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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  3,868 ratings  ·  763 reviews
Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustained-the coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have ...more
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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The Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Wild Trees by Richard   PrestonTrees by Tony RoddA Natural History of Conifers by Aljos FarjonThe Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Best Books About Trees
2nd out of 62 books — 24 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankNight by Elie WieselUnder the Banner of Heaven by Jon KrakauerInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerThe Invention of Religion by Alexander Drake
Must Read Non-Fiction
196th out of 1,398 books — 1,478 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes

Preston looks at the very tallest trees on our planet and the people who seek them out, climb them and study them. This was a very engaging trip into a very unfamiliar territory. One amazing thing was that knowledge of the whereabouts of earth’s wooden giants is held by a very few individuals. The people on whom Preston reports range from Phd biologists to obsessives with no particular scientific background. He looks closely at tree-climbing methodologies (being a tree-climber himself) at the te
Oct 24, 2011 Joseph rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Botanists and lichens
The idea that there is an entire unexplored world lurking in the canopy of what's left of our nation's redwood forests is intriguing. It seems unfathomable that in our modern life, with all our GPS systems and Google maps, there are still areas of planet Earth just waiting to be explored.

The Wild Trees is at its best when describing this hidden world. Sadly, that's not what the book is about. This is really a story about the people involved in the exploration of that world, with a few interestin
The sections about the redwoods in this book were 5 star for me--but then, trees have always fascinated me, and Preston brings his intense focus on detail to these giants.

However, the sections on the PEOPLE in this book moved it down to a 2 star for me, since FAR too much time was spent on the soap opera details of their lives rather than on the trees themselves. And their lives seemed self-centered and crass.

Stephen Sillett is the first holder of the endowed Chair in Redwood Forest Ecology at
M. D.
Feb 09, 2008 M. D. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teens and Adults
The book was good enough to get me to explore deeper into the dense Jedediah Smith Redwoods and find the Titans myself. Read the book early January, and found the Grove of Titans and Lost Monarch on January 15, 2008.

See > M.D. Vaden's hunt for The Wild Trees Redwoods

Unlike the book, I supplied one color photo of a titan. That's one desire for that book, which was lacking. If even but one nice color photograph.

There was more in the book than I expected about people, but after I read it, it was
This was the most fascinating read I've had in a long time. I loved learning about the old-growth forests of the northwest (which I previously knew nothing about). I loved learning about the science behind forest ecology (which I knew nothing about). I felt inspired by the people who developed ways to climb these giant trees and figured out that there's a whole world up there to explore. In short, I felt like I really learned a lot and enjoyed it too!
Two hundred and fifty feet up, the light became brighter, although I still couldn't see the sky, and the crown of Adventure billowed into a riot of living branches. By then, the ground had disappeared completely, hidden below decks of foliage in the lower parts of the canopy. This was the deep canopy -- a world between the ground and the sky, an intermediary realm, neither fully solid nor purely air, an ever-changing scaffold joining heaven and earth, ruled by the forces of gravity, wind, fire, ...more
This isn't a book for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fast paced(although somewhat tedious at times) book. It is a window into the lives of those whose passion is climbing trees, and not just any trees - the tallest trees in the world, the coastal Redwoods of northern CA.

The cover caught my eye and then as I read the jacket, I knew I had to read it, as the setting is near where I grew up. The book is the story - over about a twenty year period - o
Think the trees you see on the tours of Redwood National Forest are the granddaddies of them all? Guess again.

