Friday, June 14, 2019

All About Trees: Summer Reading Project, 2019

Readers of this blog may know that every summer, I like to have some sort of reading project. Last year, I read only novels by Michael Chabon, for better or worse. One year I read several short story collections and another, I tackled the Hilary Mantel series. My idea for this year's annual event started with a chunky novel on my to-read shelf, The Overstory by Richard Powers. The winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, it's "a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world." And from what I understand, it has much to do with trees. I bought the book and was very interested in it, but then it arrived and it was very long (500 pages) and so, because it was a hectic, non-summer time, I put it on the shelf. I'm quite excited about this read, which I know several of my friends have enjoyed.

Then I remembered that once I had really wanted to read a non-fiction title: The Hidden Life of Trees. So I bought that and suddenly, the All About Trees summer project was born. This book by Peter Wohlleben "makes the case that the forest is a social network," and claims "a walk in the woods will never be the same again."

After I decided on theme, things fell together. I already had an arc of Jessica Francis Kane's recent release, Rules for Visiting. This novel is a summer buzz book, about a middle-aged woman who is "more at home with plants than people" but decides to set out on a journey to reconnect with old friends. The book has lovely tree illustrations by Edward Carey, such as the one pictured here and so, more than qualifies for my project.

The final entry, Meetings with Remarkable Trees, I discovered online once I started looking around, and it's a gorgeous, illustrated book originally published in 1996. From the inside jacket: "With this astonishing collection of tree portraits, Thomas Pakenham has produced a new kind of tree book...The sixty trees are grouped according to their own strong personalities: Native, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies and Survivors." And I think that last bit - the grouping titles - is what got me to buy the book. Not sure what a fantasy tree would be, but I intend to find out.

For those who have expressed interest in joining me on this reading quest, I'll read the books in the order listed above, with no particular timeframe other than to try to finish by Labor Day. If you need quantification, it's over 1200 pages of tree-filled goodness. I hope to post an update each Friday, starting next week, along with a tree poem or two. Join me! Spend some time embracing nature (at least, thinking about it) and learning about trees.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka