicious.


  2. I’m so intrigued by this book! I actually requested it as an ARC but didn’t recieve it haha. This sounds similar to Spying on Whales which I read and reviewed earlier this summer — but in SOW there are amazing illustrations and his discussion on climate change etc is very reasonable and not very apocalyptic.. I struggle when books like that focus too much on how everything is horrible because while it’s good to know its not fun to read about haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like it wasn’t too apocalyptic, she did a very good job explaining how we can bring back fishing industries etc, and made note of the fact that the ocean was very resilient but I totally get what you mean with some other books I’ve read. I’m sorry you weren’t able to get a copy, hopefully you’ll be able to read it soon! And I will be checking SOW now lol

      Liked by 1 person

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