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Favorite Books About Trees

Favorite Books Month (Do-Over)

Remember how I was going to write about my favorite books last month? Well, Covid 19 has wreaked havoc on my life, just like everyone else’s.

Though some on social media decry their boredom (oh the woes of binge-watching Netflix and eating your weight in girl scout cookies), my law practice is still functioning, though virtually for the most part.

I’m far from bored. (In fact, I can’t think of a time I’ve been bored in my life. My ADD won’t allow it.) Between my law practice, trying to find toilet paper, and dealing with the daily onslaught of information (and misinformation) about the virus, my grand plan to make March Favorite Book Month went by the wayside.

So, despite the delay, (see my last post about said delay AND a bright spot for me in the past weeks ) here’s my next list of favorite books, this time about trees.

Favorites/They’ll Do For Now

The first eight books on my list are definitely some of my favorites, all of which I own. I can’t say the same for the last two, but they’re in my collection, so they’ll do for now.

The books vary greatly, including:

  • a celebrated novel of fiction
  • a field guide to trees and animals of the Eastern forest with photos
  • a large coffee table book
  • a second field guide with exquisite pen and ink drawings
  • several that combine scientific study with much more
  • and a book with stories of people dedicated to trees.

Onto the List

(Read to the end of the post to find out why the first book had me yelling “Yes, yes, yes!)

  1. The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston
  2. The Songs of Trees by David Haskell
  3. The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David Haskell
  4. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Holbein
  5. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
  6. Eastern Forests, the Audubon Society Nature Guides
  7. Redwoods, the World’s Largest Trees, by Jeremy Joan Hewes (a coffee table book)
  8. Northwest Trees, by Stephen F. Arno and Ramona P. Hammerly
  9. America’s Wild Woodlands, National Geographic Society
  10. Keepers of the Trees, a Guide to Re-Greening North America

Why The Wild Trees is a Favorite Book

Preston’s sub-title, A Story of Passion and Daring, accurately describes the book. He relates how a college student, Steve Sillett, his brother and a friend drove down from Portland, Oregon to California to see coastal redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. Sillett climbed to the top of a “short” redwood, (70’ high) without a rope, leaped across to the lowest limb on a much taller redwood and then climbed that giant. (He did not realize how that type of low limb often breaks off easily. If it had, he and the friend following him would not have survived the fall.)

An Amazing Discovery

Fortunately, they made it across to the tall redwood and climbed clear to the top. There they discovered what no one else had apparently ever seen—the unique tops of redwood giants where, after the top of the trunk dies off, a multitude of branches grow out sideways sprouting many new trunks, growing vertically.

In this thicket, Sillett and his friend found a multitude of ferns and lichens growing in soil on the branches and crotches between the branches. This discovery began his life work as a scientist, eventually becoming a professor at Humboldt State University in nearby Arcata.

Steve Sillett Redwood Trees
Photo credit: Save the Redwoods League and Marie Antoine

Ingenuity at Work

Sillett and others also learned how to climb redwoods. Not with the spiked boots that would jab into a tree’s bark, injuring the tree over and over, but as arborists climb trees with ropes and equipment they use to pull themselves up to the treetops. He learned to make specialized equipment to travel horizontally between the trees. As a professor at Humboldt, Sillett studied the strange multitude of life in the canopies of these incredible trees. He even got married in the treetops and spent his honeymoon high up in the tops of his beloved redwoods.

Preston, the author, was so fascinated by watching Sillett that he wanted to climb, too, but Sillett refused to teach him. One day when Sillett was gone climbing, Preston figured out how to make his own climbing rig by looking at a spare hanging in Sillett’s garage. Preston learned how to use the equipment elsewhere and returned to show Sillett what he had learned and join him in climbing the giants.

Interspersed with the story of Sillett’s learning to love and climb redwoods, Preston tells the stories of others also fascinated with the giant trees. Like Michael Taylor, searching for the tallest redwoods. And Preston explains in exquisite detail why the coastal redwoods and their cousins, the sequoias further to the east, are so unique.


That discovery they made? About the whole new forest created in the treetops? I had written about it in my fiction fantasy novel already, before I’d read this book. Before I knew the truth.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to read how reality matched what I had imagined! 

Worth a Re-Read

When I pulled out my copy to reacquaint myself with it just last week, I ended up reading the book all over again, which I seldom do. Indeed, it is a favorite, telling the tales of men and women climbing and exploring these special trees that clearly mean so much to me. 

Help Out a Local Business/Get a Great Deal

In case you’re interested in buying The Wild Trees, or my book Leafensong: First Telling, may I recommend you purchase it from The Raven Bookstore in lovely downtown Lawrence (to support local business, especially in these hard times). Right now they are offering FREE DELIVERY in Lawrence and $1 DELIVERY ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE U.S.

That’s an amazing deal from a generous and beloved business.

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for my next book list, theme TBD (I know, you’re on the edge of your seat) and an upcoming GREAT DEAL on my ebook. Coming next week.

To read a review of another book on my favorites list (it made both the favorite fiction list AND the favorite tree books list), click here.

To read about a great book about trees for kids, click here.

And to read about some amazing trees in the Colorado National Monument, click here.

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