The Overstory

By Richard Powers,

Book cover of The Overstory

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

20 authors picked The Overstory as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Now for some fiction about trees, or rather, how people react to threats against trees and are drawn together to defend them.

The interlocking stories of a dozen characters take place over decades, much as a tree grows, connecting each life to lives that last far beyond them. In our world, we often endanger trees without a thought. This novel won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction because it can make you think. If your mind were only a slightly greener thing,” a tree says early in the novel, “we’d drown you in meaning.”

From Sue's list on making you love plants.

No one who reads The Overstory will ever look at a tree – any tree - the same way again.

Powers is a novelist of vast intellect and philosophical leaning, and at times I got lost in the book’s labyrinthine plot and many point-of-view characters. But for sheer brilliance there’s little to compare. The breadth of Powers’ knowledge about trees – structure, history, chemistry, beauty – is astonishing, and there’s a gorgeous phrase or profound sentence on every page.

The characters are so real, their journeys so intriguing, that I felt their losses deeply. Each of the characters is transformed…

From Céline's list on immersing yourself in nature.

A remarkable book - not just because it's a novel about trees - but because it is so incredibly well-crafted.

No wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. The Overstory cleverly links the stories of nine strangers in the most mesmerizing way with a focal theme of rekindling our relationship with these majestic marvels of nature.

With a wonderfully woven blend of strikingly good fiction with real-life recent scientific discoveries about trees and their own collaborative strength, The Overstory is properly mind-blowing from start to finish and, frankly, one of the best books ever written!

The first 300 pages of this book are maybe the best 300 pages of a novel I have ever read in my life.

Honestly, who knew that someone could go deep on trees and absolutely ruin you? This is the book I recommend to absolutely everyone looking for a fiction recommendation.

Put it this way: after I finished this book, I started learning the names of the trees that grow around me in the northeast, and it has actually changed my life.

From Blythe's list on nature and freedom.

What resonated with me on so many levels was the author’s use of lyrical and beautiful language in describing trees and forests: as characters. I’m an ecologist and I felt a particular kinship with the botanist Patricia Westerford, a disabled introvert who must swim against the hegemonic tide with heretical ideas. When she argues that trees communicate, learn, trade goods and services, have intelligence and society, her scientific peers ridicule her and end her university career. This story is as much her triumph over overwhelming challenges as it is about the dwindling majestic forests that must quietly endure our careless…

I love this book because it tells the stories of six distant, independent people, and weaves them together like the roots of trees. These people begin as normal people, living their lives and having no predisposition to be wilderness protectors. But through life events they each find a passionate need to protect nature. 

This book made me stop and think about my relationship to every living thing on the planet in a deeper way than I ever had before. Powers expertly knits together, action, adventure, and prose. A unique combination of writing that kept me sitting in my chair reading…

From HJ's list on people who really hug trees.

A Pulitzer Prize winner and global bestseller—The Overstory is one of the most successful and widely read works of environmental fiction. It’s a complex novel, weaving together nine separate stories of Americans whose close connections with trees spur them to protect the forests. The story is divided into four sections—root, trunk, crown, and seeds, reflecting the life cycle of trees. If it strikes you that combining nine separate narratives through four cycles is complicated, then you’re right—this is no easy read. Many of the characters endure terrible hardships too—from family tragedy to paralysis and untimely deaths, but there is…

From Ben's list on environmental issues.

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.

From Ellen's list on trees, living and dead.

For most of us writers, it’s hard enough to make people come to life on the page. In this Pulitzer Prize-winner, Powers manages to turn trees into memorable characters. A literary tour-de-force, The Overstory exemplifies why nonfiction authors like me, charged with conveying critical information to readers, study the story-telling alchemy of novelists. Recalling Picasso’s observation that art is a lie that gives us the truth, this deeply researched work of fiction reminds us that failing to respect our biological companions on this Earth, as our early ancestors did, risks not only losing them, but ourselves. Even though I’ve written…

A brilliantly written, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about humans, their relationship to trees, and the natural environment. Focusing on several characters whose lives were, sometimes tragically, sometimes heartwarmingly changed by trees they eventually unite to fight against ruthless logging companies. It is definitely not an easy read, but oh so worth it.    

From Artur's list on the amazing world of trees.

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