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A Slender Thread
Diane Ackerman
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A Slender Thread

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  269 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
his astonishing book by the prizewinning, bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses reveals Ackerman's parallel lives as an observer of the wildlife in her garden and as a telephone crisis counselor. "(Ackerman) brings a luminous and illuminating combination of sensuality, science, and speculation to whatever she considers."--San Francisco Examiner.

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Hardcover, 0 pages
Published December 17th 1996 by Random House Value Publishing
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Jan 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
Here's an instance where I think the New York Times got it wrong. This was on the 100 Notable Books list for 1997: "A writer well known for her willingness to try almost anything relates her conversations with persons unseen as she worked the phones at a crisis-intervention center." Sounded interesting. But, there's very little -- maybe twenty pages total -- in the book about her work on the phones at the crisis-intervention center. It's all about Diane Ackerman, Modern Woman: the impeccable dec ...more
Andrea Paterson
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Absolutely wonderful book that seamlessly merges the darkest moments of human crisis with the beauty of the natural world, somehow painting a deeply dynamic and extensive view of human nature and our inextricable links with the animal selves we have forgotten. Should be required reading for anyone working in counselling of any sort. Ackerman is a beautiful writer with a gift for elucidating the subtle.
Erin Stewart
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
In terms of style, the book is well-written but lacks focus. Ackerman often uses a call to launch into her own thoughts about a kind-of-related topic, but my guess is that keeping to the call would have been more interesting. There's also quite a lot about squirrels. I didn't have much patience for those parts and ended up skipping over them in the end - and it still felt like a pretty long book.

(view spoiler)
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I need to read this one again. I want to review it.
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Diane Ackerman is a luminous writer. I'm on page 42, so just at the beginning, but once again, she amazes me with how she weaves across different worlds, here:psychology, helping others out of despair, specifically her experiences as a volunteer at a local suicide hotline and the natural world, observing grey squirrels in her back yard. It isn't a natural mix, but she makes it work.

Here is a quotation that moves from the etymology of the word promise, to understanding human behavior, the social
Rebecca Chapa
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was really amazing. I picked it up randomly at the take it or leave it pile and found it spoke to me on many levels. I love Diane Ackerman and her writing and had no idea what this book was about when I grabbed it.

Turns out it's about her time working at a suicide prevention hotline. Amazingly she lived in Ithaca, where I went to college. She mentions talking someone off the bridge (which I did once) and reminded me of another night when I saw someone clinging to the side of the bridge
Written during her time spent as a volunteer on a crisis hotline, Ms. Ackerman limns all the aching sorrow, grief, exasperation and incredible wonder that filled her nights as she spent time talking other people off the ledge. Intertwining her conversations with the invisible people at the other end of the telephone are powerful ruminations about birds, animals, insects, weather, food, poetry and whatever else caught her fancy. The thoughts are not randomly expressed nor are they merely filler b ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoy Diane Ackerman's writing and, although this wasn't my favorite of her books, it was still a lovely read. This is an account of her time working as a counselor for a suicide prevention phone line. (Has anyone had the diverse experiences of Diane Ackerman? She seems to have held all manner of odd jobs). She retells the stories of some of her diverse callers and then weaves in some observations of nature and of squirrel watching in particular. Sounds weird but Ackerman can see the connectio ...more
Amy Leigh
Apr 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
more personal than some of ackerman's more well-known books. a moving and unsentimental account of a year in the life of a suicide prevention counselor. ackerman talks about depression (her own and others'), squirrels, seasons, creativity, community, and the strange relationships between identity and biology.

sometimes her lyricism and image-heavy prose wears on me, but that's what happens when a poet writes prose. no surprises there.

