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.”
“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
In this inspiring but uneven account, Haskell (The Forest Unseen), professor of biology at Sewanee, investigates the myriad connections between trees and their natural surroundings. Trees do not exist in isolation, he notes, and though their “trunks seemingly stand as detached individuals, their lives subvert this atomistic view.” He devotes each of his 10 chapters (plus two interludes) to a particular tree, visiting Ecuador, Japan, and various points in North America. In Amazonian Ecuador, for example, Haskell calls attention to the ceibo tree, describing local hummingbirds, frogs, and monkeys before touching on oil-drilling camps now found in the rainforest. The heavy machinery cannot be ignored; “half of Ecuador’s export revenues and one third of the government’s budget come from oil.” Juxtaposing contrasting images of nature in urban landscapes, Haskell describes the worlds revolving around a cottonwood tree in Denver and a callery pear in Manhattan in lively chapters full of engaging digressions and meditations. But the chapters on a balsam fir in Ontario and maples in Tennessee and Illinois are harder to read, sometimes dazing readers with tangential and obscure references. Despite a few weak spots, Haskell’s study of interconnectedness reveals as much about humans as it does trees. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Apr.)
Haskell (Biology/The Univ. of the South; The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature, 2012) uses the metaphor of song to capture how the "living memories of trees…tell of life's community, a net of relations" of which humans are "incarnate members."As the author rightly warns, we allow the destruction of the global biological network that sustains us at our peril. Although we live in urban environments that appear to allow us to "step outside life's songs," this is a dangerous illusion. There is no fundamental duality between humans and the natural environments we inhabit. Moreover, writes Haskell, our fundamental nature is "as natural and wild" as it ever was. In this engaging and eye-opening narrative, he chronicles his travels in the Amazonian rain forests where the tree canopy provides shelter and food for at least half of the people, birds, and animals that dwell there. In those forests, there are more living tree species than in all of North America. The growth of tree roots communicates information about the rain and soil in different environments, and Haskell illustrates this by a comparison with the forests in Northern Ontario and the birds they shelter. Trees also give us crucial information about our shared environment. Through their roots, they send chemical messages that influence the growth of other vegetation and the behavior of resident animals. The author considers this to be a significant form of communication even though it is not deliberate. Not only do trees shelter us and the animals that contribute to our survival; they also record our planet's history, and they contribute to the coal and oil deposits that fuel our civilization. On a more spiritual level, the happy voices of children playing in a park give testimony to trees' importance in our lives in urban as well as wilderness settings. 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.