Skip to content
by Lulu Miller

Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

Sold out
$26.00
A "remarkable" (Los Angeles Times), "seductive" (The Wall Street Journal) debut from the new cohost of Radiolab, Why Fish Don't Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and--possibly--even murder.​

"At one point, Miller dives into the ocean into a school of fish...comes up for air, and realizes she's in love. That's how I felt: Her book took me to strange depths I never imagined, and I was smitten." --The New York Times Book Review

David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake--which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life's work was shattered.

Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.

When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool--a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.

Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don't Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.

Binding Type: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 04/14/2020
ISBN: 9781501160271
Pages: 240
Weight: 0.80lbs
Size: 8.50h x 5.60w x 1.00d

Review Citations: Library Journal 02/01/2020 pg. 110
Kirkus Reviews 02/01/2020
Publishers Weekly 02/10/2020
Booklist 03/15/2020 pg. 27

Past Forward

Past Forward is a community building nonprofit.

Read our FAQ

Public Podcasting

Public Podcasting is a podcast service and distributor.

View our series

Without Books

Without Books® is an author-centric book initiative.

Shop our books