A Natural History of the Senses

A Natural History of the Senses
Diane Ackerman's lusciously written grand tour of the realm of the senses includes conversations with an iceberg in Antarctica and a professional nose in New York, along with dissertations on kisses and tattoos, sadistic cuisine and the music played by the planet Earth. "Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in."--The New York Times. (Literature--Classics & Contemporary)

Details A Natural History of the Senses

Title A Natural History of the Senses
AuthorDiane Ackerman
Release Date10th Sep 1991
Pages352 pages

7 reviews on “A Natural History of the Senses

  1. gtra1n

    This is an entirely personal response, but this is one of the most important books I’ve read. For anyone who tries to live actively through their senses, experiencing the world around them and incorporating a sense memory, this book will satisfy powerful, intuitive feelings. It has just enough science to explain and fascinate, the rest is clear, resonant stories of sensual experience. There is a lucid, sincere and powerful feeling of sheer joy about that book, the joy Ackerman finds in her own experience and her pleasure and sharing, but the book never tips into the sentimental….

  2. czimm@sfsu.edu

    When I first read Diane Ackerman’s book it opened my eyes, just as these other reviews testify. It does seem to be a book people either love or hate (I have some friends who thought it was sentimental babbling) but that doesn’t change how extravagantly Ackerman uses language itself to convey the lush world of the senses. I teach a creative writing course at SFSU and I use the book to promote both that poetic description and the possibilities for experience and awareness the book evokes. An excellent example of the ways poetry can be used to explain science and experience….

  3. Shaun Roundy

    The best writing I have ever read. Totally engaging essays that will not only teach you more than you ever thought there was to know about our five senses (and more!) but will also make you laugh out loud because the writing is that good. Your world will never be the same again–or should I say, you will never see your world the same way. You will forever be more aware of the stunning intricacy, simplicity, and beauty of life that surrounds us….

  4. Avery Christy

    Do not confuse this book for science or hard fact. ‘A Natural History of the Senses’ is a well done book of lyrical prose that is meant to be relaxed with and enjoyed. Diane Ackerman is quite possibly a lyrical stylist that, much like any past writer, uses the conciousness of her time to bring alive the beliefs, feelings, and concerns that she and others face in their lifetime. Using delightful and fascinating information integrated with insight and stunning language, she makes one become more aware of the senses that we sometimes take for granted….

  5. Peggy Vincent

    After reading a few of Ackerman’s New Yorker pieces, as well as The Moon by Whale Light and her contribution to Sisters of the Earth, I knew I would eventually read all of her books. A Natural History of the Senses does not disappoint. It flows like cool water through literature, history, music, politics, philosophy, and poetry. As a writer, I appreciate this book as a resource of my own, a way to deepen my understanding of our sensory appreciation of the world – but also as an example of beautiful writing by a master of the craft.In a nutshell, I wish Diane Ackerman lived next door to me….

  6. D. Cloyce Smith

    Essayist and poet Diane Ackerman is probably best known for her wonderful New Yorker articles on her investigations of the animal kingdom (including extraordinarily memorable pieces on bats and penguins), most of which have been collected in books. In those acclaimed essays, her idiosyncratic and emotive musings transform the behaviors of other creatures to a human and humane understanding while avoiding anthropomorphic traps.In “A Natural History of the Senses,” Ackerman shifts her considerable observational skills from the animal realm to more familiar human territory. She divides her discussion into the five senses, plus a short section on “synesthesia”; in spite of the book’s title, there’s not much history involved. Somewhat like her essays on nature, each chapter includes random observations, anecdotes, and thoughts on the various aspects of the topic at hand.Some of Ackerman’s morsels are first-class, and she seems particularly to hit her stride in the section on “Taste.” Her di…

  7. J. Duncan Berry

    Imagine having a witty and informed guided tour of one’s own sensory apparatus! That is what Ackerman offers. By turns intensely intellectual and cybaritic, the result is an irresistable romp through the world of newly magnified familiarities.Some gems: chocolate as “an emotional food” (p. 154). “Hands are messengers of emotion” (p. 118). “The tongue is like a kingdom divided into principalities according to sensory talent” (p. 139).And on page 20: “Smell was the first of our senses, and it was so successful that in time the small lump of olfactory tissue atop the nerve cord grew into a brain. Our cerebral hemispheres were originally buds from the olfactory stalks. We THINK because we SMELLED.”Highly recommended. A terrific mental flight while trying to endure air travel!…

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