her ruminations on creativity and depression were both hearten
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: not sure i would...
i'm making myself finish this against my will. the story line meanders, and the author writes with unconvincing authority. a book about her work as a counselor on a suicide prevention hotline is strangely interspersed with her musings about the squirrels who live in the woods behind her house. much of the dialogue sounds like it was gathered during interviews, then falsely placed in scene. on a sentence-by-sentence level, her writing can be moving and insightful, so it's a shame the book as a wh ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Ackerman is a respected and beautiful writer, but I grappled with this book, which, to me, just didn't have a clear theme. Granted, it was probably meant to be an extended snippet of her life at the time - writer, crisis counselor, recreational cyclist - but I felt she should have picked on topic and just expanded on that. She didn't really do justice to any of them, particularly in the area of crisis prevention. She reveals a poignant phone conversation with someone contemplating suicide, then ...more
Apr 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Only partly about working at a suicide/crisis hotline. Much more about the nature of life, struggles, animal behavior, writing and creative expression, almost through small essays pieced together. Not what I was expecting, and the writing was so rich it was almost too much to handle sometimes, but I also found when I could relax into it, it was almost like being carried away in a guided meditation.
Sondra Wilson
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another favorite author of mine. Diane Ackerman is a non-fiction writier with soul. She weaves history into a theme. She has written about the senses, about love, about the idea of play. This is her story of being a crisis line phone volunteer. It is full of saddness and hope. It is real. I'd recommend it to anyone who's ever wanted to call a crisis line or wanted to volunteer for one, as well as those emotive souls like myself who just can't get enough of books about human emotions.
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has used a crisis line
An eye-opener for a person who has always been on the calling end of the crisis line. I have a greater respect for those on the receiving end. To offer help in crisis requires a selflessness I've yet to develop. It requires strategic objectivity during searingly subjective moments. It requires deep-breathing and a steady tone. It requires deep and dark anonymity. Read in winter 2012. Age 29.
Sari Lynn
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Interesting memoir of the author's time volunteering for a suicide prevention hotline, interspersed with self-indulgent musings. Having lived in the community about which she wrote, I was somewhat horrified to realize that (although she supposedly disguised them) I was able to recognize some of the callers as people I had known.
May 11, 2014 rated it liked it
My overall opinion of this book is that the title is fitting. There are many topics covered in the book but the underlying theme is clearly about how complicated, and thus fragile human life can be (i.e. like a slender thread). It's though provoking in its own way, but also very insightful about the struggles we face in life and how apart we are from nature in general.
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own
"Nervously, I begin fidgeting with a triangular-shaped pencil, pushing it slowly back and forth on the desk, but its flat pyramidal sides won't roll." Diane Ackerman is amazing at weaving mundane details like this into pertinent metaphors which help her to transform the topic of suicide into an uplifting insight into life.
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Diane Ackerman is an excellent writer. If you haven't read anything by her, I recommend trying something. Her range of topics tend towards the sciences. This book is about what it's like to work at a suicide prevention hotline. I appreciated it giving me a picture of that. She gives a picture of both the people who call in, and also the other volunteers.
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. What a challenge working a crisis hotline! I love getting an inside look at a job I've never experienced. Diane Ackerman's writing is so clear and wonderful. She really has a gift with language,
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Astonishing, lyrical language, even tho the subject matter is difficult (working as a phone crisis counselor).
Eileen Margaret
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is another Ackerman work that I really loved. The backdrop was so familiar to me having lived in western New York. The subject is also too familiar but I found it hopeful.
Karyn Schwitters
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about people at the emotional/psychological brink, written by one of my favorite authors.
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Interesting concept but after a while it didn't seem to be going anywhere. I didn't finish it.
Shonna Froebel
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, self-help
Crisis and hope.
Great, as usual.
Cats Moulder's
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great, great read.
Feb 22, 2009 added it
A memoir of her experience as an EMT
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
A little slower pace than most books, But once yo slow down your own pace to match the book, there are a lot of good insight. nature lovers will enjoy the author's observations.
Tim Sutton
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book came into me life when I was trying to understand the effects of depression. I found Diane's writing insightful and compassionate. I learned so much!!
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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
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“Fear is danger to your body, but disgust is danger to your soul.” 8 likes
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