Into The Woods: 13 Must-Read Books About Trees

When was the last time you sought shelter from sun or rain under the cover of trees? Or admired a tree’s magnificent leaves that clean our air? Or walked through a forest and felt the calm from the trees? Trees protect us and nurture us, both mentally and physically, but they can also be taken for granted. We notice trees most when they are absent, and we are exposed. Celebrate the wonder of trees by exploring our curated collection (in no particular order) of books about trees.

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The Secret Life Of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge (2006)

Did you know that because most apple trees are grown from cuttings, almost all apples of each kind are clones? Or that the greatest banyan in Calcutta is a quarter mile in circumference and could provide shelter for 20,000 people? Or that mangroves essentially breathe using the tides?

Tudge’s book is a dense, glorious, deep dive into the wonder of trees, their history, their mechanics, and their survival. Tudge’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the wealth of knowledge he provides will increase your appreciation for our natural world.

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Tree: A Life Story by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady (2007)

All across the planet trees literally hold the world together. This is the inspiring biography of a single tree, from the cone until (more than five hundred years later) it lies on the forest floor as a nurse log, giving life to ferns, mosses, and hemlocks, even as its own life is ending

David Suzuki and Wayne Grady describe in lyrical detail the dramatic origins of a Douglas fir, which begins life with a burst of millions of microscopic grams of pollen. They uncover its amazing resilience and also its vulnerability across its long life in the forest. The tree’s pivotal role in making life possible for the creatures around it (including human beings) is lovingly explored.

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A Portrait of The Tree by Adrian Houston (2022)

Starting with the simple question, “What is your favorite tree?” a fascinating wealth of stories emerge. Each tree has its own story. From trees that sheltered royalty, witnessed history or simply personal grief, each tree and each story is given focus in this book.

The author photographed each chosen tree to capture their beauty and their stories.

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A Trillion Trees: Restoring Our Forests by Trusting in Nature by Fred Pearce (2021)

Fred Pearce, a freelance environmental journalist in the U.K. and the author of numerous books, takes readers on a whirlwind journey through some of the most spectacular forests in the world.

The title refers to international goals to plant a trillion trees for the sake of both climate and biodiversity. And while Pierce is strongly in favor of trees, this book is the rebuttal of the verb “plant.” He meets with scientists, environmentalists and local community leaders around the world to explore the complicated truth about how best to restore the planet’s forests, and who (or what) is best placed to take the lead.

Quote we love: “In most places, to restore the world’s forests we need to do just two things: ensure the ownership of the world’s forests is vested in the people who live in them, and give nature room.”

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Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard (2021)

No one has done more to transform our understanding of trees than the world-renowned scientist Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia. Her research of more than three decades as a “forest detective” is recognized worldwide.

In her 2021 debut book, Finding the Mother Tree, Simard shares the secrets of a lifetime spent uncovering truths about trees: their cooperation, healing capacity, wisdom, and sentience. As her remarkable journey shows us, science is not a realm apart from the ordinary life, but deeply connected with our humanity.

In Finding the Mother Tree, she reveals how the complex cycle of forest life on which we rely for our existence offers profound lessons about resilience and kinships and must be preserved before it’s too late.

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My Forests: Travels with Trees by Janine Burke (2021)

Collecting narratives and tales from around the globe, Janine Burke invites us to explore how trees and civilization are more connected than we think.

Throughout this book, you travel the ancient Incense Road, visit the dancing olive groves of Tuscany, and meet tree sitter Miranda Gibson, whose 449-day protest against clear felling in Tasmania’s Tyenna Valley led to a World Heritage listing.

This book is a wonderful exploration of the role of trees in contemporary life.

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American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow (2013)

How does the history of trees mirror the history of the United States itself? From the once great giant pines of New England to the orange groves of California, Rutkow outlines how trees were essential to the early years of colonialism, and how trees are an essential part of our cultural and literary history. From colonialists gathering under the Liberty Trees to plot rebellion, to the spread of the Dutch Elm Disease, to the three billion trees planted under FDR, looking at trees helps us to look at the history of our country as a whole.

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The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate–Discoveries From A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (2016)

In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing process of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodlands and the scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are so blissfully unaware.

Much like human families, tree parents live with their children, communicate with them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and create an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extreme heat and cold for the whole group. As a result, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Drawing on ground breaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forests around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.

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Trees: Their Natural History (2nd Edition) by Peter A. Thomas (2014)

If you are tree lover and would enjoy a great read dealing with tree ecology and physiology, this is your book. It explains tree biology in simple terms, but precisely and comprehensively. A great treatment of the individual tree for an educated but non-technical reader.

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Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings by Valerie Trouet

While we all know the rings of a tree can tell you its age, what this book tells is how they show you much more. Valerie Trouet guides us through different parts of history around the globe through the eyes of trees. In particular, she looks at the changing climate and the influence on human civilization over the past 2000 years.

These fascinating tales are deftly woven together to show us how dendrochronology (scientific method of dating tree rings) sheds light on global climate dynamics and reveals the clear links between humans and our leafy neighbors.

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Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben and Jane Billinghurst (2022)

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester known best for a book on our list, The Hidden Life of Trees. Jane Billinghurst, who translated and adapted this book for a North American audience, is a nature lover and master gardener who lives in Washington state.

This book is for anyone who wants a guided tour of the forest from the comfort of their couch. (The idea being that you’ll be inspired to go exploring.) You’ll learn how and why to pay more attention when you spend time in a forest, and how to turn your outdoor excursions into opportunities to connect deeper with nature.

Quote we love: “In areas where forests once grew, whether on the East Coast or West Coast or many places in between, the forest is always waiting to return.”

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Think Like a Tree: The Natural Principles Guide to Life by Sarah Spencer (2019)

Published in 2019, Think Like a Tree is the best guide of its kind. It reveals the underlying principles of nature’s secrets of success one by one, and demonstrates how we can apply them to our own lives, in this practical personal development guide.

Drawing on woodland examples from around the globe, Think Like a Tree shares the amazing abilities of trees, their evolutionary success stories, and their abilities to heal.

Author Sarah Spencer is passionate about trees. She manages a woodland in the UK that she designed and planted. We associate trees and woodlands with harmony, health, and vitality, and yet we struggle to experience these qualities in our everyday life.

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The Long, Long Life Of Trees by Fiona Stafford (2017)

This book is a lyrical, illustrated volume in which Stafford writes about 17 common trees 

(from the ash to the cypress to olive and holly and birch) and describes how they’re interlaced with human experiences, history, and culture. She dives into how trees are described and personified in folklore, literature, poetry, and more, digging deep into how carefully these trees have been integrated and ingrained in our lives as symbols.

This poetic book is driven by passion for trees and Stafford’s research adds authenticity to her analysis. It also explores the cultural impacts of tree loss, and shows the impact that these trees have on our lives.

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Bonus: Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees by Jim Arnosky (1992)

Teaching children about the natural sciences is always a plus! In Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees, the main character goes on a show-and-tell tour of woodlands and forests, sharing his knowledge as he goes along, and introducing children to the basics of tree anatomy and natural science as he does.

Unique tree features are clearly explained and accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Children will enjoy the animals and birds featured in this book as well.

Final Thoughts

If a library is a forest then the books are its trees. There are over three trillion trees on earth, they are one of the most well known plants on earth, and it bears investigating how humanity (and our planet) has been influenced by them through the years. They are the subjects of folklore and important to many cultures around the globe, yet we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of their relationship to each other and ourselves.

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