Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Diane Ackerman  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction Poetry

Born: October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Ackerman was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Diane Ackerman, born Diane Fink, is an American author, poet, and naturalist known best for her work ''A Natural History of the Senses''. Her writing style, can best be described as a blend of poetry, colloquial history, and easy-reading science. She has taught at various universities, including Columbia and Cornell, and her essays regularly appear in distinguished popular and literary journals.Diane currently resides in Ithaca, New York.

Published Works

  • The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral, Harper Collins, 1976
  • Wife of Light, Harper Collins, 1978
  • Twilight of the Tenderfoot, Harper Collins, 1980
  • Lady Faustus, Harper Collins, 1983
  • On Extended Wings, Simon & Schuster, 1985
  • A Natural History of the Senses, Knopf Publishing, 1990
  • Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems, Random House, 1991
  • The Moon by Whale Light, and Other Adventures Among Bats and Crocodilains, Penguins and Whales, 1991
  • Reverse Thunder: A Dramatic Poem, Lumen Books, 1992
  • A Natural History of Love, 1994
  • The Rarest of the Rare, 1995
  • Monk Seal Hideaway, 1995
  • A Slender Thread, 1997
  • Bats: Shadows in the Night, 1997
  • I Praise My Destroyer, 1998
  • Deep Play, 1999
  • The Senses of Animals, 2000
  • Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002
  • Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002
  • Animal Sense, Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
  • An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2004
  • The Zookeeper's Wife: a War Story, Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc., 2007
  • Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day, W. W. Norton & Company, 2010
  • One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir, W. W. Norton & Company, Reprint edition, 2012
  • The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us, W. W. Norton & Company, 2014

Selected Titles At Your Library

The planets :
ISBN: 0688030882. OCLC Number:

Morrow,. New York :. 1976.

Wife of light :
ISBN: 0688032869. OCLC Number:

Morrow,. New York :. ©1978.

Twilight of the tenderfoot :
ISBN: 0688036058. OCLC Number:

Morrow,. New York :. 1980.

Lady Faustus /
ISBN: 0688023967. OCLC Number:

Morrow,. New York :. 1983.

On extended wings /
ISBN: 0689115407. OCLC Number:

Atheneum,. New York :. 1985.

In this remarkable paean to flying, award-winning poet Diane Ackerman invites us to ride jump seat as she takes -- literally and figuratively -- to the sky. On Extended Wings tells the story of how she gained mastery over the mysteries of flight and earned her private pilot's license, of her frustration and exhilaration during hours of lessons and seemingly endless touch-and-gos, of her first solo and her first cross-country flights, of the teachers and pilots and aviation enthusiasts she befriended and flew with. We learn with her the special language of aviation -- the meaning of terms like "lift" and "windsock" and "True Virgins Make Dull Company" (the flyer's acronym for computing one's heading). And we follow her through an eclectic exploration of the culture and history of flight -- from the dimensions of wind to what laws govern who has the right of way in the sky, from why birds fly to what the litany of lights that flash from control towers means, from the Wright Brothers to St. Exupéry and World War I flying aces. But most of all, On Extended Wings is about challenges, taking chances, and stretching one's limits. As voluptuous in its imagery as it is meticulous in its observation, this is a book for anyone who has ever flown a plane -- or dreamed of it. --

A natural history of the senses /
ISBN: 0679735666. OCLC Number:

Vintage Books,. New York :. 1991.

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.

Jaguar of sweet laughter :
ISBN: 0679402144. OCLC Number:

Random House,. New York :. ©1991.

This collection of verse touches on such topics as a hospital vigil, the Amazon rain forest, and the icy Antarctic, and offers a selection from the author's dramatic poem about a Mexican nun and the Inquisition.

Cultivating delight :
ISBN: 0060199865. OCLC Number:

HarperCollins,. New York :. ©2001.

Poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman discusses her garden and uses it as a metaphor, exploring beauty and the human condition.

Origami bridges :
ISBN: 0060199881. OCLC Number:

. .

In this collection, Diane Ackerman, with astonishing candor, lays bare her desires, anger, jealousy, fears, and anxiety as she probes not only her psychic landscape but also her past. And what gradually rises to the surface is an understanding of how the poet uses verse to purge her demons, express her delight, or confess secret longing, and through this process come to a better understanding of the self. The author of twenty celebrated books of poetry and nonfiction, Diane Ackerman offers a new collection of masterfully crafted poems with an unusual focus. At the heart of Origami Bridges is the delicate relationship of trust between analyst and patient, a relationship that grows out of the emotional give-and-take of the psychoanalytic process. Ackerman's energy and passion are everywhere in evidence, and "she makes the task of putting words to the wordless seem effortless" [Manchester Journal]. Exuberant, lyrical, these are deeply felt poems about life and one of its most important relationships. This collection is Diane Ackerman at the height of her powers as a poet.

Animal sense /
ISBN: 0375923845. OCLC Number:

A.A. Knopf,. New York :. ©2003.

A collection of poems that tells how such animals as alligators, bats, penguins, bumble bees, and skunks use their different senses.

An alchemy of mind :
ISBN: 0743246721. OCLC Number:

Scribner,. New York :. 2004.

The most ambitious and enlightening work to date from the bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses, An Alchemy of Mind combines an artist's eye with a scientist's erudition to illuminate, as never before, the magic and mysteries of the human mind. Long treasured by literary readers for her uncommon ability to bridge the gap between art and science, celebrated scholar-artist Diane Ackerman returns with the book she was born to write. Her dazzling new work, An Alchemy of Mind, offers an unprecedented exploration and celebration of the mental fantasia in which we spend our days -- and does for the human mind what the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses did for the physical senses. Bringing a valuable female perspective to the topic, Diane Ackerman discusses the science of the brain as only she can: with gorgeous, immediate language and imagery that paint an unusually lucid and vibrant picture for the reader. And in addition to explaining memory, thought, emotion, dreams, and language acquisition, she reports on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and addresses controversial subjects like the effects of trauma and male versus female brains. In prose that is not simply accessible but also beautiful and electric, Ackerman distills the hard, objective truths of science in order to yield vivid, heavily anecdotal explanations about a range of existential questions regarding consciousness, human thought, memory, and the nature of identity.

The zookeeper's wife /
ISBN: 0393061728. OCLC Number:

. .

The true story of how the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo saved hundreds of people from Nazi hands. When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw -- and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Żabiński began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Żabińskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants -- otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes -- and keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

Dawn light :
ISBN: 0393338754. OCLC Number:

W.W. Norton,. New York ;. 2011.

One hundred names for love :
ISBN: 0393341747. OCLC Number:

. .

The human age :
ISBN: 0393240746. OCLC Number:

. .

"Humans have subdued 75 percent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness. We tinker with nature at every opportunity; we garden the planet with our preferred species of plants and animals, many of them invasive; and we have even altered the climate, threatening our own extinction. Yet we reckon with our own destructive capabilities in extraordinary acts of hope-filled creativity ... Ackerman [explores] our new reality, introducing us to many of the people and ideas now creating--perhaps saving--our future and that of our fellow creatures."--Jacket.


  • Poetry Prize, Academy of American Poets, 1972
  • Peter B. Lavin Poetry Award in 1985

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