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The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,098 ratings  ·  189 reviews
As Diane Ackerman writes in her brilliant new book, The Human Age, "our relationship with nature has changed…radically, irreversibly, but by no means all for the bad. Our new epoch is laced with invention. Our mistakes are legion, but our talent is immeasurable."

Ackerman is justly celebrated for her unique insight into the natural world and our place in it. In this landmar
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by HarperCollins Canada
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Michael Here is a quote from the conlusion, " ... our mistakes are legion, but our imagination is immeasurable." This pretty much summed up the book for me.…moreHere is a quote from the conlusion, " ... our mistakes are legion, but our imagination is immeasurable." This pretty much summed up the book for me. There are no profound revelations. It is, to some degree, a compendium of recent technological advances written with an optimistic outlook.(less)
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,098 ratings  ·  189 reviews

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Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated by Barbara Caruso who also narrated Sue Hubbell's books Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs & Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones. This book is very much in the same vein, often almost poetic yet filled with facts & interesting tidbits.

The Good:
I really liked how she frames our current age in the eyes of a researcher from the future studying what is left behind after a geologic age or two. What fossils will we leave? What strange chemicals &am
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars because it deserves 4.5... and everyone should read it, and almost everyone will enjoy and/or learn something from it. For those people who are still heedless of their impact on Mother Nature, some of the interlinked essays will, I hope, serve as prod. For those people who despair, many of the essays give hope that our inventiveness will enable us to live better within our biosphere.

Yes, as others have mentioned, Ackerman covers a lot of ground. It's a survey - there's a list of books
Aug 16, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Ehhh... more like 2.5 stars. The writing was bad - journalistic at times, downright cringe-worthy at others (something about a father's voice "so husky it could haul a sled" eeuuurrrgggh). The tone was reverential, upbeat and hopeful in the face of discussions of mass extinctions and the price the planet will pay for our time on earth. And some of the details were just... made up. Like she read human features in the faces of sheep that had human cells in their organs. I would bet a lot of money ...more
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to the Anthropocene Era

Apes playing with iPads, Japanese tourists visiting industrial sites, the great black marble that is the earth ringed with lights at night: all these are manifestations of the Anthropocene Era, the era in which man is the dominant force shaping the world.

The book is a series of stories each in a separate chapter ranging from nature to technology to the human body. I found each chapter well written, almost poetic. Whether you agree with her position that the way ma
I got a proof copy of this from Bookbridgr, so I'm not sure how many of the issues are going to be dealt with before the completed book is rolled out. There were still a lot of errors at this stage -- a bit where some words were struck out, problems with punctuation, etc. I think the purple prose will be there to stay, though; the writing isn't terrible, but it's rather overloaded, and I'm not keen on Ackerman's flights of imagination. It's one thing to imagine the trace we're leaving on the ear ...more
Jim Byers
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. I was not familiar with Ms. Ackerman's prior books and after reading The Human Age, I realize that have I have found a profound authority on natural science. The scope of this book is beyond broad. She addresses human awareness in primates in contrast to robots that can solve problems by analyzing their own experiences. The anthropogenic point of view is examined on land, in the depths of the sea, from outer space and beyond our univer ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
What do you get when you mix techno-optimism with environmental pessimism you get something like "fear and loathing in the anthropocene" or this book. Weirdness is taking over like a climate changing hurricane in a robotic singularity. Definitely interesting times. This book in part mourns the loss of the natural world and marvels at the weirdly human concoctions we dream up. Both alarming, nostalgic, marveling and full of wonder and horror. Humans are casting spells but like the sorcerer's app ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, environment
I think the author tried to cram too many subjects into the book. With a title like that, admittedly it's a lot of ground to cover. I thought it would be mainly about how we have altered the physical landscape and ecosystems of the Earth, but it also went into how the latest technologies have reshaped our definition of being human beings ala cybernetics and robotics and 3D printed organs and body parts. Chapters on invasive species, climate change and mass extinction were expected, but there wer ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
It seems like I should have really liked this book, but I ended up not quite finishing it. It covers some very interesting topics about how human beings have shaped, and continue to shape, the world we live in, and it is very optimistic about how we can use our cleverness to solve the problems that our own cleverness has caused. Ackerman covers some very cool projects and technologies.
But I think that was one of my problems with the book: it covers SO much, and necessarily just at the surface l
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using her wonderfully poetic language, Ackerman takes a long look at the impact we have on our earth. Calling this epoch of geological history Anthropocene, or the Human Age, she presents world-wide examples of how we are trying to mitigate the effects of humans on all aspects of our planet. She examines, among other things, changes in animal habitats and migrations, the warming of our climate, the changing oceans and the constant battle to supplant fossil fuels with other energy resources. Some ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful look at all the things that make us what we are, and the effect we have on the planet. A series of essays that are lyrically and beautifully written, making us think, alternately depressing and inspiring.
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Niknik by: Won thru Goodreads Giveaway
»I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Read Giveaway«

