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?

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

So much to learn about trees!

After reading this novel, I discovered Powers’ list of 25 (out of many more) books that influenced him while he was writing the book. Now I have read a significant share of these books too, and I have incorporated fascination and facts in my own writing. This novel, perhaps more than any other I have read, has led me to examine the vast and disturbing question that seems to haunt Powers—our alienation from nature, why? To question this, I feel, suggests a search that may lead to the “new story” our culture needs.


What’s not to love about a book structured as a tree? This is a vast, episodic novel that takes traditional storytelling and turns it on its head.

A cast of characters connect through stories that grow from seed to trunk to limb. I finished this long read and immediately wanted to start again. It’s the kind of book that rewards a second or third pass. Complex, rife with science and faith and desperate longing, this book is a celebration of the tree, a clarion call to return our attention to our roots before it is too late.

One of Powers’…

From Culley's list on books in which nature is a teacher.

I began the year by reading this book because in our time of environmental destruction, it felt only right to hand the narrative of people and trees over to the trees. I wasn’t disappointed.

Powers examines the tragic paradoxes of life in our world by taking a long, long view akin to the view that a tree takes. It’s a brilliant imaginative leap and the prose is marvelous to boot. It swept me along through the novel’s 500-odd pages so I could not stop.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

Nina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…

I genuinely believe one of the most important ways we can improve our health and outlook on life is through connecting with nature, immersing our bodies in it as often as we can, to ground ourselves and reconnect. We are hard-wired to feel at ease in nature and studies back that up. 

I loved The Overstory, as Richard Powers shares about the interconnectedness of our world in the most beautiful way. It is impossible to come out the other side of that book without viewing the natural world differently, without being grateful for even being alive. 

My purpose is…

It is rare that a book can change one’s perspective on life and living. This is one of those gems.

How I experience being in a forest, observing each and every tree, from the roots to the trunk to the crown, is now different. My appreciation of all the things in my house that are made from wood is now different.

The Overstory is a stunning ode to the natural world, woven in with impassioned activism and the tangled personal lives and goals of 9 strangers, each summoned in different ways by the trees. Powers repositions us as humans -…

It might be a surprise that the first book on this list is fiction, but The Overstory remakes its readers.

It’s an essential, transformative tour of the deepest forces shaping our world, and nothing shifts perspective and priorities more than feeling the deep-time context of our days, right in your gut. Not to mention realising that the most influential Earthlings aren’t all humans... 

When people ask why I choose my lifestyle – or for advice on theirs – I tell them first read this book, and then we’ll talk. With his Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, Richard Powers has achieved the…

The Overstory is really a masterpiece of literary construction. It took me a while to get into it, as the beginning seemed like a series of random biographies, but it does come together as Power weaves the story.

And it comes together in amazing and unimaginable ways. I was moved by the real-world sense of sadness for how humanity treats the environment and specifically trees. Powers brings us into the slow, millennial consciousness of the trees themselves and shows us a rather tragic picture of what happens when those with a conscience try to do what is right.

I could not put down this epic 500-page novel about people (you might call them eco-terrorists) who try to save ancient trees—redwoods, sequoias, and Douglas firs, some more than 1,000 years old—from the lumber companies who want to clear-cut old-growth forests.

What I loved about the book is that it not only made me look at trees in an entirely new way, but it inspired me in my own work. It’s beautifully written, a masterpiece.

The Overstory won a Pulitzer and a number of other awards. It is a majestic and sweeping story about our relationship with the natural world that draws you in and doesn’t let go.

Powers’ other books are outstanding, and it is hard to decide which is the best, but I’ll go with the consensus that it is this one. The central conceit is the life and community of trees, but focusing on that misses the point and ignores the beauty of this magnificent work.

President Obama said about The Overstory, “It changed how I thought about the Earth and our…

I both listened to the audio version and read the hardcopy version of this book – it was that good! Like all good novels, it is true in a deep sense despite being fiction. 

In addition, it is literally true regarding some facts about trees and nature in a way that can happen only if really well researched, which this book is. Finally the character development is amazing.

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