Read Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones by Sue Hubbell Online


"We humans are a minority of giants, stumbling around in the world of little things," Sue Hubbell writes in this marvelous book. Each of these little things "has a complicated and special way of getting on in the world, different from ours and different from one another's." In Waiting for Aphrodite she explores the ways of sponges and sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and the s"We humans are a minority of giants, stumbling around in the world of little things," Sue Hubbell writes in this marvelous book. Each of these little things "has a complicated and special way of getting on in the world, different from ours and different from one another's." In Waiting for Aphrodite she explores the ways of sponges and sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and the sea mouse known as Aphrodite -- as well as our ways. She takes us on a journey through the mysteries of time -- geological, biological, and personal -- as she writes of the evolution of life on this planet and the evolution of her own life: her childhood next to a Michigan graveyard; the three colleges where she "learned three things"; her twenty-five years keeping bees on a farm in the Ozarks; her move to a "strange little house" in a small Maine town, "the place I wanted to grow old in." And in the tide pools and ocean waters there she discovered a whole new world, the world of little things that inspired this book....

Title : Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780618056842
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones Reviews

  • Jim
    2019-05-11 23:30

    Hubbell takes us further into her explorations of the spineless world which she started in Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs. Part science, part nature writing, part autobiographical, it's a pleasant stroll through some sea life, fire flies, worms, spiders, & other species. While there is a fair amount of science, she never gets bogged down technically, but makes sense of it to the common man of which she is one, just a very well educated one. Self-educated at that.Part of the charm is she just seems like a really neat lady, one that I'd love to spend time strolling the sea shore & woods with. She's obviously not afraid of hard work since she bought a new, if smaller chainsaw, in her mid 60s after finding out she just couldn't live without one. She also seems to have been able to access many scientists that most wouldn't even know about & she's traveled extensively. And always, she's learning. What could be better?The book was exceptionally well narrated. My only gripe is that the chapters are just numbered instead of titled, so there is no table of contents that I could hang notes on. That's a shame. I think I'll buy a paper version of this. As good as the audio book was, it is a book to browse occasionally since there are odd gems stuck about. Some are the proper names & habits of interesting little animals, others observations, & there are even some bits of poetry. Anyone familiar with my reading habits knows I'm not a fan of poetry, but occasionally it can tickle my fancy. Hubbell managed to do that by including this poem:In the Beginning by Ralph A. Lewin (1977)In the beginning the earth was all wet;We hadn't got life—or ecology—yet.There were lava and rocks—quite a lot of them both—And oceans of nutrient Oparin broth.But then there arose, at the edge of the sea,Where sugars and organic acids were free,A sort of a blob in a kind of a coat—The earliest protero-prokaryote.It grew and divided: it flourished and fed;From puddle to puddle it rapidly spreadUntil it depleted the ocean's storeAnd nary an acid was found any more.Now, if one considered that terrible trend,One might have predicted that that was the end—But no! In some sunny wee lochan or sloughAppeared a new creature—we cannot say how.By some strange transition that nobody knows,A photosynthetical alga arose.It grew and it flourished where nothing had beenTill much of the land was a blue shade of greenAnd bubbles of oxygen started to riseThroughout the world's oceans, and filled up the skies;While, off in the antediluvian mists,Arose a few species with heterocystsWhich, by a procedure which no-one can tell,Fixed gaseous nitrogen into the cell.As the gases turned on and the gases turned off,There emerged a respiring young heterotroph.It grew in its turn, and it lived and it throve,Creating fine structure, genetics, and love,And, using its enzymes and oxygen-2,Produced such fine creatures as coli and you.This, then, is the story of life's evolutionFrom Oparin broth to the final solution.So, prokaryologists, dinna forget:We've come a long way since the world was all wet.We owe a great deal—you can see from these notes—To photosynthetical prokaryotes.This speaks well to her theme of conservation. We don't know what is really important in our ecosystem. She gives some great examples, including one about the die off of a specific species of sea urchin. Who cares? Well, the coral did because it couldn't get hold without the urchin to keep the area clear, so no new little ones were building habitat for the thousands (millions?) of other creatures that live there. Who knew? We certainly didn't. Yes, we know a lot, but our ignorance is far, far greater.Unlike so many other conservationists, she has a great view of invasives, too. She's certainly caused me to rethink my knee-jerk hatred of them.So much to think about & enjoy. Yes, I'm definitely getting a hard copy of this. I can't recommend it highly enough.

  • missy jean
    2019-05-17 00:39

    I found this book about invertebrates to be so charming. Obviously I loved the parts about my preferred invertebrates (the marine ones) but also it really heightened my ambivalence around the insect world. For example, I was completely delighted by the chapter on millipedes even though I get very squeamish about the actual physical fact of a millipede if one approaches me.

