The best books about wood

3 authors have picked their favorite books about wood and why they recommend each book.

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Understanding Wood

By R. Bruce Hoadly,

Book cover of Understanding Wood: A Craftsman's Guide to Wood Technology

This is a foundational text on wood as a material for building furniture, written by someone who knows the material thoroughly as both a wood scientist and as a woodworker. The combined insights give you the information you need to work with wood effectively. It reads well if you feel like plowing through it, but you can also use it as a resource for answering specific questions about wood and its behavior.

Who am I?

Jeff Miller is one of the country’s leading furniture designer/craftsmen. He is also a dedicated teacher and a prolific writer, with over 40 articles and 4 books (with a fifth in preparation). Jeff has exhibited furniture in shows from coast to coast, and has a piece in the permanent collection of the Chicago History Museum. Jeff’s work is heavily influenced by his former career as a professional musician, and he strives to make each of his pieces feel musical in some way. Jeff is a runner and – despite the hindrance of living in the flat mid-west – an avid skier. A substantial chunk of his time is taken up by dialysis treatments, but he tries not to let that slow him down too much.


I wrote...

The Foundations of Better Woodworking: How to Use Your Body, Tools and Materials to Do Your Best Work

By Jeff Miller,

Book cover of The Foundations of Better Woodworking: How to Use Your Body, Tools and Materials to Do Your Best Work

What is my book about?

In order to improve as a woodworker, you need to understand that your tools are mere extensions of your body. How you use your body, then, is crucial for effective tool use. Our tools connect us to the wood. So understanding how tools function, as well as the complex nature of wood as the material they work on, is also essential to doing better work. Unfortunately, many woodworking books ignore these aspects of woodworking. This book can be seen as the missing manual to woodworking; a book that covers important topics rarely discussed in other books or articles. And it works as a great way to improve the skills and knowledge you already have.

The Age of Wood

By Roland Ennos,

Book cover of The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization

It is easy to imagine that in the Stone Age, stone tools were the critical thing, that in the Bronze Age, bronze tools were the critical thing, and so on. The truth is that right up until very recent times, most of our technology was made from wood. Even before modern humans evolved, we were deeply shaped by the physical realities of wood, and the challenges and opportunities it provides. Large animals that live in trees need big brains and spatial awareness to avoid falling to their death, and the habitations of early humans were surely closely related to the nests made by non-human primates. Stone tools enabled improvements in wood handling and wood tools, bronze-enabled wooden wheels, and many of the long-term trends in human history make a lot more sense from a wood-centric perspective.

In short, this charming and unique history of humanity casts a familiar and often…


Who am I?

I am a scientist and inventor, who has always been drawn to grand, overarching narratives, and unifying ideas. I have degrees in Mathematics and Architecture, a PhD in Biophysics, and spent 11 years studying fungal networks at the University of Oxford. I am currently working with the award-winning architect Ben Allen, to commercialize a patent for making POMB (poly-organic mycelium blend): a light-transmitting, thermally insulating, carbon-negative building material.


I wrote...

A Brief History of Mathematical Thought

By Luke Heaton,

Book cover of A Brief History of Mathematical Thought

What is my book about?

A Brief History of Mathematical Thought, by Luke Heaton, is concerned with the big transitions in mathematical thinking, and the connection between developments in mathematics and the broader reality of human experience, from pre-historic rituals to the age of computation. 

The great edifice of mathematical theorems has a crystalline perfection, and it can seem far removed from the messy and contingent realities of our daily lives. Nevertheless, mathematics is a product of human culture, which has co-evolved with our attempts to comprehend the world. Rather than picturing mathematics as the study of pre-existing ‘abstract’ objects, we can describe it as a poetry of patterns, in which our language brings about the truth that it proclaims: a world of inter-related symbols, that we can put to work.

Heartwood

By Pollyanna Darling, Kirsty Chalmers (illustrator),

Book cover of Heartwood

A fable about forest creatures coming together and putting differences aside to save their home from the Smashbasher. This book is an early chapter book for 7-9-year-olds and includes beautiful illustrations. The trees have names and are inhabited by various creatures. Heartwood will bring children closer to the magic of the forest and nature. 

I recommend this book because I live in the redwood forest and love trees myself. The book captures the essence of the magic we feel when we enter an unspoiled forest, and how important it is to protect these sacred and life-giving places. The fact that the only way for the forest creatures to save their home is to find their similarities and work together strikes me as particularly relevant today.


Who am I?

I grew up playing in nature: body surfing the waves in Southern California, backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, swimming in rivers. For the past thirty years, I’ve lived in the redwoods of Northern California. Spending so much time in the peace and beauty of nature has filled me with joy and deep respect for the incredibly interconnectedness of living ecosystems. I’ve also had a lifelong passion for reading, especially fairy tales, fables and fantasies. Combining nature and fantasy in my writing allows me to explore ideas and inspirations about how we can live in harmony on our one beautiful planet.


