The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World

by Patrik Svensson


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


Los Angeles Times Bestseller

IndieBound Bestseller

A New York Times Editor’s Choice

One of Forbes’ “Best Summer Reads for Those Stuck Inside Working Remotely”

One of the LA Times’ “21 New and Classic Books to Keep You in Touch with the Natural World”

One of NPR Science Friday’s Best Science Books of the Summer

Part H Is for Hawk, part The Soul of an OctopusThe Book of Eels is both a meditation on the world’s most elusive fish—the eel—and a reflection on the human condition

Remarkably little is known about the European eel, Anguilla anguilla. So little, in fact, that scientists and philosophers have, for centuries, been obsessed with what has become known as the “eel question”: Where do eels come from? What are they? Are they fish or some other kind of creature altogether? Even today, in an age of advanced science, no one has ever seen eels mating or giving birth, and we still don’t understand what drives them, after living for decades in freshwater, to swim great distances back to the ocean at the end of their lives. They remain a mystery.

Drawing on a breadth of research about eels in literature, history, and modern marine biology, as well as his own experience fishing for eels with his father, Patrik Svensson crafts a mesmerizing portrait of an unusual, utterly misunderstood, and completely captivating animal. In The Book of Eels, we meet renowned historical thinkers, from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud to Rachel Carson, for whom the eel was a singular obsession. And we meet the scientists who spearheaded the search for the eel’s point of origin, including Danish marine biologist Johannes Schmidt, who led research efforts in the early twentieth century, catching thousands upon thousands of eels, in the hopes of proving their birthing grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

Blending memoir and nature writing at its best, Svensson’s journey to understand the eel becomes an exploration of the human condition that delves into overarching issues about our roots and destiny, both as humans and as animals, and, ultimately, how to handle the biggest question of all: death. The result is a gripping and slippery narrative that will surprise and enchant.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062968814
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/26/2020
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 31,085
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Patrik Svensson is an arts and culture journalist at Sydsvenskan newspaper. He lives with his family in Malmö, Sweden. The Gospel of Eels is his first book.

Table of Contents

1 The Eel 1

2 By the Stream 7

3 Aristotle and the Eel Born of Mud 15

4 Looking into the Eyes of an Eel 31

5 Sigmund Freud and the Eels of Trieste 37

6 Illegal Fishing 53

7 The "Dane Who Found the Eel's Breeding Ground 59

8 Swimming against the Current 77

9 The People Who Fish for Eel 83

10 Outwitting the Eel 97

11 The Uncanny Eel 101

12 To Kill an Animal 121

13 Under the Sea 129

14 Setting an Eel Trap 155

15 The Long Journey Home 165

16 Becoming a Fool 187

17 The Eel on the Brink of Extinction 197

18 In the Sargasso Sea 223

Sources 237

Customer Reviews