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Publisher's Summary

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, exploring the trees' connections with webs of fungi, bacterial communities, cooperative and destructive animals, and other plants. An Amazonian ceibo tree reveals the rich ecological turmoil of the tropical forest, along with threats from expanding oil fields. Thousands of miles away, the roots of a balsam fir in Canada survive in poor soil only with the help of fungal partners. These links are nearly two billion years old: the fir's roots cling to rocks containing fossils of the first networked cells.

By unearthing charcoal left by Ice Age humans and petrified redwoods in the Rocky Mountains, Haskell shows how the Earth's climate has emerged from exchanges among trees, soil communities, and the atmosphere. Now humans have transformed these networks, powering our societies with wood, tending some forests, but destroying others. Haskell also attends to trees in places where humans seem to have subdued "nature" - a pear tree on a Manhattan sidewalk, an olive tree in Jerusalem, a Japanese bonsai - demonstrating that wildness permeates every location.

Every living being is not only sustained by biological connections, but is made from these relationships. Haskell shows that this networked view of life enriches our understanding of biology, human nature, and ethics. When we listen to trees, nature's great connectors, we learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance, and beauty.

Read by Cassandra Campbell, with the preface and two interludes read by the author.

©2017 David George Haskell (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"At once lyrical and informative, filled with beauty." (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction)

What listeners say about The Songs of Trees

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An Interwoven Story

This book is an in depth exploration of The Politics, Poetry, History within the Scientific Examination of Nature. You'll learn a lot from this book. Like trees release cloud starters! Fascinating.

If anyone is triggered by the exploitation of nature, erasure of indigenous power & the lack of autonomy of minorities... this book does touch on these topics a fair amount. I will admit for me this caused feelings of alienation & isolation from nature. So not very restful.
I think the author redeems these topics ultimately by weaving them into the narrative of civilization as a reflection of nature.

Enjoyable aspects:
A second narrator at some chapter ends
The unique profiles of trees (& bacteria) around the world
The use of longitude & latitude (fun!)
& The first person narrative that is very personal & knowledgeable
So many facts

18 people found this helpful

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Profoundly moving!

In poetic prose, DGH invites us to see and hear our world and ourselves differently.

9 people found this helpful

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wow!

Loved it! Will speak to anyone who has ever relaxed beneath or beside a tree! Wonderful prose. Great narration. Intriguing and clear scientific explanations. And for those not exact but similar environs with which I am familiar, to my ear, accurate descriptions of the sonic networks of nature, including humans.

7 people found this helpful

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One of my favorite books of all time. Hands down.

The writing is so beautiful. The subject, scope, is encompassing, encyclopedic, inspiring, nourishing and challenging. A biophiliac’s dream. I will now seek and devour everything by Haskell.

6 people found this helpful

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fantastic!

transportive, informative prose challenge the mind the explore connections between trees, people, evolutionary and historical events.

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  • 01-24-21

Plodding with opinions on white male privilege

This book lacks the wonderment and joy compared to The Forest Unseen, which I thoroughly enjoyed, including the narration. I found this book plodded along. I likely would have completed it, however, stopped when the author started discussing white male privilege as it related to rambling in the woods. I'm of the opinion that many of us enter nature to escape the constant bombardment of negative news and politics, including the discussions of race and privilege.

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More political than informational

I was hoping to learn more about trees for a class I'm teaching, but found it quite political. I finally quit listening when the author went into a discourse on "white privileged" fishermen.

8 people found this helpful

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Poetry and science collide

Haskell's ability to illuminate the connectedness and complexity of nature through beautiful writing is--I think--unparalleled. A great read.

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Disappointing

What would have made The Songs of Trees better?

David George Haskell's "Forrest Unseen" is one of my favorite books/audiobooks so I was very excited to purchase this book. I was hoping for my exquisite nature writing, and quiet observations on the natural world interspersed with science vignettes. Instead it read more like a polemic, and I only made it <30 minutes in.

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Wonderful book and performance

A perfect book to listen to at the end of day. Poetically written in prose. Very interesting content that is exceptionally well-written. Enjoyed all the different aspects of life that are discussed and interwoven into various sections that center around some type of tree and/or ecosystem. Great performance - narration is soothing and flows at the right pace. Easy to understand and drift off to sleep with or relax with when you’re in the mood for something more mellow.

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  • Miss Katie Utting
  • 03-18-18

Enlightening and beautiful. Thank-you Mr Haskell.

Stewards of the road side trees at Sheffield Council could have a listen to this. If anyone needs pursuading of the value of trees, here it is. This audio book is such a joy.

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  • Paula
  • 12-21-17

Loved every moment.

An excellent narration of a story full of original concepts and beautiful use of language.

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  • Melldale
  • 02-13-19

Outstanding

Educational with a hypnotic prose. I very much enjoyed this. Cassandra is delightful to listen to.