At first, I wasn't aware that this was going to be a non-fiction read or that Diane Ackerman is usually a science writer (I was only aware of her fictional book, "The Zookeeper's Wife"). However, this book turned out to be absolutely fascinating!

The book covers the ability we, Homo Sapiens, have to vastly change our world through technology and exponentially advancing know-how. While it addresses the obvious negative effects we ha
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really is amazing. I've read many of her books and learned a lot from each one. Here she points out how humans have shaped the entire planet beginning with planting crops and domesticating animals instead of merely hunting and gathering. The Industrial Revolution had a huge impact which continues to this day. Good and bad are profiled---not only climate change as the results of the petroleum industries but the amazing innovations humans are developing, like saving seeds and animal DNA, ...more
Kevin McAllister
It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since I read A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. In her latest work The Human Age she talks about how much we have changed and shaped the world in just a short period of time. The change has indeed been vast and continues to accelerate. But one thing that hasn't changed is how wonderful Ackerman writes. I simply can not think of another author who waxes so poetic while writing about science. With each page I'm enthralled by both the beauty a ...more
A perfect tonic to books like The Sixth Extinction, this is an intriguing and inspiring look at how some of the world’s brightest minds are working to mitigate the negative impacts we have had on the environment and improve human life through technology. Part 1 is the weakest – most of us are already all too aware of how we’ve trashed nature – but the book gets stronger as it goes on. My favorite chapters were the last five, about 3D printing, bionic body parts and human–animal hybrids created f ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's kind of a Readers' Digest collection of everything humans do to tinker with the earth. I haven't read the last couple chapters because I just don't want to be finished with it. Here's a few paragraphs I liked: "A warmer world won't be terrible for everyone, and it's bound to inspire new technologies and good surprises, not just tragedy." "Tuvalu, a country in the South Pacific has begun evacuating it's people to New Zealand and the president of Kiribati an island nation of 32 atolls sprinkl ...more
A lovely and lyrical, if not at times overwrought and overly-romanticized, look at humanity and the roles we play in the world around us, and just how deeply it can affect us in return. A highly literary book of science essays, strange as it may seem, especially to uninitiated.

