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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely fascinating book,a literary treasure.
Smart, witty, informed, observant, funny, practical, and powerfully moving-- Ackerman combines all of these qualities in a book that's both superb natural history and stylish literature. As a scientist, I'm continually amazed by Ackerman's scrupulousness. As a gardener, I'm impressed by her inventiveness (I'm going to try some of her strategies this season). As a lover of...
Published on April 15, 2002

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70 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Natural History of Diane Ackerman
Well this is going to make me feel like a curmudgeon, since I can see that Diane Ackerman has a devoted following. However, having just tried and failed to get through my second Diane Ackerman book, I have to tell you that I find them boring and unreadable. She doesn't write much about natural history; she writes poetic meditations on natural history. There is a big...
Published on October 21, 2002


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70 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Natural History of Diane Ackerman, October 21, 2002
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden (Paperback)
Well this is going to make me feel like a curmudgeon, since I can see that Diane Ackerman has a devoted following. However, having just tried and failed to get through my second Diane Ackerman book, I have to tell you that I find them boring and unreadable. She doesn't write much about natural history; she writes poetic meditations on natural history. There is a big difference. Her books are about her responses to the natural world, and she can be quite self-absorbed.
For example, in one essay she begins by describing her feelings upon seeing a sick raccoon stagger across her yard in broad daylight. She calls the local animal welfare people to look into it. Then she turns to describing her feelings and reactions to the other elements of her garden. I was left wondering what happened to the raccoon. She never told me.
If you are looking for Diane Ackerman's personal reactions to nature, this may be for you. But I was looking for some good winter reading about nature itself, for when I miss my garden. At the same time I ordered this book, I also ordered a book by Sy Montgomery called "The Curious Naturalist: Nature's Everyday Mysteries". I just chose it by searching for such books on Amazon[.com]. It turns out that Sy Montgomery was the nature columnist for the Boston Globe, and her essays are delightful, concise, amazing and informative. I didn't learn much about the interior life of the author, but I learned the most amazing things about the nature all around me. I read about the messages that singing insects send in the autumn evenings and how they create their songs; the messages in spider webs; the peculiar life-giving structure of water; the way sound travels over snow in winter. Most delightful of all, the author describes ways of interacting with our animal brothers and sisters. I learned how easy it is to teach wild birds to eat from your hand, and how to use a flashlight in the grass to flirt with fireflies and get them to hit on you. This is the book I was really looking for when I bought Ackerman's book. Once I started The Curious Naturalist, I couldn't put it down. If you are looking for the same type of reading that I was, you will like the Montgomery book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely fascinating book,a literary treasure., April 15, 2002
By A Customer
Smart, witty, informed, observant, funny, practical, and powerfully moving-- Ackerman combines all of these qualities in a book that's both superb natural history and stylish literature. As a scientist, I'm continually amazed by Ackerman's scrupulousness. As a gardener, I'm impressed by her inventiveness (I'm going to try some of her strategies this season). As a lover of literature, I find myself rereading poetic passages of unbelievable beauty. This is one of my favorite books on any subject, because it's brimming with her trademark-- a fascinating sensibility, who loves and is endlessly curious about the natural world, while keeping an equally fascinated eye on the human condition. All that combined with the soul of a poet. In short, a literary treasure.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it, and I�m not even remotely a gardener, February 24, 2004
This review is from: Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden (Paperback)
Gardens. They're great, and I have a lovely one in my front yard. But I can claim exactly none of the credit. My style of gardening is to sit on the front steps chatting with Teri, my gardener, while she prunes the shrubs and tucks primroses and lobelia and cyclamen into the little bare spots.
But I love reading about people who DO enjoy gardening, and Diane Ackerman is a consummate writer on the subject. I've read The Moon by Whale Light and A Natural History of the Senses, two others of her several books, and find myself equally charmed by this one. It's a casual tour through the four seasons of her upstate backyard garden. But, as she's a naturalist, a poet, and a philosopher, she doesn't stop with just the plants; she uses the plants and their interdependent roles as metaphors to browse mentally through a wide variety of topics, including what gardens can do for people more than how people can tend a garden. It's like a role reversal of sorts. Some of the subjects that her free- and far-ranging mind roams over include: how we are like plants, plant's self-defense mechanisms, why we see faces in nature, etc. Her lyrical writing and vast, encyclopedic curiosity sometimes remind me of Annie Dillard's nature writing, a comparison that should be considered a compliment to both authors.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unoriginal and uninspiring..., December 8, 2001
Diane Ackerman says, "I must confess, I am not a master gardener by a long shot, nor even a particularly expert one." In CULTIVATING DELIGHT, Ackerman proves this by sharing the contents of a journal she kept following an accident in which she was struck by a motorist while riding her bicycle. DELIGHT is not a gardening book, it is a synopsis of a journal kept by a convalesing writer who happens to have a garden.
