2016 has been a rich sylvan literary year, and for the first time I include some fiction too. Hopefully there’s something here to cater for all interests. In no particular order, these are the tree and wood books that have informed and delighted, surprised and shocked me in 2016.
[Update: view my 2017 book shortlist here]
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Ladders to heaven: how fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future. By Mike Shanahan. Unbound Books. ISBN-1783522364.
The author romps through the history, biology and culture surrounding fig trees with style. Writing fact-packed non-fiction in a way which captivates and enthrals, in language that is accessible to a wide audience, Shanahan reveals a masterful touch. A highly recommended insight into an amazing tree genus. Available here.
The wood for the trees: a long view of nature from a small wood. By Richard Fortey. William Collins. ISBN-0008104662.
I had the privelege of sharing the stage with Fortey earlier this year. He writes as he speaks, with quiet unassuming authority in a way that quickly beguiles. The purchase of his own small woodland in the Chilterns prompted him to step from geological history to living nature, a task he achieves with aplomb. We’re fortunate he chose to share his journey of natural history discovery with us. Buy here.
The long, long life of trees. By Fiona Stafford. Yale University Press. ISBN-0300207336.
Delving into the arboreal lives of 17 British trees species, Stafford guides the reader through a sylvan spectacle. Skilfully written the easy prose explores the lives of trees in multiple dimensions. Shame that more species are not covered, especially walnut, but then I’m biased on that subject. Available from Amazon.
The trees. By Ali Shaw. Bloomsbury Paperbacks. ISBN-1408862301.
A Hitchcockian rustle through a menacing sylvan world. The premise of this book – where trees take over the world – is a refreshing dystopian approach. Surely the best book cover in this list – gorgeous art. Available here.
Trees Ex Libris: a collection of environmental erotica. By Jovis Glans. Environmental Erotica Press. ASIN-B01KR7VAF4.
I was sent this e-book by the publisher, and I’d never have discovered it otherwise. It’s a book about tree sex, yes you read that correctly, tree sex! For originality alone it deserves inclusion but don’t expect lessons in tree biology. This is no holds barred erotic fiction, and I mean no holds barred. It’s actually intelligently written, even if filthy. Adults only. Available from Amazon.
Arboreal: a collection of words from the woods. Edited by Adrian Cooper. Little Toller Books. ISBN-9781908213419.
I’m not so vain as to include my own book in a top list of tree books but I hope I’ll be forgiven for including an anthology in which I’m one of many among dozens of contributing authors. Richard Mabey, Germaine Greer, Ali Smith, Simon Armitage, and George Peterken are just a few of the headline contributors. Hotly anticipated and does not disappoint. A wonderful collection of diverse arboreal prose. Available here.
The man who made things out of trees. By Robert Penn. Penguin. ISBN-0141977515.
Robert Penn follows the story of the felling of an ash tree in the Welsh Black Mountains and the conversion of its timber to a myriad of wooden wonders. Everyone will learn something from this fabulous book, which captures the beauty and utility of this graceful yet threatened tree species. Delighted that the Sylva Foundation OneOak project so inspired you Rob! Available here.
Norwegian Wood: chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way. By Lars Mytting. MacLehose Press. ISBN-0857052551.
A lyrical treatise on firewood that has captured the imaginations of those that never thought wood could be so interesting. The oldest book on this list (October 2015) but impossible to omit. Prepare to be surprised, amused and educated. Available here.
Essential woodworking hand tools. By Paul Sellers. Rokesmith Ltd. ISBN-0993442307.
Sticking with the wood theme, I’m lucky enough to know Paul quite well and to have witnessed his craft. What comes through in this hefty tome is not just his craft in great detail, but his zeal for passing on his skills to others. He likes the ‘amateur’ moniker which I can understand as his informative approach is down-to-earth and accessible, but never confuse the term with unskilled! This book is a woodworking bible. Available from Amazon.
The Man Who Harvested Trees And Gifted Life is a sequel to Jean Giono’s much-loved 1954 classic, The Man Who Planted Trees And Grew Happiness, and a compelling short story in its own right. Available from Amazon (ebook and paperback).