  • Scott Bilodeau
    2019-04-29 23:29

    Continuing on my streak of finally checking out books I picked up years ago from used book stores. This one is comprised of a series of essays written by a zoologist who focuses on the study of invertebrate life-forms, ranging from crickets to worms to sea urchins and various other life forms one would be more likely to find under rocks, shells, leaves, or darker under water areas. The author provided a nice, visual timeline of the various eras in time and references them throughout the book. The gist of her writing is that some species, while seeming so uninteresting and unimportant to merit substantial research, have actually outlived many other species that are more “sexy”, noticed and understood. She contrasts this occasionally with the fact that human life on earth is but a mere spec on this global timeline and that animals thought to be formidable were unable to survive drastic climactic or situational events that some of the invertebrates currently living among us have. I found the writing to be fascinating and mostly accessible until I got lost in some of the scientific names for the various species and phyla in which they belong (please forgive me science friends if I got that wrong!). The author does her best to explain but alas, I am not a scientist and likely will not become one so I took enough to identify with me but did not otherwise get too concerned with all the names. It’s almost a different language, really. Interspersed in all of this were flashes of stories about the author’s life, first living in rural Missouri and then moving to coastal Maine as well as glimpses into the fields of invertebrate study. I liked and agreed with many of her reflections and thoughts about how we as humans are not always the best at playing a role as one of many species on this earth and respecting appropriately everything as it is and the delicate balance that every piece contributes to. As she states at one point, “My mind does not have the proper setup to find satisfying a creation myth that starts with the Word. But I might be able to get behind one that has as its topic sentence “In the Beginning there was the Worm.”

  • Kate Savage
    2019-05-16 00:39


  • Caroline
    2019-05-17 22:36

    This was a fun little wander through the world of invertebrates. Hubbell's prose is wonderful (in the "full of wonder" sense of word) and easy to ready while packing in all kinds of scientific knowledge. There's excursions into natural history and the development of our understanding of evolution and taxonomy. There's snippets of geology and of Hubbell's own life. Hubbell guides us through all kinds of invertebrate creatures' biology and mysterious lives as she researches, travels, and discovers them herself. This is a biology class with your favorite, well-traveled English teacher.One of my favorite chapters (okay, this is actually really hard to choose, but here goes) was the one on bees. At least, this is one that I think has the clearest direct impact on everyday life. Did you know that honeybees are not native to the Americas? There are all kinds of American bees, most of whom pollinate very specific plants in certain regions or seasons and produce no wax or honey for us. Turns out part of the reason we're having such a hard time keeping our bees and pollinating our fields is because honeybees have become the only ones we use, and when kept in unnaturally large populations they become very susceptible to mites, parasites, and diseases. Native bees are often solitary workers, do poorly in colonies, are difficult to transport, etc. Native bees are adapted to a variety of plants in a small area, and we have covered our lands in miles of the same crop, and destroyed habitats (fields, fallen logs, etc.) where they nest. We now also grow probably as many "exotic" plants (for food and otherwise) as we do native ones. Our method of agriculture is increasingly untenable. We may need to not only scale back our fields, but look to pollinators native to the places from which our crops have come. It is worthwhile to point out here that this book came out in 1999. I do not know how many advances or changes in our methods since the research presented in this book, but certainly it has not been enough.The chapter on fireflies has one of my favorite factoids in the book: Humans can glow under special circumstances. The blood of smokers is weakly chemoluminescent, and I read a report in a nineteenth-century text that dying people sometimes shine. Modern researchers have found that several mortal conditions make human blood give off even more light than that of smokers, so that may be what is behind those old reports. But in general we can't produce living light [bioluminescence]. An enormous number of other organisms - plants, animals, bacteria - can, however. Perhaps that is why we are so fascinated by the light.Also the chapter on earthworms. They are just so cool. Making soil! So. much. soil. Did you know Darwin wrote an entire book on earthworms? Now you know. It's called The Formation of Vegetable Mould. Another book that this book leads to is The Biology of Algae and Diverse Other Verses, a 1987 collection of science poetry by phycologist (studier of algae and seaweed) Ralph A. Lewin (some of the verses are quoted in this book and they are delights of rhyme and science). There's a chapter on horseshoe crabs (most the information I already knew 'cause I'm a nerd - but they remain amazing, fascinating creatures). There's a chapter on things in tide pools - like barnacles, mussels, nudibranches (sea slugs), and sea cucumbers. Millipedes, pill bugs, and spiders all get spotlights. I never would have thought I would say sponges (you know, the kind that live in the ocean) are so interesting - and there are so many different kinds! The Aphrodite of the title, as it turns out, is the name of a family of polychaete worms, this particular one a fuzzy iridescent one also known as a sea mouse. Every chapter brings up related questions of how to classify these creatures and how to understand what their function is in their ecosystem. And in the process of understanding functions come up questions like, why should we care? What do non-natives do to the ecosystem? Are some species redundant and okay to loose? What can we do to not destroy the delicate systems we barely understand? Or help them adapt to the changes we bring?