Ackerman lives and gardens in Ithaca New York, home of Cornell University and one of the most beautiful and idyllic college towns in the United States. In her book, Ackerman describes her life of privilage: swimming in her backyard pool with friends; riding her bike around town, along the lake, or into the countryside; collecting roses from her many and various garden beds (1,500 roses over the summer); resting in the bay window of her study to watch wrens house hunt and breed or hummingbirds whom she has named Ruby and Gizmo stop by for a snack from one of the various feeders she has hung; shopping at craft fairs; stopping by the garden center; and myriad other tasks.
Ackerman uses the four seasons to stucture her book--an overworked device that fails (A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES was much better organized). A few passages are good--she's somewhat eloquent when it comes to describing birds--but mostly I found her writing irritating and repetitive. She too frequently makes use of cliched phrases and/or awkward metaphors. As an avid reader of books on gardening and nature, I found her thoughts unoriginal and uninspiring.
I recommend one consider resisting the beautiful cover of this book (which is relatively original and apparently matches the colors in the wall paper in Ms. Ackerman's study), and read THE INVITING GARDEN by Allen Lacy. Or if you are looking for book on gardening that is truly profound, try Jim Nollman's book, WHY WE GARDEN.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gorgeous book., October 8, 2001
By A Customer
This book is so wise, witty, and exquisitely-written that I know it will be one of my favorites for a long time. It's filled with creative gardening ideas I would never have thought of (even though I've been gardening for decades), but it's mainly a book about our relationship with nature, as well as many other things. It reminds me a lot of her A Natural History of the Senses, because it's fascinating, thoughtful, poetic, and practical all at the same. A gem.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stop and Smell the Words, October 21, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden (Paperback)
Previous reviewers, grumps and rhapsodics both, are pretty accurate in their review of this work. If you're looking for a lot of how-tos about gardening, you won't find them here. What you will find is someone who LOVES her garden, and loves reflecting on it. While the "hard labor" of gardening is something she is glad to hire other people to do for her, she revels in it's lovely blossoms and the wildlife who visit it. My husband was put off by her hiring out the hard work too, but all I could think was, "If I could afford it, I'd hire out the nasty stuff too"
I really don't think it is the author's intent to instruct us on how to garden, what she does is inform us, through her example, that delight can be found in many aspects of gardening. It is a zen-like philosophy; focus lovingly and intently on what you do.
While there are no earth shattering revelations here, Ms Ackerman's musings reminded me of poems I had forgotten, books I'd been meaning to read, and, yes, plants I'd been meaning to plant. While some may have a problem with this as an overall book, I can't imagine anyone objecting to it page-by-page. This may be one of those books to be read just a few pages at a time. Savor each page as you would a rose blossom, enjoy the loveliness of it, then move on.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not vintage Ackerman!, November 4, 2001
By A Customer
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
CULTIVATING DELIGHT lacks the charm and sense of wonder that
captivated me in THE MOON BY WHALELIGHT and A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES. Other gardeners, e.g., Vita Sackville-West and
Beverly Nichols, wrote in a way that allowed others to share their experiences much more so than does Ackerman. Although the book is organized seasonally, "staying with" it is difficult because her thoughts ramble so much. The connection between each season and her thoughts and activities is often vague. There is a place for anecdotal material and for sharing thoughts. However, when these seem to become "insertions" or an "oh-by-the-way . . ," they prevent the writing from being seamless and flowing -- and effective.
A personal reaction: It's hard to believe that someone who shifts hated gardening chores to others is at heart a true gardener. Only when one gets "down and dirty" and does the dreaded chores does she truly experience delight in cultivating a garden that pleases her.
The "Plant Inventory" with which the book closes adds little to the education and nothing to the pleasure of the reader. A sketch of the overall garden would be helpful.
If the book is meant to be a memoir of one gardener's responses to her garden, it succeeds. If it is meant to invite others to share her pleasure, it fails.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Ackerman, another feast for the senses., November 6, 2001
By A Customer
This book is a rich feast for the senses. In fact it reminds me so much of A Natural History of the Senses that I think of it as a continuation taken outside into the garden. It's classic Ackerman, another beautifuly-written, deeply felt celebration of life. She manages her large garden with minimal help or fuss, but an endless supply of curiosity, wonder, humor, and passion. It's the perfect book to re-read this winter while I wait for spring.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My steady companion., January 15, 2002
By A Customer
I received this beautiful book as a Christmas present, read it through with relish, and am now reading it again, this time week by week, the way it was written. It's an amazing appreciation of nature, and so wise about the human condition. It's my steady companion as I await the spring garden.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peace, Humor and Delight in the Garden, December 31, 2001
By 
Poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman loves her garden. It must be a fairly untidy, eclectic garden as she enjoys many weeds, welcomes deer and generally works hard to let nature have its way. Running through the span of seasons, this wonderful book allows many discursive, delightful riffs on such topics as John Muir, tagging squirels, the passing of time, moon and bird watching, and sick houses. It would be a great fun to spend time with her: deadheading asters, learning the different scents of her 100+ roses, and flowering arranging every spring and summer morning. But failing that opportunity, spending time with this garden book that's not a garden book, poem that is not a poem, essay on natural history that's certainly not an essay is almost as fun!
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Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden
Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden by Diane Ackerman (Paperback - October 1, 2002)
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