The author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen visits with nature’s most magnificent networkers — trees
“Both a love song to trees, an exploration of their biology, and a wonderfully philosophical analysis of their role they play in human history and in modern culture.” – Science Friday
WINNER OF THE 2018 JOHN BURROUGHS MEDAL FOR OUTSTANDING NATURAL HISTORY WRITING
David Haskell has won acclaim for eloquent writing and deep engagement with the natural world. Now, he brings his powers of observation to the biological networks that surround all species, including humans. Haskell repeatedly visits a dozen trees, exploring connections with people, microbes, fungi, and other plants and animals. He takes us to trees in cities (from Manhattan to Jerusalem), forests (Amazonian, North American, and boreal) and areas on the front lines of environmental change (eroding coastlines, burned mountainsides, and war zones.) In each place he shows how human history, ecology, and well-being are intimately intertwined with the lives of trees.
Scientific, lyrical, and contemplative, Haskell reveals the biological connections that underpin all life. In a world beset by barriers, he reminds us that life’s substance and beauty emerge from relationship and interdependence.
In this inspiring but uneven account, Haskell (The Forest Unseen), professor of biology at Sewanee, investigates the myriad connections between trees and their natural surroundings. Trees do not exist in isolation, he notes, and though their "trunks seemingly stand as detached individuals, their lives subvert this atomistic view." He devotes each of his 10 chapters (plus two interludes) to a particular tree, visiting Ecuador, Japan, and various points in North America. In Amazonian Ecuador, for example, Haskell calls attention to the ceibo tree, describing local hummingbirds, frogs, and monkeys before touching on oil-drilling camps now found in the rainforest. The heavy machinery cannot be ignored; "half of Ecuador's export revenues and one third of the government's budget come from oil." Juxtaposing contrasting images of nature in urban landscapes, Haskell describes the worlds revolving around a cottonwood tree in Denver and a callery pear in Manhattan in lively chapters full of engaging digressions and meditations. But the chapters on a balsam fir in Ontario and maples in Tennessee and Illinois are harder to read, sometimes dazing readers with tangential and obscure references. Despite a few weak spots, Haskell's study of interconnectedness reveals as much about humans as it does trees.