Two books about trees

The day we climbed Black Combe I was lent three books. Reviews of two of them are included here. I intend to write about the third one for my post next week.

The Hidden Life of Trees and Overstory
The two books

The Hidden Life of Trees is a very readable nonfiction book by Peter Wohlleben translated from German by Jane Billinghurst. The strapline is What They Feel, How They Communicate, Discoveries from a Secret World. The German edition was published in 2015 and the English translation in 2017.

Some of the information from this book was not new to me as it was included in Underland by Robert Macfarlane. One of the facts I already knew – trees are linked together underground by a network of fungi, which is essential to the healthy life of a forest. In The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben was writing from his practical experience of managing forests in the Eifel mountains of Germany.

Much research has been done particularly from the 1990s onwards and there is a bibliography supporting the arguments in the book. It is fascinating to read about how trees protect their young, warn of an attack by pests and decide when to produce the most seeds in a so-called mast year. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the natural world and especially for those with responsibility for management of woodland anywhere. Understanding is essential for the good of the planet.

It should also be read by people responsible for planning and development.

The next book I read was a work of fiction – The Overstory by Richard Powers, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. This book is in four main parts Roots, Trunk, Crown and Seeds. In Roots we are introduced to seven individuals and one couple. Their stories are then woven through the book as they realise the vulnerability of the natural world in the face of human greed. There is much drama and suspense. Story is a powerful way of sharing ideas.

The amount of detailed research behind this book is quite astonishing. Unfortunately, like one of the characters in the book, the author has not provided a bibliography. Perhaps this would have been unusual in a work of fiction.

These two books are both excellent on their own. Reading them one after the other reinforces the message that trees need protection.


Think again

On Twitter I noticed a video about the damage that carbon dioxide is doing to the seabed. I have been interested in the effects of industry on the environment for a long time. The awareness of these issues among the general public has been raised recently by many people, but especially by David Attenborough.

I had also had a conversation with a younger person about the unknown effects of 5G and electromagnetic fields in general.

As it was a while since I had written any verse, I put pen to paper last week and came up with the following:-

Think again

“What the market will bear”,
Doesn’t consider the air.
Air-conditioning keeps us cool,
But heats the outside as a rule.
We think we need to travel fast,
But how long will the fuel last?
Plastic is useful and cheap,
But it pollutes the oceans deep.
Industry makes for prosperity,
But what if it wipes out posterity?
“Nature can take care of itself!”
No, it is being destroyed by stealth.
Carbon dioxide in the air
Increases acidity everywhere.
Acid rain affects the trees,
Dissolves the bottom of the seas.
If more and more species perish,
What will there be left to cherish?
Can we turn the deadly tide?
Must we go for that car ride?
Do we need to buy more stuff
Can we say, “Enough’s enough”?
When carbon footprints are a reason,
Can we only buy food in season?
Everything is getting worse…
…Just like my attempts at verse.
So, dear reader, take a minute
To ponder the earth and all that’s in it.
It was created for good, for us to look after,
For sustenance, fruitfulness, joy and laughter.


What I read in October 2018 (Part 2)

Both the books reviewed here were from the local library. The first was on a display ahead of National Poetry Day.

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

This is a beautifully produced hardback book with a ribbon bookmark. It is the both first of the poet laureate’s books, and the first, which I have read. Many of the poems include references to bees. I should like to read this with a group and discuss the poems. My own reading of it was rather superficial. It is a book to dip into rather than to read for hours on end. I read the poems in the order they were printed, apart from looking ahead to one of local interest to me. I enjoyed this book.

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

I began reading this book before the two works of fiction reviewed in the previous post. It is narrative nonfiction and takes a great deal of concentration. I was tempted to give up, but then I found some really interesting parts and resolved to finish reading it. I had to renew it twice, although I might have finished it within six weeks, had I not had a week away. I finished reading it at the beginning of November.

I have already read and reviewed Waterlogged, Roger Deakin’s earlier book. I learned about him through reading books by Robert Macfarlane, his literary executor. After I finished reading Wildwood I looked at the copyright page and discovered that this book was published posthumously. I wonder whether a more readable version might have resulted had there been an opportunity for correspondence between the author and an editor. The book is divided into sections, but it is relatively unstructured and seemed to end abruptly. At one point it takes seven pages to reveal the name of the person making the change from first person singular to first person plural necessary.

I love trees and find wooden objects attractive. I have enjoyed walks in forests in England, Scotland, Wales and Oregon. Wildwood broadened my horizons even more than my own travel! There is a great deal of fascinating information about trees, forests and people who live and work in woodlands in many parts of the world. When he was overseas, Roger Deakin compared the landscape with familiar places in Britain. (I had been more surprised by the similarities between species in Oregon, than differences. I had expected it to be more foreign. This seems to be a human tendency – to relate the new to the known. It works well in Deakin’s descriptions of foreign places.)

Walnuts, apples, ash trees, eucalyptus, farmers, craftsmen, folk traditions, and almost anything imaginable connected with wood are included. As it is a travel book as well as a nature book, photographs would have been an interesting addition. However there are illustrations at the start of each chapter. There is a lot of description, setting scenes and describing tools, gadgets and more in detail. A glossary of technical and foreign terms might also have helped readers.

Although I have made some critical comments about this book, I am glad I persevered with it. There is a lot of good writing and interesting information in it.

I don’t usually read reviews by other bloggers before posting my own, but as I had some strong views about this book, I searched for other reviews. The first one I found agreed with me that an index would be useful in the paperback edition.