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Tree: A Life Story

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3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  262 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
"Only God can make a tree," wrote Joyce Kilmer in one of the most celebrated of poems. In Tree: A Life Story, authors David Suzuki and Wayne Grady extend that celebration in a "biography" of this extraordinary—and extraordinarily important—organism. A story that spans a millennium and includes a cast of millions but focuses on a single tree, a Douglas f ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 9th 2007 by Greystone Books / David Suzuki Foundation (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 729)
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Evie
Aug 11, 2008 Evie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
If I ever got close enough to David Suzuki, I would jump his bones. I've always maintained this fact, but listen to him dirty talk:

The female cone of the Douglas-fir remains receptive to male pollen grains for twenty days, until about the end of April. Once a pollen grain has slipped down the smooth surface of the seed-cone bracts, it becomes enmeshed in the small, sticky hairs at the tip of the female ovule. For two months it luxuriates on this pubic patch while the ovule's labia swell around i
...more
Eli
Dec 05, 2012 Eli rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

What a gorgeous, gorgeous book. A beautiful balance between the woo-woo postulating of, say, a David Abram and the narrow reductionism of, say, a Carl Sagan (not that I don't kiss every page these men have ever written, just that sometimes they both make me a very cranky monkey). The story is told with grace and fluidity, as colorful a cast of supporting characters as will be found in any novel, and a satisfying tear-jerker of an ending.

Now I'm going to say something that may make read
...more
Stephen Case
Jun 09, 2014 Stephen Case rated it really liked it
Shelves: trees
There is an idea that if you know something well enough—if you spend some time learning about it and seeing all of its internal and external connections—you cannot help but loving it. I’m not entirely sure this is true, though I’d like to believe it is. I think it is an important aspect of environmentalism and likely the reason why so many scientists become conservationists: sometimes it is only by careful and deliberate study that the inherent value of an organism or system becomes apparent.

I a
...more
Adam
This is a short, elegant and beautiful [i]belle lettres[/i] essay on Douglas-fir forests. It consists of dozens of vignettes exploring aspects of one protagonist tree's ecology - its birth in the ashes, its mycorrhizal partnerships with fungi and other trees, the creatures that nest in and around it, and the things it must fight to survive. These facts were largely familiar to me, in form and outline if not in specifics. But the articulation was among the finest I've encountered, for elegance an ...more
Florence Lyon
Dec 14, 2012 Florence Lyon rated it really liked it

I've always enjoyed the books I've read by David Suzuki. He was one of my "heros" and role models when I was in secondary school. I wasn't a whiz at science but he and his show "The Nature of Things" helped me learn more about science, the natural world and our connections to it. One of my quirks (one) is that I used to imagine his voice as I was reading text that I had found difficult to follow. This helped make concepts clearer to me.

I have to state that I should not attempt to read books of s
...more
Jonathan Hays
May 25, 2013 Jonathan Hays rated it it was amazing
This is an outstanding ecological book. The main theme is the life story of a Douglas Fir tree from seed to decay but Suzuki encompasses a wide swath of fascinating biological and ecological detail along the way. A must read for all tree huggers.
Jenell
May 23, 2009 Jenell rated it really liked it
Shelves: botany
Often among scientists, there is a specialization snobbery. “Oh, you’re a chemist." [sneer:] "I’m a biologist." [nose in air:] And between the fields, they can’t see the forest for the trees. It is for that reason that I love ecological sciences. While scientists seek to understand their subject matter from the study of their mechanistic parts, ecology brings them back together—to their interrelated processes. It is a beautiful unity.

David Suzuki is one such scientist. This book is a meaty read,
...more
Lindsay Miller
Is three stars unfair? The book certainly achieved its goal of conveying vastness of the trees and forests themselves, the timescales they operate on, and the interconnected lives and forces that define and sustain them. Generally, structuring the book around time worked to that effect. There were some very eloquent passages, and a great deal of new-to-me information about Douglas-fir trees and forests.

