The Songs of Trees

Stories from Nature's Great Connectors

The author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen visits with nature's most magnificent networkers - trees

"Both a love song to trees, an exploration of their biology, and a wonderfully philosophical analysis of their role they play in human history and in modern culture." - Science Friday


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 visits a dozen trees, exploring connections with people, microbes, fungi, and other plants and animals. He takes us to trees in cities (from Manhattan to Jerusalem), forests (Amazonian, North American, and boreal) and areas on the front lines of environmental change (eroding coastlines, burned mountainsides, and war zones.) In each place he shows how human history, ecology, and well-being are intimately intertwined with the lives of trees.

Scientific, lyrical, and contemplative, Haskell reveals the biological connections that underpin all life. In a world beset by barriers, he reminds us that life's substance and beauty emerge from relationship and interdependence.
Named one of the Best Science Books of 2017 by Science Friday and Brain Pickings
One of Forbes' Best Environment, Climate Science and Conservation Books of 2017

"In The Songs of Trees, Haskell champions a kind of 'ecological aesthetics,' where we find beauty in connectivity . . . Haskell sees trees as 'nature's great connectors,' living symbols of the book's great theme - that life is about relationships. . .we can find salvation in this view of life as a community."--Ed Yong, The Atlantic

"Haskell's exquisitely wrought ecological study documents the fate of 12 trees, around the globe and over time . . . a ravishing journey into biotic community." - Nature

"Both a love song to trees, an exploration of their biology, and a wonderfully philosophical analysis of their role they play in human history and in modern culture." - Science Friday, "The Best Science Books of 2017"

"Haskell trains his breathtaking observational skills, his eloquence and his capacity for hourslong contemplative practice on 12 trees around the globe . . . Haskell's sentences drip with poignancy and poetry. It's as if the whole world--every dust mote, every molecule of air, each reverberation of birdsong, rainfall or urban jackhammer--is slid beneath his magnifying lens. We see and hear beauties otherwise unimagined." - Chicago Tribune

"Reveals the surprising - and surprisingly fascinating - arboreal secrets hidden in the canopies of ordinary trees . . . Haskell [leverages] three remarkable strengths - vast scientific knowledge, prodigious literary gifts, and a deeply meditative approach to fieldwork." --Outside

"Haskell proves himself to be the rare kind of scientist Rachel Carson was when long ago she pioneered a new cultural aesthetic of poetic prose about science . . . it is in such lyrical prose and with an almost spiritual reverence for trees that Haskell illuminates his subject . . . a resplendent read in its entirety, kindred both to Walt Whitman's exultation of trees and bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer's poetic celebration of moss." -Brain Pickings

"Rich, often stunningly beautiful prose ... astounding powers of observation ... powerfully arguing against the 'otherness' of nature that denies our own wild being ... pushes the genre of nature writing in a welcome new direction." --The Burroughs Medal jury

"Over the course of ten graceful and fine-grained studies of different tree species, Haskell makes our relationship with the trees lambently obvious . . . The Songs of Trees has the diverse busyness of a thriving woodland. It is hard to think of a recent scientifically-inflected book on nature that is as fluent, compelling, and intoxicatingly rich." - Times Literary Supplement

"The Songs of Trees is the equal of [The Forest Unseen] in its scientific depth, lyricism, and imaginative reach . . . Haskell's intention is nothing less than to explore interconnection in nature across space and time, and to observe how humans can succeed, or fail, in the co-creation of networks of life that are more intelligent, productive, resilient and creative." - The Guardian

"A great read for those wanting to be swept away to new locations while gaining a greater appreciation for the impact a single tree can have." - American Forests

"The ceibo is the first of a fascinating litany of the world's trees we come to know through the extraordinary observations of Haskell . . . This is a wise and eloquent reminder of the interconnectedness of all things and a lesson in how being open to the wisdom of trees, the great connectors, can help us understand ourselves and our place in the world." - The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Haskell writes with a poet's ear and a biologist's precision . . . like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life, The Songs of Trees is greater than the sum of its parts: it forces readers to consider complex, interrelated networks of the natural world, the scope and sweep of evolution, and the m
David Haskell's work integrates scientific, literary, and contemplative studies of the natural world. He is a professor of biology and environmental studies at the University of the South and a Guggenheim Fellow. His 2012 book The Forest Unseen was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and won the 2013 Best Book Award from the National Academies, the National Outdoor Book Award, and the Reed Environmental Writing Award. Along with his scholarly research, he has published essays, op-eds, and poetry.