  • Lindsay
    2019-05-16 01:28

    I got up to about 3/4 the way through before I put this book down for greener pastures. Who knows...I may finish it one of these days as I usually don't like leaving books unfinished. It's full of information, but I was hoping for more of a A Country Year set in Maine. Instead, very few chapters deal with the creepy-crawlies in Maine--Hubbell travels all over the world to research invertebrates. Of course other interesting issues come up as well such as global warming, evolution, and taxonomy, but I was hoping for more context to her daily life like A Country Year's approach. For those primarily interested in little critters and don't necessarily need a whole lot of other plot to keep it moving, this book is more suited for you. I needed a little more to keep me going. One thing I can say from reading this book that I never would have even considered otherwise: INVERTEBRATES RULE! Strange, but true.

  • Louisa
    2019-04-29 18:25

    Waiting for Aphrodite is a beautiful book about the little things that run the world, the small beings without bones that occupied this planet long before we mammals came around. In a delightful, poetic way, Sue Hubbell tells how she took her bike to visit the tidal pools in the park near her house in Maine, and observed sponges and sea urchins, millipedes and earthworms, star fish and sea cucumbers. I particularly loved chapter 12 where she writes about bioluminescence, the capacity of animals and plants to glow and give off light. The last chapter is dedicated to the sea mouse known as Aphrodite, a little scale worm with a furry coat "as resplendent as the plumage of a humming bird" and flaps with which they can paddle and pump to keep fluids flowing within their bodies. This book is an ode to nature and the evolution of life on our planet. Just wonderful.

  • Susan
    2019-05-03 23:33

    In this book of connected essays about invertebrates, the author moves back and forth between her new home on the Maine coast, her old home in Missouri, and other locations, including Belize. There are essays on horseshoe crabs, fireflies, millipedes, sea urchins, corals, sponges, earthworms, bees, pill bugs, and sea mice among others. One theme repeats -- there is so much that is not known about these animals' biology and habits.

  • Carolyn
    2019-04-27 00:21

    I read this some years ago, but ran across another of her books recently, and decided to read it again. Sue Hubbell writes Biology for the lay person, and in this book, she winds her discussion of a wide range of invertebrates around ideas of time--time past, future time, the scale of time, and so on. Her writing is elegant and accessible; part memoir and part science. I recommend all her books.

  • Wendy Feltham
    2019-05-02 20:25

    I really enjoyed this book by a writer who has frequently contributed to The New Yorker. Sue Hubbell's tales of meeting with scientists who specialize in specific invertebrates are all spell-binding to someone like me, who loves sea creatures. Waiting for Aphrodite is fascinating peek into the lives of a few charming invertebrates, along with a frank personal perspective on aging.

  • Judy
    2019-05-17 22:42

    A splendid read because Hubbell integrates her own story with her fascination with invertebrates: sea urchins, earthworms, pill bugs, spiders, millipedes, bees, horseshoe crabs, and the sea mouse (Aprophodite)which is a worm that inhabits deep parts of the ocean. "We humans are a minority of giants, stumbling around in the world of little things."

  • A.D. Morel
    2019-05-12 23:43

    Splendid book! Sue Hubbell allows us to walk beside her, share her adventures and find meaning among the natural history and people around her. She pursues millipedes, sponges, and sea mice. Even if you think slimy sea creatures are disgusting, you will understand Hubbell's affection for such animals because of the skill with which she describes her quest for them and her experience of each.

  • Lee
    2019-05-17 19:34

    Good descriptions of one invertebrate after another, but that was one invertebrate too many. I'd have liked to have had more description of her life in Maine. Nothing bad here, actually rather interesting, but too much for one time.

  • Diane
    2019-05-10 21:44

    Hubbell's prose is as if she is carefully turning over stones and describing to you what she finds. More science than personal... if you like learning about the small creatures, this is a good book.

  • Amy
    2019-05-17 20:48

    A great natural history read...and it actually makes invertebrates seem as cool as they are! Well told stories about interesting creatures.

  • John
    2019-04-29 22:22

    Very readable popular-science natural history.

  • Harry
    2019-04-18 17:38

    An very interesting journey into the world of invertabrates

  • Bruce Carr
    2019-05-11 22:29

    A reflection of mankind through yah examination of sea creatures.

  • Kate
    2019-05-11 00:43

    You know when more than one person gives you the same book it was meant to be.

  • Mills College Library
    2019-04-28 17:37


  • Rae
    2019-04-21 20:18

    Essays on the creatures of the invertebrate class...camel crickets, sea cucumbers, millipedes, sponges, periwinkles, coral, earthworms, horseshoe crabs, and the elusive sea mouse. Good stuff.

  • Terry
    2019-05-01 19:31

    A lot of what Hubbell writes about in this book has been in the news since and there are already revisions to the science in some cases, but overall an at least interesting collection.

  • Whiskeyb
    2019-05-15 17:47

    she cares about the little things

  • Linda
    2019-05-08 20:25

    Hubbell blends natural history, journalism, and a little personal narrative in the is delightful look at invertebrates.