The Book of Eels Book Summary - The Book of Eels Book explained in key points
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The Book of Eels summary

Patrik Svensson

Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World

4.6 (32 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson is a fascinating exploration of the mysterious life of eels, their cultural significance, and their endangered existence. It's a must-read for anyone interested in the natural world.

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    The Book of Eels
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    The eel has a complicated life cycle that includes four stages of development.

    What does an eel look like? Long, black, and a bit slimy – right? Well, that’s partly true, but it’s not the whole story. Actually, eels only look like this during the final stage of their development. An eel that resembles an aquatic snake is probably nearing the end of its life.

    These fish spend most of their years in immature forms. Between the day they hatch in the Sargasso Sea and the day they die there, eels go through four stages of metamorphosis.

    The key message here is: The eel has a complicated life cycle that includes four stages of development.

    The eels’ journey begins in the Sargasso Sea, in the Northwest of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, in the warm, murky depths, their larvae – known as Leptocephalus larvae – first hatch.

    Leptocephalus larvae look very odd. They’re completely flat, and their transparent bodies are out of proportion to their tiny, ill-fitting heads. 

    As soon as eels are born, they begin their long journey east. The Gulf Stream carries them across the Atlantic and toward Europe. This migration can take as long as three years.

    Once the larvae make it to Europe, their bodies change again. They begin to acquire the familiar serpentine form. Larvae become glass eels. But they remain small – not much longer than your finger – and they’re still almost entirely transparent. The tiny eels then move from salt water to fresh water and travel up brooks and rivers all across Europe.

    As they swim up Europe’s waterways, the eels undergo another metamorphosis. They grow larger and more muscular; fins appear along their backs and bellies; and, for the first time in their lives, eels develop pigment. Glass eels become yellow eels.

    Yellow eels will swim for miles, looking for a place to call home. Finally, they’ll settle down, usually at the bottom of a lake or pond. Once an eel has found a perfect spot, it can remain there for decades, until something – scientists aren’t sure what – tells the eel it’s time to reproduce. The fish then begin their long journey back to the Sargasso Sea. Along the way, they undergo their fourth and final metamorphosis; yellow eels develop into sexually mature silver eels. 

    Remarkably, silver eels never feed. Their stomachs simply dissolve. All the energy a silver eel will ever need comes from its fat reserves. 

    Finally, once the eels make it back to the fields of seaweed in the Sargasso Sea, they fertilize their eggs and die.

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    What is The Book of Eels about?

    The Book of Eels (2020) takes the reader on a zoological odyssey spanning thousands of years. It’s the story of the eel – a creature that has enthralled humanity with its strange and complex life cycle. Countless scientists have dedicated their careers to the enigma of this fish, which has evolved to undergo several metamorphoses over the course of its life and to endure a grueling migration across the Atlantic to breed. But the eel has proven to be an elusive creature, and there are still many secrets about its life that it seems intent on keeping to itself.

    The Book of Eels Review

    The Book of Eels (2020) delves into the mysterious world of eels, uncovering their intriguing life cycle and the longstanding fascination they have held for humans. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • Through meticulous research and captivating storytelling, the book offers a fascinating exploration of the biology, ecology, and cultural significance of eels.
    • It sheds light on the elusive nature of eels and the countless questions that still surround them, leaving readers with a sense of wonder and curiosity.
    • With its blend of personal anecdotes, scientific discoveries, and historical accounts, The Book of Eels offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on this enigmatic creature.

    Who should read The Book of Eels?

    • Nature lovers who are fascinated by strange stories from the great outdoors
    • Fans of mysteries that stubbornly resist explanation 
    • Environmentalists concerned about humans’ effect on the future of the eel

    About the Author

    Patrik Svensson grew up near a stream in Sweden, where his father taught him to fish for eel. He’s now an arts and culture journalist for the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan. Patrik lives with his family in Malmö, a city in the southwest of the country.

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    The Book of Eels FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Book of Eels?

    The main message of The Book of Eels explores the mysterious world of eels and raises questions about their lifecycle and the human fascination with them.

    How long does it take to read The Book of Eels?

    The reading time for The Book of Eels varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Book of Eels a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Book of Eels is a captivating read that delves into the peculiarities of eels and the author's personal journey. It's definitely worth exploring.

    Who is the author of The Book of Eels?

    The author of The Book of Eels is Patrik Svensson.

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