Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois, and lived there until she was 8, when her family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania. She earned a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and an M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1978, where her dissertation advisor was Carl Sagan.
She has taught at various universities, including Columbia University, the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, and other colleges. She has been married to novelist Paul West since 1970. She currently resides in New York state. A collection of her manuscripts, writings and papers (the Diane Ackerman Papers, 1971-1997—Collection No. 6299) is housed at the Cornell University Library.
Her writing style, referring to her best-selling natural history books, can best be described as a blend of poetry, colloquial history, and easy-reading science.
Ackerman's awards and honors include: an honorary degree from Kenyon College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Orion Award, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize. She was named a "Literary Lion" by the New York Public Library, and a molecule ("dianeackerone") has been named after her. In 2008 she won the Orion Book Award for The Zookeeper's Wife.
Ackerman's book A Natural History of the Senses inspired the 5-part Nova miniseries Mystery of the Senses, which she hosted.
- The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral. New York: Morrow, 1976.
- Wife of Light. New York: Morrow, 1978.
- Lady Faustus. New York: Morrow, 1983.
- Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and selected poems. New York: Random House, 1991.
- I Praise My Destroyer. New York: Random House, 1998.
- Origami Bridges: Poems of psychoanalysis and fire. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
- Reverse Thunder (verse play). New York: Lumen Books, 1988.
- Twilight of the Tenderfoot: A western memoir. New York: Morrow, 1980.
- On Extended Wings. New York: Atheneum Books, 1985.
- A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Random House, 1990.
- The Moon by Whale Light, and other adventures among bats and crocodilains, penguins and whales. New York: Random House, 1991.
- A Natural History of Love. New York: Random House, 1994.
- The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing animals, timeless worlds. New York: Random House, 1995.
- A Slender Thread. New York: Random House, 1997.
- Deep Play. New York: Random House, 1999.
- Cultivating Delight: A natural history of my garden. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
- An Alchemy of Mind: The marvel and mystery of thebBrain. New York: Scribner, 2004.
- The Zookeeper's Wife: A war story. New York: Norton, 2007.
- Dawn Light: Dancing with cranes, and other ways to start the day. New York: Norton, 2009.
- One Hundred Names for Love: A stroke, a marriage, and the language of healing. New York & London: Norton, 2011.
- Monk Seal Hideaway. New York: Crown, 1995.
- Bats: Shadows in the night. New York: Crown, 1997.
- Animal Sense (children's poetry). New York: Knopf, 2003.
- The Book of Love (edited with Jeanne Mackin). New York: Norton, 1998.
Audio / videoEdit
- Mystery of the Senses: A Nova mini-series (video). Washington, DC: WETA / Boston: WGBH, 1995.
- The Zookeeper's Wife (audiobook). North Kingstown, RI: BBC Audiobooks America, 2007.
- One Hundred Names for Love (audiobook). Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2011.
- Diane Ackerman b. 1948 at the Poetry Foundation.
- Diane Ackerman at PoemHunter (1 poem, "School Prayer")
- The Cozy Monotony of Our Days - 4 poems at the Other Voices International Project
- Cosmic Pastoral: Diane Ackerman’s Poems for the Planets, Which Carl Sagan Sent Timothy Leary in Prison
- Diane Ackerman at Amazon.com
- Diane Ackerman Official website
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