This is a book about one man's encounter with an ancient tree, the Honywood Oak.
James Canton spent two years sitting with and studying the Honywood Oak. A colossus of a tree, it would have been a sapling when the Magna Carta was signed. Inevitably he needs to slow down in order to appreciate it fully, to tune in to its slower time frame, to connect with the ecosystem that lives around it, inside it and beneath it. He examines our long-standing dependency on oak trees, and how that has developed and morphed into myth and legend. We no longer build our houses and boats from them, use them to fuel our fires or grind their acorns into flour in times of famine; physically we don't need them in the same way now. Or do we?
The Oak Papers is a stunning, meditative and healing book about the lessons we can learn from the natural world, if only we slow down enough to listen.
Dr James Canton runs the Wild Writing MA at the University of Essex and has done since its inception in 2009. He is the author of Ancient Wonderings (2017) and Out of Essex: Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (2013) which was inspired by his rural wandering in East Anglia. He was awarded his PhD by the University of Essex and reviews for the TLS, Caught by the River and Earthlines. Canton is a regular on television and radio and lectures frequently.
"This is a profound meditation on the human need for connection with nature, as one man seeks solace beneath the boughs of an ancient oak tree. The tree and its surrounds come to life in shimmering detail, and Canton's writing has an exquisite, somewhat dreamlike quality"
– Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life Of Trees
"James Canton knows so much, writes so well and understands so deeply about the true forest magic and the important place these trees have in it. Knowledge and joy"
– Sara Maitland
"With rare delicacy and precision, James Canton has captured the magnificence and mystique of the oak tree. The Oak Papers is a book of deep knowledge, perception and love"
– Philip Marsden
"This is a moving, poetic and life-affirming exploration of the idea that a person can form a rich and rewarding bond with an individual tree. The Oak Papers possesses great sensitivity, real wisdom and a deep mystical power"
– Patrick Barkham
"In the same way that Canton immersed himself in the attentive activity of observing the oak, this is a book to return to again and again. As Canton found solace through spending time with nature, through the pages of The Oak Papers you see more and more, then you forget yourself, then you find out who you are"
– Daily Telegraph
"An enchanting piece of nature writing and a meditation on finding connection in a disconnected world"
"An uplifting example of nature writing"
– Daily Mail
"James Canton's book contemplating humanity's connection to the mighty oak tree has arrived at the perfect time [...] at the heart of the book lies ponderings on human connectivity with nature – the calm and stillness reflected onto us by our living world [...] Above all, the book examines how nature is a place away from the anxieties, pressures and noise of daily life"
– Daily Gazette
"[An] ode to nature [...] In such turbulent times, Canton's meditation on the life of an oak and the wider natural world is a reminder to stop, take a breath and take note of our surroundings"
– Radio Times
"A tribute to the power and history of the oak"
– Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph