The Songs of Trees

Stories from Nature's Great Connectors

Publisher: Viking
“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

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

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 to stop, listen, and look, exploring each tree’s connections with webs of fungi, bacterial communities, cooperative and destructive animals, and other plants, and demonstrating how the lives of trees and people are deeply interwoven.  Several trees, including a balsam fir in Ontario and an Amazonian ceibo, are located in areas that seem mostly natural, but which are affected by industrial development and climate change. Haskell also turns to trees in places where humans seem to have subdued “nature” – a pear tree on a Manhattan sidewalk, an olive tree in Jerusalem – demonstrating that wildness permeates every location.

We have much to learn from trees, says Haskell; they show us how to thrive and participate in nature’s networks.  Roots communicate with neighboring fungi and bacteria, sending chemical messages through the soil.  Twigs have memories of light, gravity, heat and minerals.  Plant cells in leaves use airborne odors to attract caterpillar-eating insects.  Haskell pays particular attention to the sounds that emerge from or surround trees; behind each sound are fascinating stories of how tree lives are joined to other lives.

With its deep understanding of the complexity of trees and the way they shape their ecosystems, Haskell’s book will make you look at trees in an entirely new way.

PRAISE FOR

“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, theatlantic.com
 
“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
 
“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 measurable effects of humanity on both.”
The Knoxville News Sentinel

“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

“Inspiring . . . Haskell’s study of interconnectedness reveals as much as humans about it does trees.” Publishers Weekly

“Haskell’s thoughtful prose lulls readers into extraordinarily in-depth studies of the molecular breakdown of dying trees, the sounds created by their great branches, and their manners of germination . . . Haskell is elegant in his observations . . . Blending history and science with the grace of a poet, this is nature writing at its finest.”
ALA Booklist (starred)

“Engaging and eye-opening. . .Haskell’s message is straightforward and important:  we are a part of nature, and the trees with whom we share our environment are vital parts of our lives.”
Kirkus Reviews

"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

“With a poet’s ear and a naturalist’s eye Haskell re-roots us in life’s grand creative struggle and encourages us to turn away from empty individuality. The Songs of Trees reminds us that we are not alone, and never have been.”  
—Neil Shea, writer, National Geographic

"David Haskell does the impossible in The Song of Trees. He picks out a dozen trees around the world and inspects each one with the careful eye of a scientist. But from those observations, he produces a work of great poetry, showing how these trees are joined to the natural world around them, and to humanity as well."
Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses

"David Haskell writes with uncommon insight and sensitivity: listening and giving voice to the ineluctable networks in which trees and all human experiences are embedded."
Peter Crane, President, Oak Spring Garden Foundation


Praise for The Forest Unseen

“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

“Haskell’s observational powers are impressive, his descriptions evocative, his knowledge wide-ranging, and his conclusions thoughtful and generous.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Haskell’s book is above all else a masterpiece of contextualization. It’s a book not about hawks or snails or bacteria or coyotes, though it includes them all, but about their—and our—shared ecology.” —The Times Literary Supplement