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The Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and Whales

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  775 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
In a rare blend of scientific fact and poetic truth, the acclaimed author of A Natural History of the Senses explores the activities of whales, penguins, bats, and crocodilians, plunging headlong into nature and coming up with highly entertaining treasures.
Hardcover, 249 pages
Published March 31st 1996 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1991)
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A Natural History of the Senses by Diane AckermanThe Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Peng... by Diane AckermanCultivating Delight by Diane AckermanDawn Light by Diane AckermanAn Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman
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2nd out of 24 books — 3 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,730)
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Dec 14, 2014 Preeti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book had been on my reading list for a while, ever since I read The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds, which I loved. I finally got a hold of it through my library's inter-library exchange. (I love my library!)

The book has 4 main sections focusing on 4 different animals: bats, crocodilians (alligators and crocodiles), whales, and penguins. I was really looking forward to the whale chapter, especially since part of it took place in Hawaii - and I really enjoyed it. But t
Nico Our Lady of the Sacred Bonechuck
She tries to make everything sound beautiful and poignant, but at some point I just start to get annoyed.
Dec 12, 2009 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, nature
Another beautiful book of writings by Diane Ackerman. Her writing style is so lyrical and her descriptions are so vivid - reading her work is like biting into the juiciest of fruits. This particular collection highlights bats, crocodiles, penguins, and whales. Ackerman spends time with these animals, learning about their biology and psychology, talks with their keepers, trainers, and researchers.

While all of them were wonderful, the chapters on bats and crocodiles were my favorites of all - per
Mary Lee
Mar 24, 2008 Mary Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite essay was the one about whales. (She also writes about bats, alligators and penguins.) In the first part of it, she wonders about the size of whale brains and what they might do with the largest brain on earth.

"After all, mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into. I often marvel how something like hydrogen, the simplest atom, forged in some early chaos of the universe, could lead to us and the gorgeous fever we call consciousness. If a mind is just a few pounds of blood,
Sep 12, 2010 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I really loved this book. It is filled with beautiful descriptions of Ackerman's experiences learning about four different types of animals: bats, crocodilians, whales and penguins. In each chapter I learned unexpected things about the animals, and experienced Ackerman's wonder at the beauty and uniqueness of each animal group. Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about this book. Ackerman perfectly captures that feeling of awe and wonder experienced when observing nature working so perfec ...more
I'm pretty sure this is not the edition I read.

I encountered the essay on bats from this book in serial form in the New Yorker. I was more captivated by the description of the bats (and of Bat Conservation International's Merlin Tuttle) than by the other esssays in this book--but I did like the other essays. I was interested enough in Ackerman's work that I got another book by her--but I had difficulty getting through that, so I didn't pursue her work further.

Still, I'd recommend this book, if y
Aug 20, 2012 Kayris rated it really liked it
Loved it, especially the chapter on bats. Like many other reviews, I would have loved to see some pictures and maps. However, I did go to the Internet to look up Bat Conservation International and am seriously considering putting a bat house in my yard. I'm also recommending this book for people I know who are freaked out by bats. Some of the traveling the author did that led to this material happened over 20 years ago, which makes me wonder the current status of the 4 animals she wrote about.
It look me awhile to get through the first two sections on bats and crocodiles, but once I got to the whales and penguins I was happy (I like bats and crocodiles and all, but not like I like whales and penguins)! Ackerman writes beautifully and there was a lot to interest me here, once I got to the marine animals. I'm not sure if I'm really planning to read any other books of hers because it looks like most of them are not about animals (haha, I'm a nerd), but...maybe?
Annika Hipple
Sep 29, 2015 Annika Hipple rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nature
Beautifully written, fascinating book consisting of four long essays, each about a different type of animal (bats, crocodiles, whales, penguins). Ackerman is not a scientist, but rather a writer fascinated with natural history and the people who study it. She takes the reader along on her own voyage of discovery, as she learns about each type of animal and joins researchers in their investigations. I particularly enjoyed the whale and penguin chapters because I love both types of animals, but th ...more
Jan 31, 2013 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
This book made me love bats. Have you ever looked at one up close? They are extraordinary, and intelligent and we need to do whatever we can to make sure they thrive in the wild.
Alex Jeffries
May 14, 2014 Alex Jeffries rated it really liked it
I picked this up at a used book store a little over a week ago despite having a to-read pile approaching thigh-high, and have no regrets about letting it cut in line. The Moon by Whale Light is comprised of four long essays that each pay respect to the creature in question by giving a thorough background of the animal's life, history and cultural perception while also recounting her adventures to experience the animals that take her from the Antarctic to Patagonia, from guano-covered bat caves t ...more
Katie Holbrook
Aug 18, 2015 Katie Holbrook rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing! Filled with facts so intriguing that I felt the urge to fish them out and send them to various nature-loving friends. It goes without saying that the writing itself was beautiful, making me just as interested in the scientists Ackerman followed, and the destinations they visited as the animals themselves.
This is the kind of work that has the power to put our existence and interdependence in perspective, and hopefully promote future conservation actions, or at least changing
Apr 17, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I would give this six stars if I could.
Jan 01, 2009 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In the summer of 1988, I went whale watching off the coast of Cape Cod. The boat moved through a group of humpback whales that seemed to lift their eyes above the water just enough to get a peek at what we were doing, seemingly just as curious about us as we were of them.