I wrote...

Wind

By Ellen Dee Davidson,

Book cover of Wind

What is my book about?

Thrust by an earthquake into a world where trees are wise helpers, animals can guide us to safety, stories are gathered by the guardian of the deep sea, and greed becomes a place where everything turns to poison, Katie must learn to get along with an annoying alien boy, Za, in order to return home. But as Katie’s experiences test her environmental awareness, will she ever be able to develop her gifts of listening and communicating with the non-human realm? Will she and Za ever figure out the secret to finding the elusive Winged Ones – the only beings capable of taking them home?

Make A Chair From A Tree

By John D. Alexander Jr.,

Book cover of Make A Chair From A Tree: An Introduction To Working Green Wood

There are more comprehensive and detailed books on green woodworking, but none with Alexander’s unedited, liberating spirit, or his pioneering work. Lines such as “You need very few tools to go into the woods and bust a chair out of a tree” gave me a kind of permission to be bold, experiment, and just have fun (which is what he did, and is where the book comes from). You’ll learn how to make chairs (chairs!) with a small set of tools. You’ll likely put the book down before finishing it, and run into the woods to get started.


Who am I?

As a teenager, I worked on cars and motorcycles in my spare time while apprenticing in an architectural millwork shop, paneling the homes of the rich and famous. Thus I discovered the great joys and satisfactions of working with my hands. After a long stint in graduate school, then four years as an editor at Fine Woodworking magazine and for Taunton Press books, I opened a custom design furniture business in 2000. Travel, writing, and reading are aligned passions, and I’ve lived, taught English, and woodworking here and abroad in France, Slovakia, India, and Japan.


I wrote...

Doormaking: Materials, Techniques, and Projects for Building Your First Door

By Strother Purdy,

Book cover of Doormaking: Materials, Techniques, and Projects for Building Your First Door

What is my book about?

Doormaking contains “lots of solid information that can be used in making just about everything wood” (according to one reviewer – I agree). More than that, it embodies an approach to woodworking that you will find more fulfilling than a simple “do this, then that” how-to approach. I’m there with you, discussing options more than dictating actions. I even describe the sometimes-hidden details that will make or break a project. I discuss attitude and enjoyment. And I couch everything with respect for you as a learner and maker.

You have to live with the results and how you got there, so my role is to help you enjoy both. (OK. Sometimes I dictate actions. Because that’s how you do it).

Catch a Kiss

By Deborah Diesen, Kris Aro McLeod (illustrator),

Book cover of Catch a Kiss

It’s a special sadness children have when they lose something given to them by someone they love. Izze misses a kiss blown to her by her mother. No matter how hard she tries to catch it, she can’t. Her mother is wise and doesn’t just tell her it will be alright. Instead, she tells Izze a story and soon Izze is blowing kisses into the wind. The interaction is heartwarming.


Who am I?

Often, people don’t understand the emotions of a child. The care and keeping of children have been my life focus as a mother of five, 4-H leader, Kindergarten aide, religious education teacher, and owner of Whalen’s Country Childcare. I hold dear the awe and wonder seen in the eyes of a child and hope to forever be inspired by the sight. Since my new book, Little Red Rolls Away was released, I have presented at schools, libraries, appeared in newspapers, magazines, and been featured on CBS Good Day Sacramento. Endorsements include filmmaker Joey Travolta, Founder and Creative Director, Inclusion Films, a company that aims to teach the art of filmmaking to people with developmental disabilities.


I wrote...

Little Red Rolls Away

By Linda Whalen, Jennifer E. Morris (illustrator),

Book cover of Little Red Rolls Away

What is my book about?

When Little Red Barn wakes one morning, he finds his animal friends have gone. He's empty and alone. And then big noisy machines lift him up and put him on a truck. As Little Red is transported across the countryside, down a major river, and through city streets, he feels anxious and a little afraid. Where is he going? Who will be there when he reaches his destination? When Little Red does finally reach his new home in a surprising location, he finds things are even better than before.

While entertaining children, the story of the little barn's relocation and adjustment to a new place will reassure and comfort young readers facing changes in their own lives.

The Art of Japanese Joinery

By Kiyosi Seike,

Book cover of The Art of Japanese Joinery

This is the book that got me hooked on Japanese carpentry when I was in college in the late 1970s. There’s not much explanation, really, but the black-and-white photos convey the sheer beauty of Japanese joinery in an evocative and compelling way. The drawings resolve some of the mystery. 


Who am I?