A really interesting look at the group of tree-groupies (arborists, naturalists, botanists, and so on) who dedicate themselves to identifying, documenting and preserving the Giant Redwoods and other behemoth trees. The story gets a bit hokey when Preston starts recounting the personal lives and relationships of and between his characters. It seems like quite a detour, is unnecessary and
Dorianne Laux
Jul 17, 2007 Dorianne Laux rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: booksread
A page turner. This non-fiction book reads like a novel. I couldn't wait to go to bed every night to see what had happened while I was away. I've since read Richard Preston's The Hot Zone and am currently reading The Cobra Event. He loves orinary people who do extraordinary things. There's an excerpt from The Wild Trees in the latest issue of Orion, along with one of my poems, and I'm so pleased and honored to be anywhere near this guy.
Bob Peru
Feb 27, 2008 Bob Peru rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: tiffany
i. like. to. climb. trees.
always have. i had the mos' bitchin' treehouse EVER. me n' my bud chip. built it ourselves. way up. way way up. we were 9 and 10. swiis family robinson stylee. for real.
Gabrielle Lawrence
Great book about the noble Redwoods and a few interesting people who study them, and end up becoming quite emotionally attached to the trees.
There's some science, too! I loved learning about all the incredible biology. On the tops of these trees, the climbers discover "gardens of ferns, fruiting huckleberries, flowering rhododendrons, fully grown bay laurels. Miniature salamanders live in water captured by the giant ferns, as do tiny crustaceans. Preston describes a 60-foot wide platform of bran
I'll admit, I had my reservations when deciding on this -- a book about trees. Much to my delighted surprise, my fears were laid to rest as the vivid, delicate writing of Richard Preston weaved a compelling story, for why trees should be much heralded.

The book follows a series of amateur and professional arborists/botanists on their journey of discovering the world's largest trees. Along the way, many of the stories become intertwined as the protagonists meet one another and cross paths, sharing
Jenny GB
This book was so refreshing after reading Preston's other books about horrible diseases and the descriptions in there that make your skin crawl. Instead, this was a story about a strange group of people who really love the largest and tallest trees in the world (including himself). As someone who has never climbed a tree, this made me curious to try it if I could cure my fear of heights. The stories about the people were sometimes interesting and sometimes annoying, but I appreciated knowing mor ...more
I love being introduced to real worlds that I never knew (or thought about) existed. The canopies of the highest trees on earth is one of the truly unexplored frontiers. Because of the originality of the subject and the fact that it introduces you to this world, it deserves three stars.

However, this isn't really the story of trees, though you do learn a lot about them. Instead it is the story of people who climb these trees. The problem is, these people really aren't that interesting. The autho
Richard Preston is a science writer with a gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners. In The Wild Trees, he describes old-growth forests, mostly redwoods, that have managed to evade the timber industry's blades and still live along the coast of northern California. Preston assures us that, amazingly, until the past two decades the ecosystem formed by the intertwining limbs of these ancient, gargantuan living things had never really been studied. Preston introduces us to several ...more
Preston was very involved and present throughout this book, so much so I'm not sure if I would classify it as nature memoir rather than narrative nonfiction. His presence added information about the feeling of climbing a giant tree, so I'm not condemning it. The focus of this book was rather more on the interesting people who become obsessed with redwoods and slightly less on the trees themselves. Donald Culross Peattie has probably ruined me for anyone else. Preston's an involving writer, thoug ...more
Joe Bolin
I enjoyed The Wild Trees and did find it to be A Story of Passion and Daring. Had the author been able to keep an appropriate distance from his subjects, though, I would've enjoyed it more. Once Preston entered the story--as a writer for The New Yorker magazine--the book became a fawning tribute to Steve Sillett. Up to that point, he had been presented as a flawed scientist whose single-minded passion for trees--and coastal redwoods, in particular--had consumed every other aspect of his life. If ...more
Starting the year off with a book that's going to be hard to top! ;)
This is the story of obsession: men and women who eke out a living, if they're lucky (and socially presentable enough) in the botany departments of Pacific Northwest colleges and universities. But their true calling lies 350-feet-plus above the ground mapping the landscapes of coastal redwoods. The discoverers of these trees have the privilege of naming them, usually for characters in mythology or Tolkien; but not always, as in
This book follows the lives and adventures of a number of young adventurers who have sought out and climbed the highest giant redwoods in California. Part daredevils, part mystics, part scientists, they have developed new climbing techniques and collected data from the trees they have climbed. Evidently some of the areas they have visited are so inaccessible that they have never been previously visited -- and the author steadfastly refuses to disclose the locations, for fear that recreational c ...more
This is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read! It's a life changing kind of book. It is about a passion and love of trees -- of big trees -- the biggest trees in the world!
I usually prefer novels, and often times struggle through non-fiction, however Preston does an excellent job with the narrative of this and perfectly blends facts, science and history with the story of these tall tree obsessed climbers and botanists.
The first chapter introduces us to Steve Sillett - where along with h
Mindie Burgoyne
I purchased this book hoping to learn more about the energy that pulses through trees. I discovered early on that this was not a focus. But the author's account of his investigation into the great redwoods of the Pacific Northwest was so compelling that I kept reading. If I'd known the thrust of the book was about how people climb these trees, where the trees are located and how long they live I would have never started it. But the story-telling capabilities of this author and his passion for th ...more
Phil Breidenbach
Great book. The giant redwoods have been on this earth for thousands of years. Only a small (?) batch of them survive the loggers. These have never been explored. Their tree tops are 20-30 stories in the air and the trees have multiple tree trunks. It is possible to get lost in them! They are one of the rare places on earth that has yet to be really explored. This book tells about some of the pioneer climbers that have made it into their branches.
Lianne Burwell
The Wild Trees is quite the departure for Richard Preston, who is best known for writing non-fiction and fiction thrillers about dangerous viruses, like Ebola. This time, he is tackling -- in more ways than one -- the tallest trees in the world, but most particularly the coastal redwoods of California and Oregon.

