David Haskell's award-winning The Forest Unseen won acclaim for eloquent writing and deep engagement with the natural world. Now, Haskell brings his powers of observation to the biological networks that surround all species, including humans.
Haskell repeatedly visits a dozen trees around the world, exploring the trees' connections with webs of fungi, bacterial communities, cooperative and destructive animals, and other plants. An Amazonian ceibo tree reveals the rich ecological turmoil of the tropical forest, along with threats from expanding oil fields. Thousands of miles away, the roots of a balsam fir in Canada survive in poor soil only with the help of fungal partners. These links are nearly two billion years old: the fir's roots cling to rocks containing fossils of the first networked cells.
By unearthing charcoal left by Ice Age humans and petrified redwoods in the Rocky Mountains, Haskell shows how the Earth's climate has emerged from exchanges among trees, soil communities, and the atmosphere. Now humans have transformed these networks, powering our societies with wood, tending some forests, but destroying others. Haskell also attends to trees in places where humans seem to have subdued "nature" – a pear tree on a Manhattan sidewalk, an olive tree in Jerusalem, a Japanese bonsai – demonstrating that wildness permeates every location.
Every living being is not only sustained by biological connections, but is made from these relationships. Haskell shows that this networked view of life enriches our understanding of biology, human nature, and ethics. When we listen to trees, nature's great connectors, we learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.
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.
"Haskell thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist."
– The New York Times
"David George Haskell is a wonderful writer and an equally keen observer of the natural world. The Songs of Trees is at once lyrical and informative, filled with beauty and also a sense of loss."
– Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
"Here is a book to nourish the spirit.The Songs of Trees is a powerful argument against the ways in which humankind has severed the very biological networks that give us our place in the world. Listen as David Haskell takes his stethoscope to the heart of nature – and discover the poetry and music contained within."
– Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees
"David George Haskell may be the finest literary nature writer working today. The Songs of Trees – compelling, lyrical, wise – is a case in point. Don't miss it."
– Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook
"David Haskell has opened up a new dimension in sound – and given us a powerful tool to rethink the way we look at the roots of our reality and how trees are the best way to guide us. A tour de force of sound and symbol. Read. Listen. Learn."
– Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky