The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

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Overview

A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest.

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.

Each of this book's short chapters begins with a simple observation: a ...

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The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

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Overview

A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest.

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one- square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.

Each of this book's short chapters begins with a simple observation: a salamander scuttling across the leaf litter; the first blossom of spring wildflowers. From these, Haskell spins a brilliant web of biology and ecology, explaining the science that binds together the tiniest microbes and the largest mammals and describing the ecosystems that have cycled for thousands- sometimes millions-of years. Each visit to the forest presents a nature story in miniature as Haskell elegantly teases out the intricate relationships that order the creatures and plants that call it home.

Written with remarkable grace and empathy, The Forest Unseen is a grand tour of nature in all its profundity. Haskell is a perfect guide into the world that exists beneath our feet and beyond our backyards.

Finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
Winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature

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  • May11_4/Forest_Unseen_video_BB_9ccab4981739877953d9219d42a876c133b76b32
    May11_4/Forest_Unseen_video_BB_9ccab4981739877953d9219d42a876c133b76b32  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Over the course of a year, University of the South biology professor Haskell makes frequent pilgrimages to a meter-wide spot along a slope in an old-growth Tennessee forest. During his visits, he peeks beneath the leaf litter, shivers at the howls of coyotes, and watches the light change as he gazes up at the green canopy of July or November’s bare twigs. Turning the patch of forest into his own natural laboratory, he reveals the science behind these moments of beauty, delighting in the resourcefulness of spring wildflowers and musing on the ecological partnerships that sustain lichens and other creatures. Throughout, Haskell shows the complexity and interdependence of the natural world, in which even the golf balls thwacked from a nearby green play a role. The Buddhist art of the mandala becomes a central reference point for the project, which contemplates the importance of close observation of the world around us. In the end, Haskell finds that even this tiny scrap of woods contains a teeming soup of life beyond the comprehension of our limited human senses. Yet for him, this awareness of his own “ignorance” is a joyful one, the web of life for him transcendentally tangled. This informative and inspiring meditation will give curious readers a few new things to pay attention to when walking through the woods. Agent: Alice Martell, the Martell Agency. (Mar.)
Edward O. Wilson
 “Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complex and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.”
Library Journal
Following the example of monks and writers, award-winning teacher (and sometimes poet) Haskell (biology, Univ. of the South) turns his gaze to the small things—insects, plants, and birds—living in a single square meter of one of Tennessee's old-growth forests. He returns to the same patch of forest over the course of a year and, in a series of vignettes, draws readers' attention to the quiet details of the place. For instance, he sees a chickadee shiver for warmth in the wintertime and a mosquito feast to stomach-swelling proportions in the spring. Haskell uses these moments to remind readers of their position in a shared, common ecosystem that reaches far beyond the forest. VERDICT Haskell brings the aspects of forest life that most often go unnoticed to the forefront with vibrant detail as he easily moves from microscopic to global observations. His book should prove engaging for a variety of audiences—from serious readers of nature writing to casual readers of nonfiction. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/11.]—Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA
Kirkus Reviews
An extraordinary, intimate view of life in an old-growth forest. "Can the whole forest be seen through a small contemplative window of leaves, rocks, and water?" This is the question Haskell (Biology/Univ. of the South) set out to answer by examining one square meter of old-growth Tennessee woods. Highly informative and entertaining, these short essays are dense with sensory details and deserve to be read slowly and carefully. The sights, smells and sounds of the forest permeate the pages, bringing readers face to face with a panoply of simple natural wonders: leaves, wildflowers, mosses, ferns, snails, salamanders, deer and more. Throughout an entire calendar year, Haskell scrutinizes this "mandala" of space, connecting the microcosm of birds, plants and animals in this patch of woods to the macrocosm of the outer world. This in-depth look into the natural biosphere emphasizes the idea that nothing--not even the small microbes that exist in the leaf litter--lives unrelated or unconnected to any other thing. What happens in this old forest is affected by and will in turn affect other parts of the planet. Even as Haskell discovered an "ecological and evolutionary kinship with the forest," he also realized "an equally powerful sense of otherness...a realization of the enormity of [his] ignorance…[where] simple enumeration and naming of the mandala's inhabitants lie far beyond [his] reach." Equally as informative as and far more enjoyable than any biology textbook, the book provides valuable insight and perspective on a world that is often missed in the bustle of modern society. Exceptional observations of the biological world worthy of any naturalist's library.
From the Publisher
"An extraordinary, intimate view of life. . . . Exceptional observations of the biological world." —-Kirkus Starred Review
E. O. Wilson
"Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complexity and beauty of life are more clearly revealed."
Bill McKibben
"David Haskell trains his eye on a single square meter of Cumberland Plateau, and manages in the process to see the whole living planet as clearly as any writer in many years. Each chapter will teach you something new!"
Greg Graffin
\"In the style of Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Thoreau, David Haskell has capture the beauty and intricacy of evolution in these pages. For those who are looking for inspiration to spend more time in the wild, this book is the perfect companion. Haskell's vast knowledge of the forest and all its creatures is the perfect guide to exploring wilderness. The prose is a perfect match for the poetic tranquillity found through the study of nature. A true naturalist's manifesto."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023370
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 3/15/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

