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The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's Great Connectors

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,296 ratings  ·  227 reviews
The author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen visits with nature s most magnificent networkers trees
David Haskell s award-winning The Forest Unseen won acclaim for eloquent writing and deep engagement with the natural world. Now, Haskell brings his powers of observation to the biological networks that surround all species, including humans.
Haskell repeated
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Viking
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Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
“A man who lives and dies in the woods knows the secret life of trees.” ~~Chief Dan George

When I read this book my mind went back to this quote by Dan George, and i wondered what it means to know the secret life of trees.

This last autumn when i was walking in the woods i heard the leaves on the trees fall. I wrote this about it:

“Today when I walked through the woods
the leaves were falling, and for the first time
that I could ever remember
I actually heard them fall.

They fell like paper rain on
Rhonda Riley
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book isn't about trees--or not just trees. There is much much more--nature, us, philosophy, ethics, spirituality. And some lovely, lovely writing. Read it slowly. Then go take a walk in the woods. My favorite passage, the passage I copied and hung by my study door: "We're all--trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria--pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between coop ...more
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-with-dad
I had a book about trees on my TBR. It hadn't come out yet, but I was willing to wait. Then, when it did come out, it was more expensive than I was willing to pay. I decided to keep waiting. I was out with my sister one night at a place called Rough Draft, which is a bakery that serves beer and sells books at the same time. They have comfortable couches and chairs along with tables, and the bookshelves literally line the entire place. There are books under the snack counter and the taps. There a ...more
Haskell is a conscious observer and natural scientist. His earlier work, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature, studied a small patch of land, his "mandala", over the course of one year. He observed the small changes, as well as the macro chages over the seasons. It was a fascinating look at the natural and cultural history of this particular forest scape.

In Song of Trees he takes this same attention and observation to several different kinds of trees in different locations all over the w
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: climatechange, trees
David George Haskell's "The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors" has received much deserved attention. Haskell’s writing is deeply beautiful and infused with exceptional knowledge. Because of his unique skills as a writer and his knowledge of biology, Haskell makes connections understandable; he creates an ecological web that expresses the complexity and nuance of nature. Haskell makes all parts of the forest come alive, and he writes in ways that make humans feel part of eart ...more
Carl Zimmer
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a big fan of Haskell's work. Here's the blurb I gave for The Song of Trees:

"David Haskell does the impossible in The Song of Trees. He picks out a dozen trees around the world and inspects each one with the careful eye of a scientist. But from those observations, he produces a work of great poetry, showing how these trees are joined to the natural world around them, and to humanity as well."
Danielle Clode
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature-writing
This is one of the finest nature writing/science writing books I've read in a very long time. Beautifully written with exceptional knowledge - a finely crafted book that takes the time to express the full complexity of nature and science in a way that is both lyrical and enlightening. I can't recommend this book highly enough. My only regret is that he didn't include any Australian trees! ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I just love this little book! I've found many of the nature reads I've picked up in the past were either too clinical or occasionally New Agey. What Haskell does is pure magic. The prose is poetic, but not sappy. After reading a chapter, I'd go on a walk and everything seemed richer and more interesting.

You get twelve different snapshots of forest scenes: a balsam fir forest near Thunder Bay, Ontario, for example. If you were to walk through the scene, you would notice the hard, rocky ground wi
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature
Few writers can wax lyrical about the connections between various elements in nature quite like Haskell. Not only is he a biologist, he is also gifted with the talent to write creatively and evocatively. Whether it is the symbiosis of tree roots with underground networks of fungi, the different sounds raindrops make when hitting various parts of trees, or how the rumbling vibrations of the subway get modulated as they resonate up a street tree, this is lyrical prose at a high level. Yet, the aut ...more
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that does a great job of emphasizing how interconnected nature really is and our place in it. His writing style is engaging and filled with nuggets of information about the world around us, whether in a city or in the wilderness.

It also made me rethink the idea of Wilderness Areas some when he makes the point that setting aside specific areas for "nature" results in us treating the rest of the world poorly.
Debbie Hill
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tree-themed
Canadian sound poet Penn Kemp once told me, "if you want a poem to come alive, you need to add some sounds to your work". Author David George Haskell must also believe in the value of sounds because his non-fiction book The Songs of Trees is not only dense with biological and ecological facts (gleamed from extensive hands-on fieldwork and other research - 20 pages of bibliographic references) but it also pauses to leaf-flutter, tap-dance, and sing with poetic sounds and words. (I would love to r ...more
Layla ライラ
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don’t have anything to review here, this book is just a treasure.
If you want to know what this book is all about, read the description for this book provided here on Goodreads, plus I’ll give you what’s written in the back of the cover (which describes everything):
“David Haskell has won acclaim for eloquent writing and deep engagement with the natural world. Now, he brings his powers of observation to the biological networks that surround all species, including humans. Haskell repeatedly visit
Dan Carey
John Muir said, "When we try and pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." Haskell's book is about how trees serve as a marvelous nexus that connects individual humans to one another and to other denizens of nature. (Haskell is adamant that humans and our machines not be thought of as "non-natural" or "outside of nature".) It builds upon themes from his prior book, The Forest Unseen, but indulges in some much more poetic writing that serves his purpose ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
I wanted Lab Girl-type explanations and connections about the beauty of trees in nature, but what I got was a book I couldn't finish simply because of it's heaviness in subject.

