The best books about trees, living and dead

Who am I?

I study streams and rivers and it took me a while to recognize that many of the streams that flow through forests should have far more downed wood pieces and logjams than are commonly present. The lack of wood in streams reflects a long history of deforestation along rivers, as well as actively pulling wood out of rivers for navigation and flood control. As I’ve come to appreciate dead wood and the many benefits it creates for a wide range of inland, coastal, and marine ecosystems, I’ve also become increasingly interested in the lives that trees live before they become dead wood.


I wrote...

Dead Wood: The Afterlife of Trees

By Ellen E. Wohl,

Book cover of Dead Wood: The Afterlife of Trees

What is my book about?

The world is full of magnificent trees: skyscraping sequoias, thick-trunked baobabs, and fragrant cedars. We appreciate trees during their glory years, but how often do we consider what happens to a tree when it dies? We see downed logs in forests and driftwood on the beach, but is it just dead wood? In Dead Wood, Ellen Wohl takes us through the afterlives of trees, describing the vital roles played by standing and downed dead wood in forests, in rivers, along beaches, in the open ocean, and even on the deepest parts of the seafloor. Far from being unsightly waste that needs to be cleared away, dead wood is a critical resource for many forms of life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's Great Connectors

Ellen E. Wohl Why did I love this book?

Haskell uses ultrasensitive microphones to record the sounds that trees make. We learn the sounds of trees in distress, trees living their daily lives, and trees responding to the passing seasons. This book made me look at trees and forests in an entirely new way and helped me to imagine all the unseen and unheard activities going on around me. It’s like spying on the trees and learning their fascinating secrets.

By David George Haskell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Songs of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2018 JOHN BURROUGHS MEDAL FOR OUTSTANDING NATURAL HISTORY WRITING

“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
 
The author of Sounds Wild and Broken and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen visits with nature’s most magnificent networkers — trees 

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…


Book cover of The Overstory

Ellen E. Wohl Why did I love this book?

Powell’s insight and imagination as a novelist illuminate why some people spend a lifetime studying trees, others put their own life on the line to save old-growth trees and forests, and still others regard trees as commodities to be cut and sold. The writing is so evocative that there were times when I had to put the book down because I was furious with the actions of a fictional character or upset at imagining the destruction wrought by clearcutting.

By Richard Powers,

Why should I read it?

28 authors picked The Overstory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of-and paean to-the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers's twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours-vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see…


Book cover of The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

Ellen E. Wohl Why did I love this book?

Haskell writes evocatively of the fascinating life of the forest floor, from invisible microbes to colorful fungi and beautiful birds. I was fascinated by the interconnected lives on the floor of an old-growth forest in the southeastern United States, and I appreciated Haskell’s own passion for his subject when unforeseen destruction of a portion of the forest floor by ginseng hunters triggered a heart attack and trip to the emergency room for Haskell—fortunately, he was ok.

By David George Haskell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Forest Unseen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of old-growth forest--a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award 

Look out for David Haskell's new book, The Songs of Tree: Stories From Nature's Great Connectors, coming in April of 2017

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.

Each of…


Book cover of Life in the Treetops: Adventures of a Woman in Field Biology

Ellen E. Wohl Why did I love this book?

I have been fortunate enough to go on canopy walkways through tropical forests and the diversity of colors, shapes, scents, and sounds are fascinating. Lowman describes how the first scientists to venture into the unexplored world of the forest canopy actually got up there and what they found. Lowman tells the story of her own life in the canopy, providing a window into how scientists work, and explaining how she has balanced a research career featuring international travel and motherhood.

By Margaret D. Lowman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life in the Treetops as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forest canopies have been characterized as one of the last biotic frontiers on Earth: tree crowns have been difficult to study scientifically because access to them has been so challenging. During the past two decades, however, methods for canopy access have greatly improved. In this book a pioneer canopy scientist describes the mysteries of the treetops-their inhabitants, flowers and fruits, growth and mortality, patterns of diversity, and plant and animal interactions. Margaret Lowman writes about different canopy access techniques in conjunction with the scientific hypotheses she was addressing while using each one. She also portrays the life of a field…


Book cover of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

Ellen E. Wohl Why did I love this book?

Simard brings communities of trees alive as beings that communicate with and help each other. She explores the underground network of roots, fungi, and tiny creatures that send signals and allow healthy trees to help ailing trees and mature trees to aid saplings. Simard is a perfect example of how natural scientists, far from being detached number-crunchers, are deeply and passionately engaged with the organisms and communities they study.

By Suzanne Simard,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Finding the Mother Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • From the world's leading forest ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest—a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery

“Finding the Mother Tree reminds us that the world is a web of stories, connecting us to one another. [The book] carries the stories of trees, fungi, soil and bears--and of a human being listening in on the conversation. The interplay of personal narrative, scientific insights and the amazing revelations about the life of the forest make a compelling story.”—Robin Wall…


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She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

Book cover of She Refused to Bow

Farida Manekshah

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.

She Refused to Bow

By Farida Manekshah,

What is this book about?

A personal memoir which introduces the supernatural in the most natural way.

A message which came in a dream and brought you wealth. A sadhu's warning. The presence you feel as you pray at a grave. A well that dries up. The vision you see as you peer out of the window of your cabin. A jinni. An ancient religion. When everything you say and do has consequence. Because nothing that is done can be undone.


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Interested in trees, Tennessee, and forests?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about trees, Tennessee, and forests.

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