David Haskell is a professor of biology at the University of the South and was named the Carnegie- CASE professor of the year in Tennessee in 2009. In addition to his scholarly work, he has published essays and poetry. He lives with his wife in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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Table of Contents

Preface xi

January 1st-Partnerships 1

January 17th—Kepler's Gift 8

January 21st—The Experiment 12

January 30th—Winter Plants 21

February 2nd—Footprints 25

February 16th—Moss 35

February 28th—Salamander 41

March 13th—Hepatica 46

March 13th—Snails 51

March 25th—Spring Ephemerals 54

April 2nd—Chainsaw 63

April 2nd—Flowers 68

April 8th—Xylem 73

April 14th—Moth 78

April 16th—Sunrise Birds 81

April 22nd—Walking Seeds 86

April 29th—Earthquake 93

May 7th—Wind 97

May 18th—Herbivory 102

May 25th—Ripples 109

June 2nd—Quest 117

June 10th—Ferns 122

June 20th—A Tangle 127

July 2nd—Fungi 131

July 13th—Fireflies 137

July 27th—Sunfleck 141

August 1st-Eft and Coyote 147

August 8th—Earthstar 156

August 26th—Katydid 160

September 21st—Medicine 164

September 23rd—Caterpillar 169

September 23rd—Vulture 174

September 26th—Migrants 180

October 5th—Alarm Waves 184

October 14th—Samara 188

October 29th—Faces 194

November 5th—Light 199

November 15th—Sharp-shinned Hawk 207

November 21st—Twigs 213

December 3rd—Litter 222

December 6th—Underground Bestiary 230

December 26th—Treetops 236

December 31st—Watching 239

Epilogue 243

Acknowledgments 247

Bibliography 249

Index 261

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    Loved this book

    I am always fascinated with the complexity of nature of which we are unaware. This book provided so much information of which I was previously ignorant. It is a great book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I think this book will stand the test of time as one of the true

    I think this book will stand the test of time as one of the true classics in nature writing. The author not only discusses with absolutely beautiful writing the natural history of a small patch of old growth forest in South Carolina, but he also ties everything together majestically, showing how intricate the web of life is and how all it's components affect all of it's others. Rarely have I felt this awed and amazed at the natural life of soil and leaf litter nor have I felt so humbled by man's place in the natural order. All this the author achieves with utmost beauty and poetry. A very remarkable book, one which I would recommend without reservation to anyone with an interest or passion for the natural world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    Musicblossom

    Pads in and curls around angelkit, keeping her warm

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2013

    Angelkit

    Makes a den eats a mouse and falls asleep

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2013

    A pleasure

    I haven't finished it yet. It is a book to savor. It may end up a five star.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 29, 2014

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    Posted December 20, 2012

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    Posted May 19, 2012

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