But, there were also times when casual word choices and strained metaphors undermined the dept
...more
Driftless
Feb 23, 2011 Driftless rated it did not like it
Shelves: nature
Trees are some of the longest living creatures on the planet. Given its large size and prolonged existence a single tree can often have a vast impact on millions of other plant, fungal and animal lives over the span of its life, creating entire tree-based ecosystems. In Tree: a life story, by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady, the full account of a single 260 foot tall Douglas-fir tree is told, from its birth following a forest fire until its eventual demise and collapse 700 years later. The titular ...more
Patricia
Jul 02, 2015 Patricia rated it really liked it
The authors intertwine histories of botany,owls, cougars, lichens with the trees story. Their approach underscores how a tree is part of a huge communiy of living things. In theory, I like the idea, and I learned cool things. But I also bogged down at times. The poetic style reinforces why it all matters, lovely last linen.
Clare
Oct 08, 2014 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
By focusing on the lifetime of one tree David Suzuki and Wayne Grady show the intricacies and interrelatedness of nature. These two topics were explored and explained well, making the point that the natural world can be resilient to a point but it is also fragile and the tipping point teeters on a sharp edge.
Joan Anderson
Jan 24, 2016 Joan Anderson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ecology
My first selection for the Ginter Garden Book Club. Quite a challenging read, but it got better as I read it. It's the biography of a Douglas Fir tree -- sounds fascinating, doesn't it? NOT! After 300 years, I really didn't care anymore.
Sarah
Apr 03, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really puts your life in perspective and demonstrates the importance of forests and their role in wildlife populations. I really enjoyed the last chapter as they write about the destruction of these forests caused by humans and how we really need to start making changes to sustain these old growth forests.
Bambi
Jan 15, 2010 Bambi rated it it was ok
Got this book last x-mas and it finally made it to the top of the pile. I was excited to read a book by David Suzuki - the most well-known environmentalist in Canada, but must admit being a little disappointed by this book. It was not what I expected. I thought it would be more about the main character of the book - the ancient Douglas Fir tree - but it wandered off into what was happening in the world at different points in the tree's life. I know this helps us understand and comprehend the age ...more
Amy
Apr 28, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Fascinating life story of a Douglas Fir tree and the history that happened during it's lifetime.
Mathias Samuelsson
Dec 11, 2015 Mathias Samuelsson rated it it was amazing
Lovely book about the life of a tree.
Dorian
Dec 11, 2008 Dorian rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book. I'm sad now I finished as I could keep reading it for ages. But it's not for everyone. I laughed, I cried, and expanded the mind, but to be totally honest, you have to be the type of person who enjoyed high school biology. It's not Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, and you will be learning a bit more about fungi than you expected. But, there's much more to it than that. Those interested in ecology or just the unbelievable interdependency and underestimated intelligence of na ...more
Wendy Feltham
Apr 20, 2013 Wendy Feltham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a very special book about the life of one Douglas-fir tree and its ecosystem, the historic moments around the world during the tree's long life, and the development of our scientific understanding of plants during those centuries. It's impressive how David Suzuki fit all of that into one small book, while sprinkling each chapter with amazing facts about trees. The occasional drawings added to the beauty of this book. I would have appreciated diagrams to help me understand botanical terms ...more
Victoria
Jan 11, 2010 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suzuki is a beloved Canadian scientist who frequently appears on television to make science accessible to lay viewers (and in this case, readers). This book--one of many he has written, including children's books-contextualizes the life of a single Douglas fir tree within both human history and the tree's own ecosystem, as well as within the larger scheme of evolution and the planet as a whole. Beautifully written and always focused simultaneously on both micro- and macro- perspectives.
James Rawlinson
Mar 02, 2014 James Rawlinson rated it liked it
Was nothing like I expected but interested me all the same.
Rosemarie
Apr 25, 2012 Rosemarie rated it really liked it


A beautiful book about the way everything in nature, including us, is interconnected. The life of a tree, and the ongoing cycle of life and death, is presented in an easy to read style that left me feeling even more appreciative of these beautiful living organisms that we so take for granted...
Stanley Trice
Dec 04, 2013 Stanley Trice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This the story of a Douglas fir tree in California from the time it starts growing until five hundred years later. I liked how the authors blended human history along with what was happening to the tree in its growth. I knew the tree had to die, but when that happened and the aftermath was a surprise.
Anastasia
Oct 28, 2009 Anastasia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: glorious-nature
A parallel history of a Douglas Fir giant growing up through the centuries as huge Science leaps and discoveries of these same time periods made possible the explanations of tree maturity, reproduction, and inherent harmony in the ecosystem. Awesome.
Wesley Andrews
Aug 19, 2012 Wesley Andrews rated it it was amazing
One of my top ten favorite books. I would love to reread this every year until I am able to convey the wonder of the natural world to everyone I encounter. Suzuki is a terrific storyteller, a brilliant scientist, and has a keen sense of the essential.
Jake Cooper
Nov 29, 2015 Jake Cooper rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science, dnf
David Suzuki tries to be Aldo Leopold, but (to me) falls very flat. ("Ravens are the brass section in an orchestra whose more delicate notes are provided by Swainson's thrushes.") It reads like a parody of PNW romanticism.
Corey
Sep 21, 2008 Corey rated it liked it
I'm now looking closer, and more appreciatively at the many trees surrounding me out here in the PNW. A somewhat technical read, but very interesting. Who knew a book about the life of a tree could be so interesting?
Reuel
Sep 14, 2008 Reuel rated it really liked it
The life story of a single Douglas Fir tree and an extended essay on the natural history of old growth temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest--and the role of trees within integrated biological communities.
Caitlin
Jun 11, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Found it hard to get into at first, but once I did I found it totally engrossing and fascinating. This book really makes you appreciate the interconnectiveness of nature and I would definitely recommend it.
Robert
May 02, 2010 Robert rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Robin R.
Shelves: 2010
Packed with details -- I wish I had read this book before so many other lesser ones, as I knew a lot of the coolest things, but I enjoyed the detais, presentation and writing.
Katie
Jul 11, 2008 Katie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Katie by: Kevin Holmes
This book is a life lesson in itself. Never before have I felt so humble and quieted by the power and sustainablility of nature. This is a must read.
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David Suzuki is a Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist. A long time activist to reverse global climate change, Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990, to work "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us." The Foundation's priorities are: oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and Da ...more
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