Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

by Lulu Miller

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Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on April 6, 2021

Overview

A Best Book of 2020: The Washington Post * NPR * Chicago Tribune * Smithsonian

A “remarkable” (Los Angeles Times), “seductive” (The Wall Street Journal) debut from the new cohost of Radiolab, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and—possibly—even murder.​

“At one point, Miller dives into the ocean into a school of fish...comes up for air, and realizes she’s in love. That’s how I felt: Her book took me to strange depths I never imagined, and I was smitten.” The New York Times Book Review

David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered.

Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.

When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.

Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501160349
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 146,996
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Lulu Miller is the cohost of Radiolab, cofounder of NPR’s Invisibilia, and a Peabody Award–winning science journalist. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, VQR, Orion, Electric Literature, Catapult, and beyond. Her favorite spot on earth is Humpback Rocks.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 A Boy with His Head in the Stars 7

2 A Prophet on an Island 17

3 A Godless Interlude 31

4 Chasing Tail 45

5 Genesis in a Jar 61

6 Smash 73

7 The Indestructible 85

8 On Delusion 95

9 The Bitterest Thing in the World 107

10 A Veritable Chamber of Horrors 125

11 The Ladder 141

12 Dandelions 149

13 Deus ex Machina 165

Epilogue 183

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