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The Journeys of Trees: A Story about Forests, People, and the Future

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  412 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Forests are restless. Any time a tree dies or a new one sprouts, the forest that includes it has shifted. When new trees sprout in the same direction, the whole forest begins to migrate, sometimes at astonishing rates. Today, however, an array of obstacles—humans felling trees by the billions, invasive pests transported through global trade—threaten to overwhelm these vita ...more
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published July 14th 2020 by W. W. Norton Company
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Connie Barlow
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am the Connie Barlow who appears in the first sentence of this book, so I can offer goodreaders some backstory. Do know that I and the other lead character, Nate Stephenson (who appears in Chapter 1 and several times later in the book), agree that the author did a "stellar" job. Hence as a subject in a nonfiction book, I give it a 5-star review. Zach used the characters themselves and several forestry experts to perform a fact check of different pieces of his draft manuscript. Even in the draf ...more
THE JOURNEY OF TREES by Zach St. George, 2020.

"The migration of a forest is communal, it's constant. It is accomplished over many generations ... It's a question of the species succeeding more in one part of its range, becoming more abundant in one part of its range, and less abundant in another part of its range."

A fascinating look at forest migration over time and with the effects of climate change, invasive species encroachment, and the conservation efforts to assist migration.

🌲🌲 I had not fu
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
zach st. george's the journeys of trees is, indeed, just as the subtitle describes, a story about forests, people, and the future. in his fascinating book, the science reporter takes us around the country (and even overseas) to learn about an array of once-steadfast sylvan giants and the existential threats they face from the ravages of invasive pests and climate change alike. balancing wonder and concern, st. george focuses on five different species, as well as the people striving to ensure the ...more
In a combination of science reporting and travel writing, St George provides a fascinating look at the history and nature of forests, how people interact with them and what the future holds for them. An overarching theme of the book is the migration of forests (or lack thereof) from one area to another. A delightful reading experience.
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a whole new view of conservation efforts in the plant kingdom. I had never really considered how modern nature preserves might not do much good if they inhibit the natural "journeys" of forests, which tend to follow climate. I loved that there were different viewpoints (and even characters) on whether relocating a species is right or not for this purpose. I also learned a lot of depressing facts about elms :(

And it's just so endearing that somewhere in America, a conservationis
May 16, 2021 rated it liked it
3.25-3.5 stars.
I struggled at times with his writing style and the organization of this book. Interesting information but relayed in a way that was not the best for maintaining my attention.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history
Really interesting read through the issues of climate change and its impact on trees, with lots of thought-provoking material about how humans engage with climate change more broadly. If you liked American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree or The Overstory, this is one to add to your list. I read a library copy but will be buying one for my bookshelf. ...more
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunningly excellent book on the vital field of Assisted Migration: assisting native trees in migrating poleward to prevent them from going extinct, given the rapidity of abrupt climate change. The audiobook is superbly narrated, showcasing Zach St. George's storytelling writing skill. If you love trees and/or want to learn about perhaps the most "holy" work with which human beings can be engaged in these collapsing, rapidly heating times, this book is a 'must read'. (Full disclosure: ...more
Mirek Jasinski
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
A very good read. It reminded me of last year's visit to Sequoia National Park and the wonder of those big, old trees. It also reminded me of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World, which is one of my favourite books of this century.

Also, some interesting dilemmas presented here - too poop or not to poop those seeds. Read to make up your mind. :)
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a very accessible book about trees, climate change, and the problems we are facing to preserve what forests we have left. I will admit I may be slightly biased toward liking this book by living in California and being familiar with some of the forest discussed in this book, as well as having worked for USGS in the past and being involved in similar research. Overall it was the type of narrative nonfiction that I really enjoy that employs a personal perspective and makes science relatabl ...more
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very well written. This book is a discussion of climate change and assisted migration of trees (and other species). It’s relatively unbiased and very informative. Written by a writer, not a scientist, it’s readable and relatable to large audiences.

Some sections— like those recounting individual conversations and personal relationships— got dry and had disagreeable characters, but 🤷🏻‍♀️ that’s reality. I found it to truly be a book about “Journeys”, not just a call to action as many current clim
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
What an interesting book, a journey really. I grew up where lilacs arrived every spring and I assumed, naively, they were everywhere. Having lived in other parts of the country I know now that is not true and how I miss them. Zach St. George provides insights why trees have their locations and, in many instances, how they might have come to be where they are. This is a very thoughtful, well written book.
Mrs. Danvers
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really interesting introduction. As an added bonus, the writer is local so, while he travels across the world, he often naturally turns to local examples (California being home to a number of beautiful and fascinating species).
Kristin Kay
Jun 25, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Maybe I’m suffering from nonfiction burnout, but I just couldn’t get into this. I desperately wanted to learn about trees and their struggles from climate change, but the organization style jumps around a lot and caused me to zone in and out. Regardless, this book presents an important message overall, and I liked the author’s decision to focus on five main types of trees to tell their story.
Brittany Loughman
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was such a delight to read, and I learned a ton. Even in the face of impending climate disaster, I feel...hope...for the trees, if not for us.
May 16, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, audiobook
Engaging and eye-opening.
Dan Carey
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
For those who don't know a lot about trees, this can be an excellent introduction. There's sufficient scientific information to convey the wonder of trees without overwhelming one. ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
A gripping but ultimately difficult read about how and when trees got to where they are—and what might happen to them in swiftly changing climate. As the author points out in the final chapter, the story is as much about humans as it is about trees. Humans have set forests or individual species on the road to vanishing via many routes: over-logging, clear-cutting for farm-land, introducing invasive pests, introducing invasive trees. Wrecking the climate is only the latest.

