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

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  560 ratings  ·  116 reviews
"Here is a book to nourish the spirit. The Songs of Trees is a powerful argument against the ways in which humankind has severed the very biological networks that give us our place in the world. Listen as David Haskell takes his stethoscope to the heart of nature - and discover the poetry and music contained within."
-- Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Viking
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4.04  · 
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 ·  560 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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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
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: trees, climatechange
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!
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
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.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book that has opened my eyes (and ears) to new ways of thinking about trees and the interconnectedness of all life. It uses patient and painstaking scientific observation to open up discussions of ethics and philosophy. The prose is extremely well crafted, as intricate and dense as the subjects he is reflecting on.

I especially loved the chapters about trees in places that I know well -- the sabal palm in St. Catherine's Island, Georgia, and the green ash in Shakerag Hollow,
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
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
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
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
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
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
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a beautifully written book that is worth reading for its aesthetics alone. Haskell deploys words and imagery in a candidly poetic way that most contemporary fiction writers (maybe outside of Latin America?) don't allow themselves to do. I also appreciate his refusal to treat science, culture, and ethics as separate concerns. I was frustrated often by the attendant lack of focus: is this book about trees? Anthropology? Philosophy? Ecology? In the end this book is a very long and beautiful ...more
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.
This I need to think on a bit more.
Martyn Smith
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book on trees that everyone should read. Currently many books on trees are competing for our attention. The best known of these might be The Hidden Life of Trees. But this book, I believe, should be first choice. It is composed of a series of essays centered on individual trees. These trees range from a Ceibo in the Amazon, to a Sabal Palm along the Atlantic coast of Georgia, to a Callery Pear in New York City. Haskell shows how each tree exists in a network of other plants a ...more
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
I read this book for my book club (through the Aurora Public Library, we meet at various breweries around the city...and talk about that month's book, how cool is that?). It is not a book I would have picked out for myself, and I didn't vote for it in our bimonthly voting sessions, was good. It is basically 10 essays on various trees (in specific locations) around the world. It talks about how the trees and the various communities help each other out. It talks about white privilege, and ...more
Jeff Grant
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Dr. Haskell is a living Lorax. He takes you to trees all over the planet and immerses you in the ecosystems that they dwell. He talks about their importance to the animals that rely on them, humans included, and makes you think about their beauty. You really appreciate their diversity and their resilience as humans have continued to change the planet around them. I feel I listen to the trees in my own backyard in a different way now. I look forward to picking up his other book in ...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.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the first Haskell book I have read and I have to say I was very impressed. I've always liked nature writing starting with Thoreau and Muir among others. Haskell goes way beyond just a book about trees, he goes into human, animal, fungal, environmental and political interaction with trees. His writing is very lyrical. Each chapter stands on it's own for the most part.

I Liked It!
Dave Mills
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Haskell's a rigorous scientist, but he's also a grand humanist. And he's a skilled writer who merges the two in amazing ways. Here are wonderful stories about "nature's great connectors." And stories about us.
Peter Mcloughlin
Collection of writings on tree ecology. It was okay.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I found it somewhat slow and wandering, and not well written enough for me to want to follow along the whole way.
Jill Sergeant
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
David Haskell visits and revisits 12 trees over the course of several years. He listens to the sounds around and sometimes within them - birdsong, insect scratchings, raindrops on leaves, the pulse of water through stems and branches, the hum of roadways built to transport forest products such as logs, fruit and fur.

The trees range from an Amazon rainforest tree (the Ceibo) to a 600-year old bonsai. There is even a fallen dead tree, which arguably is host to so much life for so long after it fa
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 as well as popular news publications such as the New York Times. For this book, his second, 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 through the network of fungal mycelia
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Nature Literature: The Songs of Trees discussion 13 29 Dec 28, 2018 11:16AM  

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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.
“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.”
“Bird memories are therefore a tree's dream of the future.” 4 likes
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