Looking back over this year in which my escape has been reading and listening to books in even greater numbers than usual, I notice that trees figure prominently as a topic and theme.
While it’s true I did a deep research dive into fruit trees both in my master gardener training, and in researching my second novel, Hard Cider, the longer-standing truth is I’ve always loved trees…. Climbing them, standing and walking among them, learning about them, photographing them. Reading these books this year has deepened my sense of connection to these beloved giants of the plant kingdom, as well as my concern for their future on our planet.
The first two books are scientific and philosophic, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, and The Secret Wisdom of Nature: Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things; Stories from Science and Observation by Peter Wohlleben. With a last name that means “good life,” this German forester turned author makes the science accessible and his concern for the environment palpable, all the while transmitting his own sense of wonder at the magic of trees.
Lab Girl- Hope Jahren’s memoir of her own history as a botanist and as a friend to a treasured but wounded colleague, was a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Again, the reader is let into the secrets of plant life, the passion of the scientist, and the gifts of a writer as good at transmitting the pain and growth of a person as she is of her beloved plants.
Finally, for the novel lovers among us, Jon Cohen’s Harry’s Trees, is an interestingly plotted story about loss, grief, healing and renewal. As the title suggests, trees provide plot points, metaphors for the protective embrace of the natural world and a literal home for important characters in the book.