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The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature

by David George Haskell


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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

“Injects much-needed vibrancy into the stuffy world of nature writing.” —Outside, “The Outdoor Books That Shaped the Last Decade”

The biologist and author of Sounds Wild and Broken combines elegant writing with scientific expertise to reveal the secret world hidden in a single square meter of old-growth 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143122944
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/26/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 84,333
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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 2017 book The Songs of Trees won the John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Natural History Writing. 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. His new book, Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution’s Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction, will be published in March of 2022.
To listen to a collection of sounds from the trees in this book, visit

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

What People are Saying About This

Greg Graffin

 “In the style of Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Thoreau, David Haskell has captured 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 tranquility found through the study of nature. A true naturalist’s manifesto.” 

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."

From the Publisher

"[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

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.”

Bill McKibben

 "David Haskell trains his eye on a single square meter of the 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!"

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