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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  176 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
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
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.
Patricia Burgess
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Trees, humans, birds, fungi, plants, all life connects in this enchanting scientific consideration of the narratives of twelve trees throughout the world. Haskell writes lyrically of the trees, whether in urban, Amazonian, boral, coastal or war zone forests, studied over a number of years to explore their relationships with the world around them. His mesmerizing descriptions, words eliciting sounds that we hear, bring the trees and their neighbors inside to his readers. We learn not just of tree ...more
Geri chesner
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
I've found a new favorite author. And what an exquisite writer he is that he can make rotting wood seem so fascinating and beautiful. So scholarly in the content, but so elegantly written. I love a book that enchants me so much that I look up unknown words to get the full essence - and there are a lot of these words. I just ordered his acclaimed 2012 book, the Forest Unseen and am looking forward spending lots of leisurely time digesting it as I did with The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's ...more
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
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are no words for the depth and breadth of how much I loved this book. The songs of trees is a small part of what the author is really after; converting and proselytizing us all to recognize that the songs of trees and rivers and skies are our songs, there is no difference between our song and theirs, it is the same song. Yes, we all have a song and we must open our minds to it if we want to have a habitable planet. The author is exquisitely tuned into the noises trees and nature make, and ...more
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,
Martyn Smith
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
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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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73 likes · 21 comments
“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.”
“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.” 8 likes
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