But the book also talk
Kim McGee
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
We all know that people, animals, insects and birds migrate somewhat easily but for trees that journey is very difficult. They need to migrate if a part of the ecosystem fails or sometimes botanists and explorers move them for their own reasons. St. George gives us a naturalist view of why some tree species have endured through every disaster/disease/drought and also a few species that need to be moved or they will die out forever. He presents the science behind the success of the placement of t ...more
Scott Lupo
Oct 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmental
Trees. A beautiful and important organism on this planet. One that has waxed and waned throughout the history of the world up to this day. Using storytelling and scientific writing, the author weaves an all too relevant story line about the migrations of trees and human interventions. While it sounds innocuous, the subject matter is by far more complex than it seems. Much of the book focuses on saving the sequoias and the Florida torreya although it mentions a number of other species of trees. O ...more
Daniel R.
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mos
While the focus is trees the book does an excellent job of exploring the interplay of evolution, climate change, and conservation. In the end there are no easy or quick fixes. Humans have made a heavy handed impact on the Earth that won't be changed anytime soon. While some try to understand the full extent of that impact others are trying to ensure that we don't lose what biodiversity we have left especially among organisms like trees that can't move as easily to find new suitable territory. Th ...more
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
I started reading this, and my son started looking over my shoulder - which he does for every book I read. I end up discouraging him if it’s a fiction book or a nonfiction about anything other than science. This qualified for something I could ostensibly read to him, so I did. Which took an awfully long time, and I edited out some unsuitable language and topics, but on the whole he had more of an aptitude for this book than I did.

It addresses some really cool topics, such as assisted migration
Kathy Piselli
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
The review of this book in NYTBR caught my eye because it mentioned the Florida torreya, and I had just seen some plantings of the torreya at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Torreya turns out to be the star of this show, its story recurring in nearly every chapter in clear, accessible science writing. There's good descriptive writing too: "The beach was black sand and cobbles, strewn with tangles of sea jump and logs as rounded as baby carrots. The water was out, way out - there the tide is a wild ...more
Apr 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmental
This book is fabulous. It lays out & discusses each of the cornerstone threats to forests (climate change, pests, etc.) and individual species. The main thread of the book examines both sides of the assisted migration debate thoroughly and gives enough scientific information and historical context for readers to understand the significance and gravity of each action/inaction. Those interested in forestry and conservation should absolutely read this!

On a related note, many readers will find thems
Alex Williams
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plants
This book describes the history of a handful of tree species' migratory paths and about why species live where they do and why they don't live where they don't. It's about how trees and their ecosystems respond to climate change and how humans respond to that. Although assisted migration is at the center of the conversation, the book presents a variety of conservation and bio control (anti invasive) strategies without preaching which ones are the best.

The Journeys of Trees looks at biogeography
Rita Robinson
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environmental
The Journeys of Tree: A Story About Forests, People, and the Future, written with good storytelling by Zach St. George. His descriptions of people, as well as trees and forests, is for those interested in the environment and how climate change impacts us all. It's not, however, a doom and gloom report, and the problems faced and shared, are mitigated by uplifting stories such as one about a nine-year-old German boy, who inspired his classmates to plant a crab apple tree outside their school. It ...more
Jennifer Wicker
May 27, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book and an interesting concept I had never thought about before

It discusses the option of moving species to cooler climates help them survive due to global warming.

Ultimately I wasn’t sold on the idea due to too many unknowns with introducing species that are not native and the host of other problems that can come with that

I felt like if this were done, it would have to be done extremely carefully.
I also felt like the concept was more emotionally charged in the hopes of
Jan 20, 2022 rated it really liked it
Most people think of forests as static. In this book Zach St. George explores the idea of ‘forest migration’. George is a journalist who delves into the palaeontological record to consider the slow-motion of movement of forests over deep time. George discusses about the concept of biogeography. The way he handles ecological concepts is excellent, especially when considering the many unknown factors that keep a tree from growing somewhere, or his clear breakdown of different niche concepts. Learn ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not generally a fan of travelogue-style science books, but this one was quite well done. Though individual trees are pretty much stuck where they are, as a group, they are constantly on the move, sometimes due to natural mechanisms (i.e. seed dispersion) and sometimes due to human activity. The author mostly focuses on the latter, describing how trees have been impacted by logging, climate change, and the introduction of tree-killing fungi and pests. He writes about the efforts conservationi ...more
Sep 10, 2020 rated it liked it
I learned a lot about trees and their history. The book is also about climate change and what ecologists and scientists are doing to preserve tree species and forests. It’s pretty technical overall, but then there would be nuggets of information that would make me go “Oh, wow, that’s really beautiful.” The writer didn’t organize the book very well, so it kind of wanders from here to there. There are probably better books about this topic out there.
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Zach St. George is a science reporter who has written for the Atlantic, Scientific American, and Outside, among other publications. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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