Azby Brown is a widely published author and authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environment, whose groundbreaking writings on traditional Japanese carpentry, compact housing, and traditional sustainable practices are recognized as having brought these fields to the awareness of Western designers and the general public. His creative work spans many media and has been widely exhibited internationally. In 2003 he founded the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo, focussing on cognitive and cultural issues surrounding the human hand and its use in the creative process, conducting collaborative research with neuroscientists and perceptual psychologists. A native of New Orleans, he has lived in Japan since 1985 and is currently on the sculpture faculty of Musashino Art University in Tokyo. 


I wrote...

The Genius of Japanese Carpentry: Secrets of an Ancient Woodworking Craft

By Azby Brown,

Book cover of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry: Secrets of an Ancient Woodworking Craft

What is my book about?

On my first trip to Japan in 1983, I had the extremely good fortune to meet the late Tsunekazu Nishioka, last in a hereditary line of master temple carpenters, or miyadaiku, who had maintained Horyuji temple in Nara for centuries. He was then embarked on a decades-long restoration of Yakushiji Temple. I set out to write the most detailed and complete account possible, and my book is still the only one of its kind. It presents the documentation of the temple’s three-year-long construction process in the form of text, photos, and my own detailed drawings. Like many Westerners, I was initially drawn to the form of the many wood joints and their complexity, but Master Nishioka showed me that understanding trees as living beings is what is most essential.

A Dark, Dark Tale

By Ruth Brown,

Book cover of A Dark, Dark Tale

Scary is sometimes what we anticipate rather than what is actually there, and that’s definitely the case in this wonderful tease of a story. The text is simplicity itself and the accompanying illustrations are beautifully gothic and atmospheric. We follow a black cat across a dark, dark moor, through a dark, dark wood, into a dark, dark house – you get the drift? – but just what is at the end of this dark, dark journey? The surprise is genius and has children tumbling over themselves to go back to the beginning once they are in on the secret. This is a book I must now find for my granddaughter because I know it will be a firm favourite.


Who am I?

I’ve been a children’s author for over 35 years, had over 150 books published, and won a number of awards. But I began my professional life as Editorial Director of a major children’s book club, during which time I read thousands of books for young readers, from tiny tots to teenagers. As for scary books, I’ve written quite a number and read them to hundreds of children during school visits. I know what works, and I understand how to control scariness so that it delivers a delightful frisson that leaves children wanting to experience more of the same over and over again.


I wrote...

Shhh!

By Sally Grindley, Peter Utton,

Book cover of Shhh!

What is my book about?

Shhh! is an award-winning, interactive flap book, where readers are encouraged to go from room to room in a giant’s castle. But they must be quiet. If they disturb the giant, he may well eat them for his tea! They know there’s a good chance they will come across him at some point, but it’s always a surprise and a very scary moment – ha! You wait until you see the giant’s eye! Peter Utton’s illustrations are masterful. Shhh! is over 30 years old and has sold some 350,000 copies, so has stood the test of time.

Heartwood

By Lesley Strutt (editor),

Book cover of Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees

Trees are being cleared at a faster rate than any time in history! How can we possibly reverse this? How can poetry raise awareness of the value of our forests, worth more standing? This anthology, in its breadth and scope, offers readers hope, and prompts us to action on behalf of our trees. The anthology features an important introduction by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of The Global Forest and renowned expert on trees.

This anthology continues my theme of activism through poetry to raise awareness about our threatened environment. With over 100 poems and contributions from poets all over the country, Heartwood is a tribute to and celebration of the timeless impact of nature on Canadian poetry. “We must turn to the poets to expand dreams. This is because trees are the parents to the child deep within us. Forests bear silent witness to the tides of time upon which we…


Who am I?

I love gathering poets together to celebrate different causes. In fact, I hosted a weekly literary radio show, Gathering Voices, for seven years and published a book/cd collection, Gathering Voice. Since 1972, I have been publishing poetry as well as editing anthologies that collect differing voices, as an activist and poet/editor: gathering voices for women, nature, and social justice is my passion. Given the immensity of suffering in the war on Ukraine, I was galvanized to gather together poems in solidarity with Ukrainians. The anthology, co-edited with Richard-Yves Sitoski, was launched 3 months after the invasion began: a huge endeavor that included 48 activist poets.


I edited...

Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology in Support of Ukraine

By Penn Kemp, Richard-Yves Sitoski,

Book cover of Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology in Support of Ukraine

What is my book about?

Canadian poets Penn Kemp and Richard-Yves Sitoski have co-edited Poets in Response to Peril, this anthology that brings together 61 poems by 48 Canadian activist poets responding to such current crises. 

These passionate, often heartbreaking, poems invoke sunflowers and broken earth; intimacy and grief; falling bombs and the fragility of flesh; AK-47s and a bride’s bouquet. Gathering voices in the white heat of the moment, this anthology couldn’t be more timely or more necessary. The book continues with an ongoing YouTube playlist of videos submitted by poets expressing solidarity with those afflicted by war (YouTube > Poets in Response to Peril). Profits go toward PEN Ukraine.

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