The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed
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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  2,422 ratings  ·  383 reviews
As vividly as Jon Krakauer put readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America's last great forest, where trees grow to eighteen feet in diameter, sunlight never touches the ground, and the chainsaws are always at work.

When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 17th 2005 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2005)
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Look at this beautiful Golden Spruce:

ETA: Check out National Geographic's article on the Haida (Vol 172, NO.1, July 1987)

Anyone interested in forest conservation should read this book. It is informative and clear. You will learn about the timber industry. Maybe that sounds dry, but the book is in no way dry. Why? That is because the author couples it with a true event concerning the chopping down of the tree shown above and the disappearance of the man wh...more
Have to admit that I picked it up because of the hunky guy coming out of the water on the book's cover. And it's about trees. How could that be bad?

Took this on a long work trip and couldn't put it down. In many ways it's utterly depressing as the author pours through the history of how humans have decimated the world's forests, native cultures, and other natural resources...but the author crafts an unforgettable story of life among the wild Pacific Northwest coastal forests...from native coasta...more
There's a lot of interesting information in this book, and I enjoyed that aspect of it, but the author would have benefited from someone reigning him in a bit. He sort of wrote a small book about the early trading that took place along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, and then one about the natural landscape and flora in that region, and then one about the guy whom the book is ostensibly about. Almost all of which was new and intriguing info for me, but I feel like there was too much shifting...more
The story revolves around Grant Hadwin, an expert Canadian logger turned environmentalist, and his seemingly incomprehensible and barbaric act of cutting down an old, beautiful and one of a kind mutant spruce tree with golden needles called the Golden Spruce.

Hadwin surreptitiously cut down the Golden Spruce one cold January night in 1997 and fled in the wake of his act never to be seen again. The tree was ancient and huge, over 300 years old, 50 meters tall and sacred to the Haida, the native p...more
Isaac Yuen
Short Version: This is an absorbing story that weaves together the history of Western Canada and the culture of First Nations, European explorers, and loggers on one of the most remote and pristine locations on Earth.

Long Version: The story is centered about the singular Grant Hadwin, an outdoorsman that puts other outdoorsmen to shame, and who was more at home in the untamed west coast rainforest than he is in normal society. It speaks of his transformation from a logger/ timber scout into an e...more
Sep 07, 2008 Dan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like trees and manly men
The story of Grant Hadwin, skilled logger turned radical environmentalist, provides the central momentum for this fluent discussion of the history and effects of the logging industry, particularly that of the Pacific Northwest. The book is broad in scope, touching upon the indiginous peoples of the British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands, the role of technology in the logging industry, the culture of loggers themselves, and the environmental ramifications of modern man’s efficiency at clear-c...more
The story is simple; we get the gist of it from the synopsis. But it is John Vaillant's telling of it that makes it such a great read. We get wave after wave of interesting stuff and you don't know where you are going until you are in it, and then it is quite a ride!
I love this book. I love it in so many different ways and on so many different levels, I hardly know how to begin. It is filled with pages and pages of description, which I tend to get annoyed with quite quickly. This book however, is one of the rare exceptions and reminds me that extended amounts of description need not be tedious and irrelevant (as in Cold Mountain- 'The bird alighted on the tree and a leaf fell and I saw that the sky was blue, with some clouds, and I looked at the tree again...more
I found this book at a youth hostel in New Hampshire where I had gathered with fellow outdoorspeople for a weekend of winter adventures. Even after an exhausting day of cross country skiing, the subtitle of the book caught my interest, and I started to read.

I finished reading the book a few weeks ago, but it still haunts my thoughts. I do not look at trees the same way. I do not look at craziness or lost causes the same way.

Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you plan to read this book...

This boo...more
Carol Shaw
“If you want to understand Haida Gwaii,” my husband said, “read, The Golden Spruce. it’s got everything.” He was right. It does.