We get a bit about the history of the national parks created to save the last remaining giant redwoods from logging companies, as well as the environmental history of the redwoods, but t
Rawson Gordon II
"The Wild Trees" covers two subjects I'm very interested in - the glory and beauty of nature and also the extreme behaviors human beings are capable of in order that they may explore it. I knew nothing of the ecosystems that live in the canopies of redwoods trees; of course, up until 30 or so years ago, no one did! My wild hair has definitely been tweaked. Tree Climbers International's headquarters is right here in Atlanta. . . hmm.
Carl Nelson
3.5 stars. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring is a narrative nonfiction account of researchers who climb to the tops of the largest living organisms on the planet, the giant redwoods. Or perhaps it's the tale of people so obsessed with climbing these trees that they became researchers; I'm not quite certain which it is. Richard Preston starts with an electric account of a first climb up one of these giant trees, replete with white-knuckled fear, a foolhardy leap of faith, and an encou ...more
Having read this book on the heels of hiking through the redwoods in northern CA, I am somewhat influenced by the experience. (I was dying to have known the trees the way the people in this book have...) But nevertheless, I love trees, I love quirky characters, and I love this book for bringing the those two things together so well.
Penny Luo
Preston depicts the magic of nature beautifully in this book. A non-fiction book that brings together a few strangers with the same driven passion and daring attitude for trees to breathe, live and center their entire lives in the pursuit for the tallest trees and the undiscovered world in the wild. Yes this book touches on a lot of the science and technology of the research performed by the main characters in the book. But what drew me in the most is the narrative illustration of the grandeur n ...more
Karen Snyder
This book explores the personal and tangible yet scientific lure of the trees. Absolutely fascinating to learn what is in the tree tops and data from these beauties. I really like how the author does not devulge too many secrets in order to keep the trees alive, as fragile, yet super trees that they are.
This book would have been near-perfect if it had cut off the last few chapters... I thought the author went off on a tangent writing about himself and his own tree-climbing. The first 3/4 of the book were amazingly educational, and I relished reading through the chapters.
Melissa Greenwood
In "The Wild Trees," Richard Preston uses simile, polysyndeton, point of view, and a careful blend of story, science, and history to bring his characters—both human and nonhuman—to life (or in many cases, to much larger than life). Relying on careful research on trees and the people who climb them, as well as personal interviews, Preston taps into third person omniscient narration to inhabit the minds of quirky arborists and eccentric forestry professors, as well as climbing grunts, champions, ...more
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Wild Trees 3 46 Nov 09, 2012 11:00PM  
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Richard Preston is a journalist and nonfiction writer.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.
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“Time has a different quality in a forest, a different kind of flow. Time moves in circles, and events are linked, even if it's not obvious that they are linked. Events in a forest occur with precision in the flow of tree time, like the motions of an endless dance. (p. 12)” 12 likes
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