REVIEW of a Classic: A Natural History of The Senses by Diane Ackerman

Ackerman bookWhile this book was originally published in 1990, I revisit it occasionally because it’s beautifully written and chock full of fascination details about our sensory world. I am a better writer after reading Ackerman’s text and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in writing. Ackerman is a “poet, pilot, naturalist, journalist, essayist and explorer.”

Her perspective is unique and she pretty much wallows luxuriantly in sensory experiences, sharing the results with readers. I won’t have even half of her experiences and I’m not sure I want to, but reading about the minutia of smelling, feeling, tasting, hearing and sensing is fascinating. It was her information that helped give me foundation to my approach to swearing. I’ve always questioned the labeling of language as “good” or “bad”, but this book gave me factual data to support this. We label some words as “bad” because they come from the Anglo Saxon language and this group was conquered centuries ago by the Normans. Words with the same meaning, but stemming from the Norman language are spoken from pulpits. Children do not get sent to time out if they use these words–as they probably do if they use the Anglo Saxon counterparts. No, instead they get really high scores on their SATs.

This is not a fast read. The text is dense much of the time, but poetic and rich. Try it out. You might like it.


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