In 1997, The Golden Spruce - a rare Sitka spruce tree that grew near Port Clements on Haida Gwaii, was cut down illegally in the middle of the night. This tree possessed a rare genetic mutation that caused its needles to be golden in colour. Grant Hadwin, an ex-logger and engineer cut down the 300-year-old tree in such a way that it would be blown over during the next s...more
So having now read two of John Valliant’s books - The Tiger and now, The Golden Spruce - I’m prepared to give him title of Most Best Genre Blender. It’s hard to tell you whatkindof book The Golden Spruce is because it’s a combination of straight up history (but of various subjects - colonization, the logging industry in BC), mythology, biography and narrative. The effect of the genre shifting - and it is shifting, between paragraphs and within chapters the “kind” of story subtly changes without...more
I absolutely loved this extremely well-told story about logging, man vs nature, the Wild West, the Haida nation, a man and his talent and rage, and much much more. I had high expectations and this book exceeded them.

I wanted to read this after having seen the presentation on the Canada Reads 2012 site. What I was drawn to was mostly the story of the tree, the Golden Spruce, and its carrying of myths and the history of the Haida nation. What kept me turn the pages was the way the stories behind,...more
Mark Hainds
First of all, I am a forester. I know the companies and I am friends with employees of the companies Mr. Vaillant describes. I am in the woods with a chainsaw several times a week. The work I do is hazardous, but not in a league with the loggers of the Northwest. By my assessment, Mr. Vaillant does an excellent job of describing foresters, loggers, and the timber industry.

Mr. Vaillant describes a widely recognized tragedy in the felling of the Golden Spruce. I witnessed a similar tragedy in the...more
Here we go with the genre issue again. I thought about science - because there’s a lot of science in it. But the author clearly aspired to write a book about character. The trouble was the particular character who chopped down the golden spruce and is at the centre of the narrative, doesn’t have much character. He’s a nut who cuts down a sacred (what isn’t) Indian tree and then disappears. That’s it. Except for the scientific stuff about mostly trees which is pretty interesting and which is real...more
Jan 25, 2008 Rosana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosana by: Book club pick from Wendy
I seldom read non-fiction, but this was a book club choice and I am very glad I read it. John Vaillant's prose is rich and quite poetic at times. But the engrossing writing does not overshadow the tale Vaillant set himself to tell. The main thread of the book is the story of how a centuries old golden spruce, that was sacred to the Haida, was cut down by Grant Hadwin, a logger gone environmentalist gone mad. In a more in-depth journalistic style and skillfully researched, Vaillant also tells us...more
The book was a giant let down. I wanted to love it, the pages and pages of glowing reviews in the front assured me I would...but no such luck. I even bought the actual book (instead of getting from the library) since I knew I would want to pass it to my dad to read, but now I can't justify giving this to someone.

The actual story of the Golden Spruce and Grant Hadwin is really interesting, but take up about 25 pages in this 300 page book. Some of the other content is also interesting, but in gen...more
Suzanne Arcand
What a great book!

It's not a subject of which I would normally read but John Vaillant is such a good writer that I actually enjoyed reading about logging. I've learned a lot, I've been entertained and moved all by the same book.

