Inside The New York Botanical Garden

The Songs of Trees

Posted in From the Library on October 18 2018, by Esther Jackson

The Songs of TreesThe Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors is the second book from David George Haskell, also the author of The Forest Unseen. In The Songs of Trees, Haskell explores the worlds of different trees in different corners of the world, ruminating on their existences and relationships to the organisms and environments around them.

Although The Songs of Trees is in the genre of popular nature writing, it is challenging to find a description that is fitting for the whole book. The most appropriate summation I arrived at is that it would be a wonderful book to read out loud, or to hear someone read. Haskell loves words and literary devices as well as music, and his prose has been crafted for lyricism. The Songs of Trees is Aldo Leopold meets Henry David Thoreau with bigger words and more people in the nature scenes. In its best moments, it is reminiscent of John McGahern.

In The Songs of Trees, Haskell visits 12 trees around the world: ceibo, balsam fir, sabal palm, green ash, hazel, redwood, ponderosa pine, cottonwood, callery pear, olive, and Japanese white pine. For me, perhaps ironically, the most compelling passages were about animals, including an aside about rattlesnakes in Tennessee. However, different readers will connect with different chapters. As with certain other books of essays, The Songs of Trees is eclectic, and therefore difficult to read in a single sitting. Excerpted chapters are appropriate for book clubs, creative writing classes, or citizen scientists and naturalists. 

Read The Songs of Trees for a book that plays with the English language, using trees and nature as its device.

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