It hurts to admit it, but Ackerman's poetic waxing gets tiresome at points throughout the book, which could have benefited from some more scientific references, facts and/or figures. Half of what she writes sounds like exa
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and beautifully written, Diane Ackerman's newest work The Human Age describes many of the dumb things we as humans have done to harm our planet. But even better, it spends much more time expounding on really awesome things we as humans have done to stop or reverse that harm. The old adage "You get more flies with honey than vinegar" comes to mind as I reflect on the way Ackerman artfully approached this topic. Her descriptions of many recent innovations humans have made to help Mothe ...more
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enjoyable non-fiction books I have read this year. Ackerman combines her broad thoughts on how humans have adapted to and changed the environment with vivid poetic prose. Ackerman is immensely talented at describing scientific knowledge in an engaging and easy to comprehend fashion. Ackerman outlines in this book that humans mastered nature in the Industrial Age and now in the Anthropocene era we must be dedicated to solving the problems we brought on from industrialization - enc ...more
David Yoon
Maybe we don’t need another book telling us how we as a species are having untold effects on the planet. Climate change, animal extinction, oceanic pollution, energy issues - we face severe challenges but Ackerman is an optimist (and a poet besides). She explores innovative solutions that showcase our resourcefulness as a species and is cautiously optimistic about our ability to solve some of the very problems we’ve created. Like other books of it’s ilk, she can only offer fleeting glimpses of o ...more
Cathryn Wellner
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inspiration
I found this book fascinating, both for Ackerman's take on what has come to be called the Anthropocene and for the many examples she gives of people making strides to mitigate our abuse of the planet. In some ways I would have liked fewer examples and more exploration of them, but as an overview of our impact on our earthship it is thought provoking. And as a nudge for all of us to consider how we can be part of the solution to our environmental ills, it is an important book.
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, history, non-fiction, vine
I'm not sure it's fair to say i 'read' this book. I certainly skimmed it. Well, as much as i could while rolling my eyes constantly at the malicious abuse of the english language. I'd never seen purple prose in non-fiction before (well, excluding biographies), so i guess i can tick that off the Bucket List.
Oct 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had to return this book before I finished reading it, but I probably would have abandoned it anyway. Her observations on our modern world are hardly insightful. She mostly just states what to most of us who pay attention would deem to be obvious. Pretty dull stuff.
David Melbie
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Earth
Recommended to David by: Library pick
This book is wonderful and I loved it! Humanity happens!
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a collection of essays rather than a sustained narrative but interesting and lively with some intriguing ideas of how to fix the world's current predicament.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: supposedly-true
Half lament to the earth, half salute to human ingenuity, the information in this 310 page book probably could have been aptly summarized in 20 pages.

Most of these pages were filled with anti-descriptive metaphors and similes. One paragraph compared the size of DNA to the size of a gnat whisker.


Three thoughts:
A) Do gnats even have whiskers?
B) Even if they do, having never seen one I don’t see how the comparison helps anyone establish a greater understanding of DNA or it’s s
Steve Comstock
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of perspective. This is my first Ackerman book, and I'm addicted. She is remarkable. She has the ability to talk about big issues in an approachable, almost lighthearted way.

The Human Age takes a step back and takes a look at the Anthropocene age (a term some experts use, notably Paul Crutzen to refer to the current geological age) and the ascent of human file over the planet. Ackerman examines our humble origins and the thresholds of discovery we have yet to cross. She is honest about our
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite an extraordinary book. The writing is poetic and the ideas provocative. The book really pushes you to ask new kinds of questions about our role on the planet, the not-so-thin line separating nature and not nature. Plus there are so many fascinating projects profiled in the book. I relished every page.
Steven E Farley
I wish I could give half stars. Three feels a bit too harsh, four feels a bit too generous. Diane Ackerman is an excellent writer. The problem here is perhaps the book is almost more concerned with being a colorfully written than dealing with the content at hand. And there is surely some good content, if a bit unorganized. Most of the chapters here skirt the edge of current science so as to more appropriately be titled "Science Now" (admittedly that's not a terribly creative title). It doesn't d ...more
Kat Asharya
I was a huge fan of Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses and A Natural History of Love, both of which I adored for their sensuous, rich language and heartfelt erudition. Ackerman's poetic and emotional sensibility really suited the subject matter of those books, which felt like masterworks of scientific writing that managed to connect heart and mind. Here, I felt there was a mismatch between her approach and the subject matter: the language felt a bit "purple" at times (though still often ...more
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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 bestsellers The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses.

The Zookeeper’s Wife, a little known true story of WWII, became a New York Times bestseller, and received the Orion Book Award, which honored it as, "a groundbreaking work o
“These days, startling though the thought is, we control our own legacy. We’re not passive, we’re not helpless. We’re earth-movers. We can become Earth-restorers and Earth-guardians. We still have time and talent, and we have a great many choices. As I said at the beginning of this mental caravan, our mistakes are legion, but our imagination is immeasurable.” 2 likes
“In September 2013, the panel of 209 lead authors and 600 contributing authors, from 39 nations, poring over 9,200 scientific publications, came to these landmark conclusions: global warming is “unequivocal,” sea levels are rising, ice packs are melting, and if we continue at this pace we “will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate.” However, they added, we can slow the process down if we begin at once.” 2 likes
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