I can't stop telling everybody to read it. Since I've read it I know more about the Haida who I now see has real three dimensional people. I understand how hard logging was in the past and how tough the loggers where. I know how destructive logging is and I'm seriously th...more
Lesley Hazleton
Extraordinary story, wonderfully told. Was haunted by this story ever since I first read part of it, I think in The New Yorker, or maybe Harper's. Pounced on it when I saw it had come out as a book. Not just the built-in tension of the disappearing hero/antihero, driven crazy/sane by eco-destruction, but an amazingly empathetic telling from the point of view of all concerned -- conservationists, First Peoples, and loggers (and sometimes, the same person can be all three). Plus of course that sac...more
Heather Boyd
Jul 30, 2013 Heather Boyd rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: Jessica Hardy
This book covers so much more than solely the story of the myth-filled and revered unique Golden Spruce that was violently felled in Northern BC by a protester in the 1990s. John Vaillant gives a readable history of the logging industry, the Haida First Nations, and the commercialization and settlement of the west coast starting with the first European explorers. I doubt any reader of this book could look at trees the same way after reading this. I know I never will. Excellent and riveting.
This is really close to five stars! I started this book thinking it sounded interesting but it could be somewhat boring at the same time. Wow, was I wrong! John Vaillant did a fantastic job of combining history, science, currents events into an extremely interesting story filled with lots of facts and enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages to find out more. I read a library e-book version but was enjoying it so much I bought my own hard copy before I even finished the book.
Howard Cincotta
The Golden Spruce is ostensibly the tale of two lives and deaths: that of logger and environmental activist Grant Hadwin, and a massive Sitka spruce tree with a remarkable mutation that resulted in golden instead of green needles. But the real protagonist of this riveting and deeply researched story is the forest and coastal seas of British Columbia, an otherworldly landscape of violent winds and seas and deep arboreal forests populated by a race of giants – cedar, Douglas fir, spruce, and redwo...more
WM Rine
The Golden Spruce is structured around the terrible felling of a beautiful and unique golden spruce tree on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia in the late 90s and the mysterious disappearance of the perpetrator shortly afterward, a man who had been a champion logger and logging surveyor and had turned bitter advocate for the forests (and had possibly come a bit unhinged). Really, though, the story is a paean to the beautiful and lush coastal forests of the northwest coasts of Nort...more
Despite the depressing topics of logging (especially western BC), native and European clashes,environmental destruction, and the story of one man making a radical statement about the above topics, this was an informative and well written book. Recommended for anyone who wants to get up and close to the Canadian logging industry. It was an eye-opener for me and I won't look at a forest the same way again. Officially a 3.5 star from me.
Claudia Putnam
This book was everything I love to find in journalistic non-fiction. Extremely fine writing; great characterizations; information galore about cultures--in this case, Anglo loggers and why they do what they do (not something someone like me can easily understand except through the windows of books like this, or Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion), and Native communities both historically and struggling to survive today--as well about the environment in which they live, the flora, fauna, extreme we...more
Bobbi Hartwell
I read this book several years ago, and it's a testament to Mr. Vaillant's writing that when I heard of the 7.7 earthquake on the same island yesterday (10/27/12), I was immediately taken back to the people, land and trees of this book. It's not often that a book about TREES can have that lasting impact.
Good read. Rate it 4 starts. Goes deep into the history of the area of Queen Charlotte Islands, loggers and the Haida tribe. Interesting read.
Sad story of the fight between Native Americans and pioneers in the Pacific NW. I don't think I'll ever be able to finish this one.
Hortense Powdermaker
I thought the main story line was much less interesting than the natural history the author put in on the side. The way he wrote about the history of forests (or really the deforestation or our planet) captured my imagination and strengthened my resolve to conserve our great and not-so-great trees.

The Scottish Highlands used to be forests! Lebanon used to be forests! One Sunday of the New York times kills a giant tanker full of trees! I may have misremembered these facts, but I'll go back to re...more
The book, The Golden Spruce tells the haunting tale of the North American Northwest forests. The book starts with the native peoples living in the area and their lives and their interactions with the Europeans that came to trade and colonize North America. We learn how the sea otter, a unique creature with extremely valuable fur, was trapped to the brink of extinction via greed. The early otter destruction becomes a parallel to the more modern-day logging industry and destruction of the old grow...more
Along the lines of Junger's Perfect Storm or Krakauer's Into the Wild & Into Thin Air. The story of a very remarkably physically gifted man of the Great Northwest Woods who had grown up working in the logging industry evolves and through experiences & growth has a heightened level of awareness. The author does an excellent job of interweaving the incredible main story with the background and the history of the Northwest woods, the native peoples from B.C. to the times of Chief Seattle an...more
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John Vaillant is a non-fiction author and journalist who was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has lived in Vancouver for the past thirteen years.

John Vaillant is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Outside, among others. His first book, The Golden Spruce (Norton, 2005), was a bestseller and won several awards, including the Gover...more
More about John Vaillant...
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“Fancy cutting down all those beautiful make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilisation. - Winston Churchill, remarking to his son during a visit to Canada in 1929” 12 likes
“There is a saying among the peoples of the Northwest Coast: “The world is as sharp as the edge of a knife,” and Robert Davidson, the man responsible for carving Masset’s first post-missionary pole, imagines this edge as a circle. “If you live on the edge of the circle,” he explained in a documentary film, “that is the present moment. What’s inside is knowledge, experience: the past. What’s outside has yet to be experienced. The knife’s edge is so fine that you can live either in the past or in the future. The real trick,” says Davidson, “is to live on the edge.” 1 likes
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