A Natural History of the Senses paperback






A Natural History of the Senses hardcover


New York Times Bestseller

A Natural History of the Senses is a vibrant celebration of our ability to smell, taste, hear, touch, and see. Poet, pilot, naturalist, journalist, essayist, and explorer, Diane Ackerman weaves together scientific fact with lore, history, and voluptuous description. The resulting work is a startling and enchanting account of how human beings experience and savor the world.

It asks and answers such questions as: How do perfumers know which scents allure? Why does music move us? How did kissing on the mouth begin? What is our craving for chocolate? It illuminates the phenomenon of pheromones and looks into the question of whether they control us. Incorporated in its superb reporting and splendid prose are fascinating facts: Humans have about 10,000 taste buds, cows 25,000.  What are they tasting, and what are we missing? It probes such everyday mysteries as why leaves turn color in the fall and why we see them in color; and what it is that causes lovers to feel delight when they touch.

A Natural History of the Senses is at once an ingenuous exploration of the physical processes underlying our perceptions and an eloquent ode to life  a rare combination of science and poetry.  




"A Natural History of the Senses is full of answers to the sorts of questions that the child in each of us often asks. But what draws you most happily through the book is the language. Ms. Ackerman gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds that the human senses take in." — Christopher Lehman-Haupt, The New York Times

"Ms. Ackerman brings a poet's eye,  a sharp intellect, and meticulous research to her Natural History.  Letting a writer of the finest sensibility take us on a guided tour of our senses is exhilarating and emancipating — the best kind of journey."— Nicholas Christopher

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)

"Diane Ackerman's latest book is an aphrodisiac for the sense receptors.  Read a chapter,  then step outside and voila: The sky is a deeper blue, the birds sing a sweeter song. How could the world seem otherwise,  after feasting on voluptuous prose...." — Chicago Tribune

 "Lucky Diane Ackerman, adventurer among the senses! She is poet and scientist in one,  elevating strange truths and plain facts to a level of wonderment that makes us greedy for the next page,  and the next. This book is a delicious journey."—  Maxine Kumin


"Nuggets of biological science and bits of sociological lore spice this freewheeling tribute to our five senses, from a poet who, true to her calling, makes the familiar fascinating and new. Rooted in science, enlivened by her own convincing sense of wonder, Ackerman's essays awaken us to a fresh awareness.  Pay attention — these ordinary capacities are marvelous." — Publisher's Weekly


"A valentine to the perceptions." The New Yorker


"Diane Ackerman restores the fresh impact of all our senses,  examining their utmost possibilities with knowledge and with gusto.  Her experiences are as vivid and as varied as her subject-matter. This eye-opening trip through the senses is a wide-ranging romp full of vitality and exotic data." — Josephine Jacobsen 


"Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses I have just eaten down to the last delicious crumb. It is a rare achievement by a superb writer — full of wit, lore, and style.  A book for the senses — to read, taste, fondle."   Richard Selzer


"A marvelous celebration of the senses combining the discoveries of an inspired scholar with the lyricism of a poet. A beautiful,  stimulating book, highly recommended." — Booklist                


"In this entrancing investigation, this supremely intelligent 'mapping' of the senses, Diane Ackerman has succeeded in subtly enriching one's perception of what,  in our daily life,  constitutes the most intimate and, at the same, the most elusive of elements.  Reading A Natural History of the Senses was sheer pleasure." — Walter Abish


"Fascinating. An accessible, entertaining and gently learned way to explore those five gateways through which we come to know and explore the world."  The Washington Post Book World


"A luscious tribute to the joys of corporeality. Her passion for the world around her is contagious." —  Kirkus Reviews    


"This journey through the world of the senses is a walk on the wild side, a wilderness trek that covers vast distances and times...." — St. Louis Post-Dispatch


"It is a book like a field full of wildflowers — a multifaceted delight you wallow in, funny,  rapturous and haunting. This elegantly beautiful book rejoices in the senses as it does in the spiritual and emotional fact of life itself." — Rod MacLeish, "Morning Edition," National Public Radio


"This is one of the best books of the year — by any measure you want to apply. Don't miss it."  St. Petersburg Times


"What a gorgeous book! It  envelops you in a seamless web of witty, insightful, poetic prose flowing like a voluptuous river of words. But Ms. Ackerman brings more than a poet's gift for metaphor to her subject. Her insatiable curiosity,  fierce intelligence and high regard for solid research shine through. The intensely vigorous writing and Ms. Ackerman's obvious fascination with every aspect of the outward and inner manifestations of our lives  reveal an author whose great joy in the sensations of the world is contagious and liberating." — Memphis Commercial Appeal


"A Natural History of the Senses is the most joyous book of the summer and, so far, of the year. Large in spirit, this is the kind of book that makes others look small and mean. Her book is a sensorium.  It will waken you. The Columbus Dispatch           


"Her fascinating book inspires enthusiasm for the diversity of human experience and is a tribute to the amazing power of our senses.  It's both a sensual feast and a celebration." — The Seattle Times