10 of the Best Books about Octopuses. Or Octopi. Or Octopodes. Whatever You Call Them.


Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she’s writing romance. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she’s as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Let’s talk about octopus books. Octopuses (don’t get me started on Octopi) make some of the best literary subjects for fiction and nonfiction alike. As animals who live everywhere, from intertidal zones to the deepest ocean, they’re paradoxically common and deeply mysterious. What do you mean it has mini-brains that control each of its arms? What do you mean they can recognize — and antagonize! — people? And they’re building cities?! They seem like the ultimate nature in a man vs. nature story because they present a true challenge of wits. Did you know octopus wrestling used to be a thing? 

If you’re looking for books about octopuses, maybe it’s because you saw the popular documentary My Octopus Teacher. Or maybe you read the very popular Remarkably Bright Creatures and are in a cephalopod mood. We’re here to help. However you want to think about the octopus, be it through the lens of body horror, cognitive science, or even cuisine, there’s a book for you. I’ve separated them by genre, but I think you should read like an octopus would read. Be a shapeshifter; read everything. Go into those weird tiny spaces. And if you don’t like something, you always have the option of dousing it with ink and running away. (Not recommended for library books).

Nonfiction Books About Octopus

secrets of the octopus book cover

Secrets of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery 

If you read The Soul of an Octopus, one of the best books about octopuses, you’re in luck. The author has written a new book, full of the latest research and beautiful photography from National Geographic. This book is actually a companion to a National Geographic special, so tune into that as well. Learn about the research into whether or not octopuses dream! If you’re looking for nonfiction about octopuses with deeply researched material delivered in an accessible, conversational way, this is the book for you.

many things under a rock book cover

Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses by David Scheel 

If you want to read nonfiction about octopuses by someone who’s spent a lot of time in their company, this is the book for you. David Scheel is a marine biologist — the dream! — who has spent decades studying the fascinating ocean beasts. His writing weaves together octopus research with his own personal encounters and Indigenous stories and legends (with consent from and credit to the storytellers).

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil book cover

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Nonfiction books by poets are some of the best around. You get beautiful language and unique perspectives on a subject. In the case of this book, it’s, as the title suggests, the wonders of nature. Threaded through examinations of astonishing nature are touching bits of memoir. The essay about hunting octopus in this book is, to give a word of warning, sad and haunting.

Book cover of Other Minds

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Here’s who I want to be writing my nonfiction octopus books: someone who’s both a philosopher of science and a scuba diver. Those are some bona fides. This book delves into the evolutionary story of octopuses. For creatures with such advanced intelligence, they are very evolutionarily different from intelligent vertebrates like birds and mammals. And because this book is by a philosopher, it also delves into the struggle to understand what consciousness itself is, a topic that puzzles philosophers and scientists alike.

Cook Korean cover

Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha

Perhaps reading books about octopuses will make you never want to eat them again. But just in case, Robin Ha’s unique cookbook/comic book will show you how to prepare them. Luckily, this book has 64 recipes among its playful comic illustrations. So if you aren’t keen on spicy octopus, you can make kimchi, bulgogi, gimbap, and more.

Fiction Books About Octopus

the octopus and i book cover

The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle

While Lucy is recovering from surgery on her breasts, she takes an interest in the wildlife of the Tasmanian coast where she lives. She’s reckoning with the newness of her post-surgical body, and she becomes entranced by the bodies of the octopuses in her local waters. While this book is certainly about a personal journey, it is also most definitely about octopuses. This beguiling novel even includes animal points of view, so read this one if you’re looking for an octopus’s-eye view of the world.

book cover of The Mountain in the Sea by Nayler

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler

Maybe you’re worried about AI taking over everything, but have you also worried about octopuses? In this near-future thriller, marine biologist Dr. Ha Nguyen joins forces with a giant tech corporation for a chance to study octopuses that have allegedly developed language and culture. Naturally, where there is superhuman intelligence, there is money to be made. So, control of the octopuses is going to be very contentious. And the octopuses might not take it lying down…

octopus girl book cover

Octopus Girl, Vol. 1 by Toru Yamazaki

Here’s that body horror I was promising you. This three volume manga series follows Takoko, who is called Tako by her classmates. Tako is Japanese for octopus, by the way. Tako’s classmates bully her relentlessly, including making her eat a live octopus despite her allergy. She nearly dies, but instead undergoes a transformation I will leave for you to discover. This one’s only for people who have a strong stomach, and definitely among the best books about octopus for adults.

cover of Sea Change by Gina Chung

Sea Change by Gina Chung

Ro is going through it. Her boyfriend’s leaving on a mission to Mars. She and her mom are estranged. Her dad disappeared on a marine biology expedition when she was a teenager. Can she at least keep her friend Dolores, the giant Pacific octopus, at the mall aquarium where she works? No, Dolores gets sold, sending Ro into a full tailspin. If you like octopuses and you’re also going through a quarter-life crisis, this one may hit a little close to the bone.

the last guest book cover

The Last Guest by Tess Little 

Have you ever been reading a locked-room mystery and thought, this could use an octopus? You’re in luck. This book features a cast of characters showing up to an exclusive party in the Hollywood Hills. When the host is found dead the next morning, all the attendees seem to have a motive for murder…and so does the host’s pet octopus?

The fun doesn’t stop there. We have books like My Octopus Teacher, as well as books about the oceans and ocean life. So, if you never became that marine biologist you dreamed of becoming as a child — my Barbie doll was a marine biologist studying sponges?? — you’ll be able to talk a good game.

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