The Sea is Not Made of Water: Life Between the Tides

By Adam Nicolson


‘A remarkable and powerful book, the rarest of things … Nicolson is unique as a writer … I loved it’ EDMUND DE WAAL

Few places are as familiar as the shore – and few as full of mystery and surprise.

How do sandhoppers inherit an inbuilt compass from their parents? How do crabs understand the tides? How can the death of one winkle guarantee the lives of its companions? What does a prawn know?

In The Sea is Not Made of Water, Adam Nicolson explores the natural wonders of the intertidal and our long human relationship with it. The physics of the seas, the biology of anemone and limpet, the long history of the earth, and the stories we tell of those who have lived here: all interconnect in this zone where the philosopher, scientist and poet can meet and find meaning.

In this blend of fascinating, surprising ecology and luminous human history, Adam Nicolson gives an invitation to the shoreline. Anyone who chooses can look beyond their own reflection and find the marvellous there, waiting an inch beneath their nose.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 24 Jun 2021
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0-00-829477-9
Adam Nicolson is a prize-winning writer of many books on history, nature and the countryside including The Sea is Not Made of Water, The Making of Poetry, Sea Room, God’s Secretaries, The Gentry and the acclaimed The Mighty Dead. His 2017 book, Seabird’s Cry was picked as Waterstones Book of the Month in Scotland and won the prestigious Wainwright Prize for nature writing and the Jeffries Prize. He is the winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the W.H. Heinemann Award and the British Topography Prize. He has written and presented many television series and lives on a farm in Sussex.

‘Miraculous … Effortlessly, in deft, sure and delightful prose, he segues through species, science and art to present tidal nature as a microcosm. The result is an utterly fascinating glimpse of a watery world we only thought we knew’Philip Hoare -

‘A beautiful, powerful story of how we understand the unfolding change of the shore.This is a remarkable and powerful book, the rarest of things, both a call-to-arms and a call-to-pause and truly look. Nicolson is unique as a writer, happy soaked to the skin on the shoreline and happy unweaving skeins of philosophy. I loved it’Edmund de Waal -

‘Pure joy. From the ecology of a sandhopper to the cosmic pull of the tides Adam Nicolson takes us paddling into the pools of our own nature, to places where boundaries are restlessly shifting and balance exists between tension and flow - a dazzling, kaleidoscopic exploration into the meaning of life itself’Isabella Tree -

‘A fascinating guide to all things littoral: a natural history of the rockpool that teems with life … Endlessly interesting, its wonders unfurl, fractal-like, the more closely you examine it’Cal Flyn -

‘The man who finds wonder in a winkle … Remarkable … In Nicolson’s hands the intertidal zone is shown to be rich and revelatory … It is as lyrical, learned and rambunctiously eccentric as his previous work … For a book so focused on non-human life, it is luminously humane’The Times -

‘Exquisite … A bravura act of writing … This uniquely and terribly moving book is great literature indeed - reaches beyond itself to speak to us of the most profound and essential things’Alex Preston, Observer -

‘One of our finest writers of non-fiction … Nicolson’s overarching theme in this book … goes to the very heart of what ecology is … the great pleasure of this book is that he does not allow the specifics of his enquiries to keep him from probing the big questions’Philip Marsden, Spectator -