Author Profile

Sy Montgomery

Sy Montgomery

To research books, films and articles, Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica, worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba and handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana.

She has been deftly undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, hunted by a tiger in India, and swum with piranhas, electric eels and dolphins in the Amazon. She has searched the Altai Mountains of Mongolia's Gobi for snow leopards, hiked into the trackless cloud forest of Papua New Guinea to radiocollar tree kangaroos, and learned to SCUBA dive in order to commune with octopuses.

Sy's 20 books for both adults and children have garnered many honors. The Soul of an Octopus, her latest book, is a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

The Good Good Pig, her memoir of life with her pig, Christopher Hogwood, is an international bestseller. She received a Presidential Award for Lifetime Achievement from the New England Booksellers Association in 2014 and an American Association for the Advance of Science/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science (for her book TEMPLE GRANDIN) in 2015. Sy is also the winner of the 2009 New England Independent Booksellers Association Nonfiction Award, the 2010 Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award, the Henry Bergh Award for Nonfiction (given by the ASPCA for Humane Education) and dozens of other honors.

Her work with the man-eating tigers, the subject of her book Spell Of The Tiger, was made into in a National Geographic television documentary she scripted and narrated. Also for National Geographic TV she developed and scripted Mother Bear Man, about her friend, Ben Kilham, who raises and releases orphaned bear cubs, which won a Chris award.

Sy writes for adults and children, for print and broadcast, in America and overseas in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible at what she considers a critical turning point in human history. "We are on the cusp of either destroying this sweet, green Earth, or revolutionizing the way we understand the rest of animate creation," she says. "It's an important time to be writing about the connections we share with our fellow creatures. It's a great time to be alive." She speaks frequently at schools and museums, libraries and universities.

She is a 1979 graduate of Syracuse University, a triple major with dual degrees in Magazine Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and in French Language and Literature and in Psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Keene State College in 2004, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Franklin Pierce University and also from Southern New Hampshire University in 2011. 

In her new memoir, How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, Sy reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals—her friends—who have profoundly affected her. This is a stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy’s life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals—Sy’s friends—and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.

"She did a wonderful job at both events and provided thought provoking talks catered to her audiences. Her love of nature and writing was evident to all."
-- Melanie Greene, Norfolk Public Library-Little Creek Branch

"My name is Brett and I recently received your book [Soul of an Octopus] as a gift from my girlfriend. I read it and thoroughly enjoyed every page. Cut to yesterday when we visited the New England Aquarium, after reading your book- what a joy! I was very fortunate because as we approached the octopodes (one named after you I believe and Freya) we not only had a great viewing but it was interaction time. I saw a young lady's hands and I believe a man's petting and feeding the two ladies, coupled with your book this was remarkable. Anyways, after awhile we sat down on the bench opposite the tank, where I presume you sat during early morning hours watching the Octopus. My girlfriend and I spoke of consciousness and what we were seeing when a moment I wanted to share with you happened. We spoke of inner and outer world's and sure enough 3 Buddhist monks strolled by, gazed at the Octopus for quite awhile and then floated away."
-- Brett, a fan,

For more about Sy and her works, go to

Reviews of Soul of an Octopus

Her depictions of her intimate experiences with her cephalopod friends ring true, allowing readers to see them in an entirely new light.
-- Publishers Weekly

This miraculously insightful and enchanting book, expands our understanding of consciousness and sheds light on the very notion of what we call a “soul.”.... The book's greatest reward isn't the fascinating science -- although that is riveting and ablaze with rigor -- but Montgomery's bewitching prose, pouring from the soul of a literary naturalist who paints the marvels of the ocean's depths like Thoreau did the marvels of the New England woods. The Soul of an Octopus is an astoundingly beautiful read in its entirety, at once scientifically illuminating and deeply poetic, and is indeed a worthy addition to the best science books of the year.

-- Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

Enter the mysterious intelligent alien world of the octopus. Experience a real intelligence based on a sense of touch that humans can barely imagine.
-- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

Videos featuring Sy Montgomery

TEDx Talk: Do Animals Think and Feel?

Discover the SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS with Sy Montgomery