The Philosopher Fish

Sturgeon, Caviar, and the Geography of Desire

Richard Adams Carey


Since the days of the Persian Empire, caviar has meant status, wealth, prestige, and sex appeal. Today it sells up to $650 an ounce, and aficionados will go to extraordinary lengths to get it. That’s just the problem.  

In Philosopher Fish Carey immerses himself in the world of sturgeon, the fish that lays these golden eggs. Ancient, shrouded in mystery, inexplicable in several of its behaviors, the sturgeon has a fascinating biologic past—and a very uncertain future. As a group, sturgeons have become the most critically endangered species on earth, and the caviar industry is in the midst of an existential crisis. This new edition brings the story up to date.


Paper: $35 | E-book: $34.95
ISBN-13: 9781684582389
Pages: 352 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: September 19, 2024


  • “Prized for its caviar-potential roe, [the sturgeon] is currently hot among both international smugglers and ecological preservationists, and right on their dorsal fins is Carey. A lyrical and humane writer, the ecojournalist patiently tracked down hatchery biologists, luxury-food buyers, wildlife agents, and others whose livelihood depends on the sturgeon. He weaves their intersecting stories into one engrossing narrative.”

    Entertainment Weekly
  • “Hard to imagine that a story about fish eggs could be ‘fast-paced,’ not to mention prophetic. But this piece of environmental journalism is both….As for the subtitle, don’t be skeptical: this really is a book about desire. It’s about how Americans balance supply and demand, how ‘we discipline ourselves to measure our desires against finite means.’ As such, it’s a book about America in microcosm. Caviar, as it turns out, is not just tasty. In Carey’s hands, it’s luminous.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “In The Philosopher Fish, environmental journalist Richard Adams Carey takes readers on a wild upstream adventure. He shows how the delicacy has been wiped out of gourmet stores, and the sturgeon quite nearly off the planet. It’s a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale, delivered in lyrical prose.”

    The New York Post

About the Author

Richard Adams Carey

Richard Adams Carey was born in Connecticut and educated at Harvard College. He worked at a sawmill in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, then taught school in the Alaskan Bush and published his first book, Raven’s Children, about Alaska’s little-known Kuskokwim region. His second, Against the Tide, chronicles the lives of several Cape Cod commercial fishermen at a time of cataclysmic change in their way of life.

Other Recent Titles

The Marital Knot

Noa Shashar

A New Orient

Amit Levy

The Spice Ports

Nick Nugent

The Green Ages

Annette Kehnel

Books Like Sapphires

Ann Brener