That’s why I was eager to read Ackerman’s book “The Moon by Whale Light,” a collection of long pieces about her explorations around the world. It did not disappoint.

In the book, Ackerman quotes whale researcher Roger Payne, “Pe
Nov 24, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful nature book. It is divided nicely into 4 chapters, each on a different animal. Whats great is that there isnt a lot of literature about the animals that Ackerman writes about. I was very surprised to learn that bats are actually pretty calm creatures and loving parents that can find their babies among hundreds of other babies from their specific cry. Thats pretty cool. Whats more interesting is that bat habitats are being disturbed and destroyed due to ignorance and thats ne ...more
"...Diane Ackerman has turned her courageous curiosity, her poetic prose, and her meticulous scientific reporting to the world of animals. The result is a splendid, spirited adventure among assorted bats, alligators and crocodiles, whales, and penguins.

"Bats are misunderstood creatures. A repository for our fears of the night and the subject of dark myths, they are in fact altruistic and wonderful parents and among the world's most ecologically valuable animals. One hundred times more ancient th
Bendick Ong
Nov 04, 2013 Bendick Ong rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Bats, alligators, whales, penguins... Each article is an adventure as we follow Ackerman as she watches the 20 millions bats which took hours to fly out of their caves, treads through the swamp trusting that the reptiles will not strike, hears the voices of whales in romantic moonlight and sees the white lanterns huddling together in the blizzard.

Loves the article on bats most as it demyth one of the most harmless yet misunderstood mammal in animal history. The flight of the bats like "rain on
I sat down with this book expecting to be bored. Although I love the natural world - I usually can't get into books about animals or plants. This book was far from boring. I enjoyed every page and I even learned a few things.
Feb 27, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people without televisions
Recommended to Sarah by: one of my local librarians
Shelves: nature, 2008
What I liked about this book were the first two chapters. Bats and crocodilians. It was like the BBC Planet Earth series in book form. The essay about whales is what made me give up. Loving whale songs is so middle aged and I'm just not there (quite) yet. I like the rough and tumble animals, not the placid and serene. This book also felt dated, in that a series like Planet Earth or a movie like March of the Penguins has already given us so much of this information (with the bonus dazzling visual ...more
Tim Sutton
Jun 03, 2015 Tim Sutton rated it it was amazing
LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!! The way that Diane approaches scientific subject matter through the eyes of a poet is like nothing I've ever read. Compelling!!
Jan 12, 2014 Pammie rated it really liked it
Bats, crocodilians, whales of course, and penguins. What a great, adventurous life Diane Ackerman has! This book is nearly 25 years old, but the writing is fresh, the plights of these animals continues, and the grandeur of their habitats still takes the breath away. I would love to see her write a follow-up on the animals, the places, and the very interesting people she met in this book.
Nov 12, 2014 Angie rated it really liked it
A satisfying compilation of long-form essays about the natural world. Great for fans of Malcolm Gladwell who also enjoy nature.
Sharry Miller
Apr 27, 2013 Sharry Miller rated it it was amazing
A five star rating, and I wish I could give this book more. I borrowed The Moon by Whale Light from the public library, but I'll be ordering a paper copy for my personal library, something I normally only do with creativity reference books. I need to own this book, however, to remind myself of the beauty that can be created with mere letters, words, and phrases. Diane Ackerman's facility with language, with description, with detail is so amazing that I would forget that I was learning about bats ...more
This is one of those books I recommend to people who want a natural history.
Mar 04, 2015 Michelle marked it as to-read
Shelves: ref-booktalker
Listed as Q4 = Exceptional!, P4 = A book everyone wants to read
Jena Best
Jan 04, 2016 Jena Best rated it liked it
Interesting read. Completely dated at this point, however.
Aug 09, 2014 itpdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Diane Ackerman writes of her experiences with bats, crocodilians, whales and penguins. She travels with scientists who are studying these animals. She writes wonderful, evocative descriptions of the animals and their habitats as well as explaining what we know and what we don't know.

This edition was published more than 20 years ago and we have learned more about these animals and have uncovered more questions. I don't know if more recent editions have been updated at all. This book does not hav
May 07, 2014 Kendra rated it it was amazing
Absolutely gorgeous writing about fascinating things.
A really enjoyable collection of essays about bats, penguins, crocodilians, and whales. The author really got out and observed these animals with experts in the field. The essays manage to be a lovely combination of travelogue and science article that convey wonder at nature as well as excitement of experience. The author does not attempt to personalize the animals or give them inappropriate human characteristics; she really tries to understand them on their own terms. Highly recommended.
Apr 19, 2008 Sunny rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who is intelligent.
Recommended to Sunny by: Someone left it in the laundry room.
I was excited to read something other than a text by an author with a PhD. I learned something new every paragraph in the section about bats. Everyone ought to read it just to read about the guy who swam across a pond full of piranhas and electric eels. I am sure I would have never made it to that point. In any case after reading this book I want to build my own bat-house to keep in my yard someday, so long as it doesn't interfere with the local bee farms.
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Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives with her husband Paul West in Ithaca, New York.
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“There was nothing to do but wait. It is always like this for naturalists, and for poets--the long hours of travel and preparation, and then the longer hours of waiting. All for that one electric, pulse-revving vision when the universe suddenly declares itself.” 17 likes
“Alligators have beautiful undulating skin, which feels dense, spongy, solid, like the best eraser.” 5 likes
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