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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  4,623 Ratings  ·  842 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 ha ...more
Paperback, 295 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2007)
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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
Bob Peru
Feb 27, 2008 Bob Peru rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dorianne Laux
Jul 17, 2007 Dorianne Laux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 24, 2011 Joseph rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2008 Flori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
M. D.
Feb 09, 2008 M. D. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2008 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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
Jan 19, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Feb 14, 2010 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 23, 2010 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2010 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sep 03, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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 am of two minds about this book. When Preston is giving us the impressions of actually climbing into these gigantic trees, I am transported to a world where new species abound high above earth in ecosystems "similar to the ocean's coral reefs."

When he is lecturing us or creating the tension of personal relationships, I find myself more conscious of his prose --- his lack of fluidity and attempts at a compelling style. The "story of passion and daring," promised in the title, comes through but
Jenny GB
Jun 03, 2012 Jenny GB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2012 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-nonfic
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
Oct 16, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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.
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
Andrea Jakious
Feb 22, 2015 Andrea Jakious rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I could give this book 0 stars, I would. Fascinating topic, interesting people, terrible, disjointed writing. At first I thought this book was slightly better than a textbook on redwoods. Now I think I would have preferred a textbook.
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
Jun 24, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in wilderness and unique characters.
Shelves: recommended
This book is a love story. It's a story about a small circle of people (mostly men) who love the world's tallest trees; and it's a story about how - in finding the trees - they find one another. A "wild tree" is a tree that has never been climbed by anyone else, and these folks existence is justified by finding such wild trees.

But these are folks obsessed with finding, and then climbing, the tallest living things - the Coastal Redwoods. Most of these giants are located in highly inaccessible pla
Kerri Stebbins
This book. I adore this book. Mostly because I adore talking about, learning about, geeking out about trees. Any trees. But especially redwood trees. And this book is fantastic in its breadth and scope and coverage of the history of studying the redwoods, and all the stops and starts and madness therein. Did I know there was an entire subset of people who spend (and have spent) their days climbing redwoods, and Doug Firs, and countless other species of trees? Not really. I really had no idea the ...more
I don't think this was a bad book per say. I think that many would actually enjoy the method of story telling, but for several reasons - it just did not work for me. I love nature writing generally, and find giant trees endlessly fascinating, but this dealt much less with the biology and nature of them and it focused on the stories of some dudes that climbed and studied them. I found much of it and their stories quite boring outside of the actual climbing. If I want to read about someone bagging ...more
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Wild Trees 3 47 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)” 14 likes
“Botanists have a tradition of never revealing the exact location of a rare plant. Contact between humans and rare plants is generally risky for the plants. Many of the giant trees I describe in this book, as well as the groves they inhabit, have only recently been discovered, and in some cases have been seen by fewer than a dozen people, including myself. To honor the tradition of botany, I won’t reveal the exact locations of giant trees or groves if these locations have not been previously published. If a tree’s location has been published, or if the tree is no longer alive, then I will give its location.” 0 likes
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