• The Age of Wood

  • Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization
  • By: Roland Ennos
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 8 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (148 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A “smart and surprising” (Booklist) “expansive history” (Publishers Weekly) detailing the role that wood and trees have played in our global ecosystem — including human evolution and the rise and fall of empires — in the best-selling tradition of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens and Mark Kurlansky’s Salt.

As the dominant species on Earth, humans have made astonishing progress since our ancestors came down from the trees. But how did the descendants of small primates manage to walk upright, become top predators, and populate the world? How were humans able to develop civilizations and produce a globalized economy? Now, in The Age of Wood, Roland Ennos shows for the first time that the key to our success has been our relationship with wood.

“A lively history of biology, mechanics, and culture that stretches back 60 million years” (Nature) The Age of Wood reinterprets human history and shows how our ability to exploit wood’s unique properties has profoundly shaped our bodies and minds, societies, and lives. Ennos takes us on a sweeping journey from Southeast Asia and West Africa where great apes swing among the trees, build nests, and fashion tools; to East Africa where hunter gatherers collected their food; to the structural design of wooden temples in China and Japan; and to Northern England, where archaeologists trace how coal enabled humans to build an industrial world. Addressing the effects of industrialization — including the use of fossil fuels and other energy-intensive materials to replace timber — The Age of Wood not only shows the essential role that trees play in the history and evolution of human existence, but also argues that for the benefit of our planet we must return to more traditional ways of growing, using, and understanding trees.

A brilliant blend of recent research and existing scientific knowledge, this is an “excellent, thorough history in an age of our increasingly fraught relationships with natural resources” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

©2020 Roland Ennos. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Age of Wood

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great text; poor narration

The Age of Wood explores the history of humans' relationship with wood and the ways it has shaped civilization. It is a polymath's delight and Roland Ennos weaves effortlessly through a wide range of topics all related to wood.

The narration, however, falls considerably short. A fundamental skill of good readers is to have a logical and graceful modulation of the voice, at all scales of time, that illuminates and clarifies the text. This skill is so fundamental that it is surprising to encounter a professional reader who seems oblivious to aspects of his own voice modulation.

The narrator of The Age of Wood is an upspeaker. He habitually ends sentences with a higher pitch on the last accented syllable of nearly every sentence. And the pitch that he hits is identical every time. While this technique is entirely reasonable in situations where an arc or continuity is desired between two or more sentences, his use of it is pervasive and eventually excruciating.

On the timescale of a chapter, there is a gradual and imperceptible raising of the pitch so that over the short pause from one chapter to the next, and presumably a new recording session, his voice drops precipitously. This provides a rare respite, even comic relief, from the inexorable pattern that soon resumes.

I apologize to listeners who may have not noticed such things in book narration and now are doomed to a new awareness if they listen to The Age of Wood.

8 people found this helpful

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Fascinating!!

I dabble in woodturning and woodworking so I was curious about this book given the title and description. After listening to it, it was so much more! The history, science, and abundance of information was fascinating... overall, a wonderfully narrated book full of informative facts and history about an easily overlooked topic.

4 people found this helpful

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odd cadence and pauses, but good overall

like others have said the narrator has an odd cadence. it can at times be distracting. there's also off pauses. to the point I have checked my phone thinking I was receiving a call. but the story is good and certainly worth the time to listen

3 people found this helpful

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A Good Book But A Very Distracting Narration.

This well written book is almost ruined by one of the most distracting narrations I've heard. Each sentence is is read with an ascending whine, a rising in pitch, so that on longer sentences it becomes more than just a comic distraction but a real annoyance. In addition, the reader occasionally mis-inflects the words he is reading as if he's misidentified the subject of the sentence. Baffling. I think the author was mis-served.

Otherwise the book is a very good read.

1 person found this helpful

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lots to learn from a scientist about wood!

this is a very knowledgeable author - a good read I can recommend to just about anyone

1 person found this helpful

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Riveting, informative, and timely

Absolutely loved it. From start to finish, I could barely put it down. Might even try to learn some carpentry.

1 person found this helpful

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Wood have , Could have...

the first couple of chapters were great, especially as it relates to the anatomy of humans.
After that , although interesting,it tended to drag.

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good "read"

it was interesting. very salt like in detail. the use of "one or ones" was a little weird throughout the book by a writer. very informative and well researched.

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Magnificent Wood

Oh what a great book! It was slow going only because there is so much fabulous information packed into just one or two sentences. The author is a walking dictionary of terms that I had long forgotten. The background startled me and I hung on every word. This story of wood is actually a page turner, similar to a great mystery. You judst cannot put it down. What are the next series of secrets he will reveal? A surprise war preceded the Boston Tea Party.?...never heard of it before. I learned so much in this book that sometimes my head hurt. Yes, a scientific background helps but none the less, it is a book that has to be readm all, it is that kind of good.

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The anthropology of wood!

A great treatise on wood, making me rethink the stone age, iron age, etc. Powerfully and interestingly backed up by quantification and sources. Highly recommended. I wooden kid you haha.