From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Ceibo

    Near the Tiputini River, Ecuador 0¡38'10.2" S, 76¡08'39.5" W

    Moss has taken flight, lifting itself on wings so thin that light barely notices as it passes through. The sun leaves not a color but a suggestion. Leaflets spread and the moss plants soar on long strands. A fibrous anchor tethers each flier to the swarm of fungi and algae that coats every tree branch. Unlike their crouched and bowed relatives in the rest of the world, these mosses live where water has no skin, no boundary. Here the air is water. Mosses grow like filamentous seaweeds in an open ocean.

    The forest presses its mouth to every creature and exhales. We draw the breath: hot; odorous; almost mammalian, seeming to flow directly from the forest's blood to our lungs. Animate, intimate, suffocating. At noon the mosses are in flight, but we humans are supine, curled in the fecund belly of life's modern zenith. We're near the center of the Yasun' Biosphere Reserve in western Ecuador. Around us grows sixteen thousand square kilometers of Amazonian forest in a national park, an ethnic reserve, and a buffer zone, connected across the Colombian and Peruvian borders to more forest that, seen through the lofty gaze of satellites, forms one of the largest green spots on the face of the Earth.

    Rain. Every few hours, rain, speaking a language unique to this forest. Amazonian rain differs not just in the volume of what it has to tell-three and a half meters dropped every year, six times gray London's count-but in its vocabulary and syntax. Invisible spores and plant chemicals mist the air above the forest canopy. These aerosols are the seeds onto which water vapor coalesces, then swells. Every teaspoon of air here has a thousand or more of these particles, a haze ten times less dense than air away from the Amazon. Wherever people aggregate in significant numbers, we loose to the sky billions of particles from engines and chimneys. Like birds in a dust bath, the vigorous flapping of our industrial lives raises a fog. Each fleck of pollution, dusty mote of soil, or spore from a woodland is a potential raindrop. The Amazon forest is vast, and over much of its extent the air is mostly a product of the forest, not the activities of industrious birds. Winds sometimes bring pulses of dust from Africa or smog from a city, but mostly the Amazon speaks its own tongue. With fewer seeds and abundant water vapor, raindrops bloat to exceptional sizes. The rain falls in big syllables, phonemes unlike the clipped rain speech of most other landmasses.

    We hear the rain not through silent falling water but in the many translations delivered by objects that the rain encounters. Like any language, especially one with so much to pour out and so many waiting interpreters, the sky's linguistic foundations are expressed in an exuberance of form: downpours turn tin roofs into sheets of screaming vibration; rain smatters onto the wings of hundreds of bats, each drop shattering, then falling into the river below the bats' skimming flight; heavy-misted clouds sag into treetops and dampen leaves without a drop falling, their touch producing the sound of an inked brush on a page.

    The leaves of plants speak the rainÕs language with the most eloquence. Plant diversity here reaches levels unrivaled anywhere on Earth. Over six hundred species of tree live in one hectare, more than in all of North America. If we survey an adjacent hectare, we add yet more species to the list. Every time I have visited, my anchor in this botanical confusion and delight is a Ceiba pentandra tree, a species that many local people call ceibo, pronounced SAY-bo. Twenty-nine paces take me around its base,
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Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 304
Erscheinungsdatum 03.04.2018
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-14-311130-6
Verlag Penguin LCC US
Maße (L/B/H) 20/13.4/3 cm
Gewicht 238 g
Buch (Taschenbuch, Englisch)
Buch (Taschenbuch, Englisch)
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