If you’re looking for an absorbing beach read this summer, and aren’t afraid of seeming literal-minded by bringing a book about shells to the beach (which, we admit, is kind of like reading something called “A History of Subways” on the subway), Philippe Bouchet’s Shells is the volume for you. We always knew the French were passionate, but we didn’t know they could be so passionate about malacology until we read Mr. Bouchet’s love letter to the science of shells. That’s right, science: where other books on this subject might consist of a puffball text with pretty pictures, Abbeville gives you an edifying, engaging discourse on the history and study of malacology that covers such topics as shell classification, collection, and conservation. With pretty pictures.
Actually, the pictures are quite beautiful, and Bouchet’s enthusiasm for his discipline—as well as for science and exploration in general—can be felt on every page. You’ll come away from this book just as concerned as he is about the protection of sea life and the future of natural history museums, and just as excited as he is that untold numbers of shell species haven’t been discovered yet. You might even be impressed to learn that such new discoveries happen all the time, and that he’s discovered quite a few species himself over the years. Finally, if you hold this book up to your ear, you can hear the ocean roar.