A Natural History of the Senses Paperback – Sep 10 1991
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"One of the real tests of writers," notes Ackerman in this liveliest of nature books, "is how well they write about smells. If they can't describe the scent of sanctity in a church, can you trust them to describe the suburbs of the heart?" Ackerman passes the test, writing with ease and fluency about the five senses. Did you know that bat guano smells like stale Wheat Thins? That Bach's music can quell anger around the world? That the leaves that shimmer so beautifully in fall have "no adaptive purpose"? Ackerman does, and she guides us through questions of sensation with an eye for the amusingly arcane reference and just the right phrase.
From Publishers Weekly
Physiology and philosophy mesh in this poetic investigation of the five senses; essays explore synesthesia, food taboos, kissing and the power and diversity of music. "Rooted in science, enlivened by her own convincing sense of wonder, Ackerman's essays awaken us to a fresh awareness," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Diane Ackerman's style is enlightening and poetic. A Natural History of the Senses is one of those books that you share with good friends and read over and over again. I still have my very first paperback copy (now autographed and a bit tattered) and it inspires me to be aware every day!
A few examples illustrate the writer's art. In the section on touch, author Diane Ackerman discusses the different reception between the touch of an intimate and that of a stranger. In the sections on sight and hearing, she contrasts the range of perception of humans with that of other animals, some of which have broader ranges than humans and others which have more narrow ranges. In the sections on taste and smell she explores the interplay of the two and gives examples of tastes and smells which are treasured in some cultures and are considered to be repulsive in others.
On the balance this is more of a cultural study than a scientific one. This gives it a balance which makes it an interesting work for a broad range of readers
While DA succeeds at opening our eyes (and ears, nose.... etc) to the world around us, perhaps the only shortcoming of the book lies in creating expectations in the reader of a rigorous treatment in the biological/evolutionary development of the sense organs. The reader seeking such a detailed analysis of the senses and their development would be served better by looking elsewhere. However, this book is a tasty little morsel and food for thought.
Definitely worth a read.
Most recent customer reviews
This book I enjoyed year ago, upon publication, was ordered as a gift to introduce my daughter to it's wit and wonder... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Amazon lover
The power of our senses to ignite, delight, inform and reform our psyches spills enticingly across all her pages. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Charlene D. Jones
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2004 by Peggy Vincent
This is the most beautiful book I have ever read. It opened my eyes to the world and how its viewed by all of our senses. Read morePublished on Aug. 6 2003 by Heather Miller
I can't say this is a bad book, but I don't feel I got my money's worth. It is light on the science. It should be called a celebration of the senses. Read morePublished on June 23 2003
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