Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Though I'm not usually as partial to non-fiction, this piece of literature really captivated my attention because it combined both marine sciences/climate awareness with mental health destigmatization—two topics about which I am very passionate. I liked how Berwald wove her own experiences with coral reefs into that of her daughter's battle with O.C.D., and I found it added another layer of dimension to her work as a whole. Though I can't say I always understood all of the scientific jargon she used, I am glad to have read the book; it opened up my eyes to some of the projects currently being undertaken to save coral reefs, many of which were new to me. Additionally, rather than explaining these attempts to mitigate global warming in a dejected and defeatist manner, Berwald sparked hope with her words, reminding her readers that the ocean is resilient and will work in tandem with humans to heal the planet. For anybody curious about marine activism, coral reefs, or who maybe just wants to understand O.C.D. a little bit better, this is a read for you!

— Maddie




The story of the urgent fight to save coral reefs, and why it matters to us all

Coral reefs are a microcosm of our planet: extraordinarily diverse, deeply interconnected, and full of wonders. When they’re thriving, these fairy gardens hidden beneath the ocean’s surface burst with color and life. They sustain bountiful ecosystems and protect vulnerable coasts. Corals themselves are evolutionary marvels that build elaborate limestone formations from their collective skeletons, broker symbiotic relationships with algae, and manufacture their own fluorescent sunblock. But corals across the planet are in the middle of an unprecedented die-off, beset by warming oceans, pollution, damage by humans, and a devastating pandemic.

Juli Berwald fell in love with coral reefs as a marine biology student, entranced by their beauty and complexity. Alarmed by their peril, she traveled the world to discover how to prevent their loss. She met scientists and activists operating in emergency mode, doing everything they can think of to prevent coral reefs from disappearing forever. She was so amazed by the ingenuity of these last-ditch efforts that she joined in rescue missions, unexpected partnerships, and risky experiments, and helped rebuild reefs with rebar and zip ties.

Life on the Rocks
is an inspiring, lucid, meditative ode to the reefs and the undaunted scientists working to save them against almost impossible odds. As she also attempts to help her daughter in her struggle with mental illness, Berwald explores what it means to keep fighting a battle whose outcome is uncertain. She contemplates the inevitable grief of climate change and the beauty of small victories.

About the Author

Juli Berwald received her PhD in ocean science from the University of Southern California. The author of Spineless and a science textbook writer and editor, she has written for a number of publications including The New York Times, Nature, National Geographic, and Slate.

Praise For…

Praise for Life on the Rocks:

“A blast to read, full of fascinating stories, facts, and humor, and is an inspiring portrait of an underwater world that is integral to our global ecology.” —Shondaland

"A colorful exploration of the tropics’ struggling coral reefs and what we can do to save these crucial oases of the big blue." —Lydia Millet, Oprah Daily

“The journalist and scientist’s deep dive into these underwater ecosystems reveals their mesmerizing complexity as well as the perils they face today.” —New York Times

“A globe-trotting adventure to fight for the future of coral reefs.” —Science

“[A] beautiful, rigorous, and ultimately hopeful book.” —Daily Beast

“Dazzling. . . . Life on the Rocks shimmers with radiant prose, sending out rays of hope for the future of coral reefs.” —BookPage

“Highly readable.” —Scientific American

“Engrossing.” —Library Journal

“[A]n excellent study of efforts to save the reefs. . . .Solidly researched, sharply observed, and compassionately rendered, the parallel struggles in Life on the Rocks make for science writing that is illuminating on several levels.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Ocean scientist Berwald blends memoir and science writing in this colorful look at the state of coral reefs. . . . making for moving dual story lines about health, healing, and hope. Nature-minded readers will find much to enjoy.” —Publishers Weekly

“An energetic investigation of the plight of coral reefs…with sharply drawn profiles and lucid renderings of ocean life.” —Kirkus

“[S]plendid…Berwald’s great strength lies in revealing a fast-moving, complex global catastrophe through easily understood case studies.” —New York Review of Books

“A courageous and passionate look at the exquisite symbiotic world of coral--and of the human spirit.  In entwining deeply personal stories of love and loss and hope on the reefs and in her own family, Berwald offers insight that could not be more relevant to our lives.” —Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Bird Way and The Genius of Birds

“Everyone who cares about the health of our planet should read these riveting, vivid, and information-packed pages. I recommend this book to ocean-loving humans everywhere.” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593087305
ISBN-10: 0593087305
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 352
Language: English