Tree Reads

7 captivating books featuring trees for the forest-fascinated

books featuring trees

Books and trees are two of my sustaining pleasures in life. For me, well-written
books featuring trees are gifts to be savored and shared. Here are a few favorites
from my ever-growing collection:

Fiction

The Living by Annie Dillard


If you’re curious about early Whatcom County history, this book provides a detailed, fascinating, and often brutal portrait of pioneer life in the late 19th century. Dillard’s characters live hard, colorful lives during the boom-and-bust era of logging, mining, and railroad building. Descriptions of the Douglas fir forests that covered literally every acre of land right down to the tidelands, along with stories of the Lummi and Nooksack natives whose lives were forever changed by the European settlers who came to “tame” the land will give you a deeper sense of place for our corner of the
world.

The Overstory by Richard Powers


You’ve probably heard of this Pulitzer-prize winning tome of a novel and have
meant to make time to read it. I’m here to tell you: it’s so worth it! You’ll follow a
cast of seemingly unrelated characters whose lives have been shaped in some way by a specific tree, or by trees in general. As you follow their disparate yet
interwoven stories, you’ll delve into the history, science, and spirituality of our
forests. This is truly a seminal book for our age.

Greenwood by Michael Christie


Last year’s Whatcom Reads choice, Greenwood is a sweeping family saga, looking both back and forward in time, with trees at its core. Following the lives of the Greenwood family over a century, you’ll learn about the growth of the timber
industry in North America and peer into the future at the author’s vision of its
eventual demise.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin


Set at the turn of the 20th century in the orchard region of central Washington, The
Orchardist is a quietly powerful tale of love, family, and redemption. And although it’s not primarily about trees, you’ll be drawn into the protagonist’s life of tending his apple and apricot orchards, a metaphor for his careful and quiet tending to the people he loves. A beautifully written look at life in another time and corner of the Northwest, this is a book that will stay with you long after reading.

Nonfiction

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben


The essential read for anyone interested in trees and nature. German forester &
conservationist Peter Wohlleben knows trees and forests inside and out and draws on groundbreaking research in this amazing account of the ways in which trees communicate, cooperate, and even sacrifice for the survival of their forest
communities. Once you’ve had a peek into their secret world, you’ll never look at
trees the same way again.


For more from Wohlleben and local author Jane Billinghurst, read my review of their co-authored book, Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America.

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


I’m currently re-reading this book in preparation for a trip to Haida Gwaii—formerly named the Queen Charlotte Islands—off the northern coast of British Columbia. I’ve wanted to visit since first reading the book over a decade ago; I was so taken by the account of this magnificent tree, an apparent anomaly of nature, and sacred to the Haida who call these islands home. The tree was tragically cut down by a tormented
forester in a misguided attempt to call attention to the environmentally disastrous practices of the timber industry. This well-researched, gripping book delves into the history of this remote archipelago, its First Nation inhabitants, and the devastating developments that came with “civilization.”

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard


True confession: I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve got it in my audio book lineup
for the long drive to Haida Gwaii. The author was born and raised in the rainforests of British Columbia and is a professor of forest ecology at UBC. In her research on how trees communicate and evolve together over time, she has found, at the heart of these intricate communities, the Mother Trees: “mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them.” My road trip can’t come soon enough!


I’ll bet you have some favorite tree reads of your own – please share them with us
in the “comments” section below.

Note: All book links are to our beloved local partner, Village Books, who we
encourage you to support. If you prefer to order from Amazon, please sign up for
AmazonSmile so that WMTP will receive a tiny amount per Amazon order. It only
takes a moment to do and costs you nothing! To learn more or sign up, follow this link.


Lauren Fritzen

Lauren Fritzen is a contributing writer for Whatcom Million Trees Project. Lauren is a copywriter/copy editor and has professional experience in marketing, social media, research, and event planning. Having written for Cascadia Weekly, WhatcomTalk and other local publications, she bolsters our blog articles and contributes to our other writing needs.

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