Haskell clearly knows his stuff and uses his science and ecological background to write an ode to the trees in a way that I cannot understand nor appreciate. I wanted some natural wonder for a couch scientist like myself to appreciate the magic of these amazing things. Instead it was arduous to read and the connections w
jrendocrine ?u get guns-we get forced pregnancy??
So... I absolutely loved his year in the forest (The Unseen Forest) -

Here Dr Haskell continues in his philosophical approach to the life around us - so of course there are moments of real inspiration as he's an unusual thinker with a gift for bringing science to the page. This book, however, felt strained to me. Too much reaching to find meaning - and too much (for me) fidgeting around with how humans interact with trees. The human impact concentration I found trying, and not very interesting: t
Ray Zimmerman
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Songs of Trees
David George Haskell
Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman

Haskell has a strong reputation as a literary naturalist. His articles have appeared in scientific journals and popular news publications such as the New York Times. In his second book, he gives us his observations of trees from Manhattan to rural Tennessee to the Amazonian rainforest to Jerusalem.

He includes information on how trees share chemical messages through their roots and the network of fungal mycelia surrounding them. He al
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
I am it appears in the minority for not loving this book.

It is a shame that I did not really enjoy this book, because the title of the book was so interesting. This book is really not about trees at all, instead the author makes mention of them at the beginning and end of each chapter, while everything in between is a launching pad for sociological accounts which the author goes to great lengths to describe.

But the thing that I disliked the most about this book was quite literally the authors wr
Scott Sanders
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trees
A superb book, winner of the 2018 John Burroughs Medal. Haskell's patient study of individual trees on several continents is a brilliant lesson in seeing, and a demonstration of scientific curiosity at its best. He reveals that trees depend on networks--fungi, microbes, insects, animals, other trees, soils, rain and snow, and countless other factors, all woven into a living community. There is no such thing as a self-sufficient tree. And the same is true of human beings, who are inescapably inte ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really thought this would be up my alley since I studied Environmental science, but I just couldn't get through it. The density of information is daunting, especially when served up using stilted prose and gratuitous technical terms that are not explained to the reader. Sadly, I found myself rolling my eyes at the overcomplicated language. It felt like the author wanted to impress us with his vocabulary every single sentence. Would have been much better if he'd just kept it simpler. ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: garden, thoughtful
Utterly wonderful. Usually books that are written with such a level of description set my teeth on edge, but somehow it didn't bother me with this one. Wonderful essay-like chapters on different trees and a different theme - climate change, social justice, community, all intertwined with scientific fact. Very much recommended.

*Bird memories are therefore a tree's dream of the future.*

*Street trees are in perpetual violation: obstructionists all, maintaining, as Howard Nemerov observed, "comprehe
Emma Bec
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book covers very diverse topics around trees, including their biology, how they grow and communicate, aesthetics, philosophy and how humans relate to them. I think it was the parts about human and societal relationships with trees that I found most interesting, especially chapters about trees in urban settings including places like New York and Palestine/Israel. Many parts of the book I found quite moving.

The only problem I had was it seemed disjointed at times, though it probably wouldn't h
Robert Wechsler
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An odd combination of wandering, surprising descriptions of the nature of nature (centered on various sorts of trees) with elucidating but repetitive arguments about the interconnectedness of life. The prose is very dense due to such things as complex verbs, unusual adjectives, and sentences that are rarely connected by the logical connectors common to nonfiction. This is not a book to skim; it requires patience and a willingness to not understand everything while plowing through. And yet it is ...more
Minervas Owl
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect a book about trees could also be about so many other things: birds, fungus, sand, paper, road salt, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reading the book was like meandering in a forest. Sometimes I felt lost, but most of the times, I just enjoy the walk itself.

Haskell writes in a unique style. He makes science-inspired analogies that surprise and amaze me. But unfortunately, he also tends to use unfamiliar words such as "luthier" and "skittering." As a result, I gave up listeni
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Haskell looks at the ways that trees connect so many aspects of our world -- biology, ecology, sound, social justice and politics, economics, culture and more. The writing was beautiful and extremely descriptive. It was a slower read for me -- very science heavy, and I think it might have been a 4 star read for me instead of a borderline 3 if I had not been quite so tired when I was reading it. This one needs the reader's full attention. ...more
It only took me 23 days but this book is beautiful. Science, history, poetry all in one, this is a love-letter to trees all over the world. David Haskell is able to weave so many stories into one tree, and my admiration for the many experiences he highlights only leaves me in greater awe for these ancient beings.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Haskell visits trees around the world and portrays how they interact with their ecosystems and people. A really good book, although the climate change stuff is kind of a downer. It won't disappoint fans of The Forest Unseen, but it isn't quite as absorbing and amazing. Haskell's writing is always a treat to read, though. ...more
This I need to think on a bit more.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Packed with everything beautiful: tree science, culture, history, love and respect for nature, human relationships with nature and so much more. Definitely worth reading.
Daniel Rosekopanke
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Half about the trees, and half is a philisophical discussion on Humans place in nsture.
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David George Haskell is an British-born American biologist, author, and professor of biology at Sewanee: The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.

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14 likes · 3 comments
“We’re all—trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria—pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship. Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory.” 12 likes
“Ideas and statutes that live only in disembodied intellect are fragile, easily manipulated by both sides in a debate. This is as true of European "sustainability" regulations as it is for Amazonian súmac káusai removed from its forest home. Knowledge gained through extended bodily relationship with the forest, including the forest's human communities, is more robust.
... There is truth that cannot be accessed through intellect alone, especially intellect that is not aware of local ecological variations.”
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