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A Natural History of the Senses Paperback – September 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.
Top customer reviews
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I bought it as a scientific discussion of the senses, and it falls far short of that mark, providing only scant facts.
On the other hand,it is a well written exposition on the senses, human emotions and behavior, and our perception of and interactions with the world.
If that's what you're looking for, add a star or two.
I read A Natural History of the Senses back in 1991, when it first came out ...
If you're an aspiring writer, if you enjoy meditation and/or sensory deprivation (or other activities designed to heighten your sensory awareness), or even if you're just an unpracticed closet sensualist eager for new experiences, then do not walk ... RUN ... run out and by this book. Better still, click on our "Buy Books" link, locate it, and select overnight shipment. You'll thank me for it.
Yes, it really is THAT good.
Ackerman gives us a first hand tour de force overview of our 5 bodily senses, from the historical, scientific, philosophical, artistic and literary vantagepoints. With the giddy delight of someone with a rapt attention for fine details, not to mention a true gift for words, she takes us on a rich journey of the subtle and the sublime ... from the musky scent of fire-warmed leather, to the plaintive cry of a lonely loon hidden in the misty wilderness, to the rousing plushness of crushed velvet, to the crisp-tart taste of muscat grapes plucked straight from their sun-ripened vines.
No need for me to wax poetic, because that's what this work is all about ... it's a master class in understanding the senses we use to percieve the world itself.
Sure, there are people out there who think that books like this are just lightweight literary fluff ... such people reveal themselves to be the same undiscerning people who are blindly content to live on fast food slop, who never stop to relax and fully appreciate a beautiful sunset, and who mechanically motor off into the rat race without pausing for a long moment to nuzzle in the musky warmth of their lover's neck and hair, and to beam love for a long languid moment into their mate's eyes. For those cannot appreciate the subtleties such things, I feel nothing but pity. Go right ahead and wallow in your detached mediocrity ... and whatever you do, do NOT buy this book, because it'll only upset you to realize all the things you've been missing out on all these years. You've been living your life in the lowest possible resolution, and you have nobody to blame but yourself.
Anyway, this book is easily one of the most enjoyable and satisfying books I've read to date.
These are the reasons/pros for buying this book:
1. Heard of Diane, but never read her books and heard this is one of her top books
2. I love descriptive & realistic books that take my mind into a blissful state
3. Not long and unbearable in length or tone
4. Amazing diction (choice of wording) that you'll literally want to quote so many parts of this book
5. Okay, there seriously isn't any other book that made me feel like this...
This author is now my favorite and I will be reading her other books. This is ironically beyond words. I am not sure how she does it, but somehow really makes you feel and doesn't quite make me realise I'm just reading a book.
I highly recommend, even if you're not a big reader.
Each chapter reveals the intricacies of the topic at hand except the last two chapters seem slightly off focus. At times Diane Ackerman deviates wildly from her chosen topic and then gets back on track. For example, while discussing vision she ends up talking about weather patterns.
Through this book you may discover how kissing originated or why tea is harmful without milk. Why do woman crave pickles during pregnancy? What motivates people to watch horror movies?
Diane Ackerman is well traveled and has a inquisitive mind. I enjoyed reading new information about chocolate, vanilla and truffles. If you like to keep yourself fortified with useful information then this book is destined to please.
~The Rebecca Review