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The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring


The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring Cover

ISBN13: 9780812975598
ISBN10: 0812975596
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SAF, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by SAF)
This reads like a mystery as researchers search for giant Redwood trees in northern California. A testament to the passion to learn and discover.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Alice Royer, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Alice Royer)
An exciting book about climbing trees over 350 feet which have incredible canopies, some with crustaceans from the sea, bushwhacking through wild stream beds, wonderful people living in the Pacific North West, and stories about forests in other parts of the world.
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LMcGuff, September 5, 2012 (view all comments by LMcGuff)
The Wild Trees chronicles the development of redwood tree canopy studies, focusing on the personalities of the people driven to search for the tallest trees in the world, and then to climb them to see what’s up there.

The personalities are interesting, it’s true. Finding the tallest tree in the world isn’t enough of a driving interest to receive funding, so the initial research is done on the weekends by a convenience store clerk. However, his persistence in this search brings him into contact with others, such as Stephen Sillett, and together they discover a completely new world.

It used to be thought that forest canopies were just the leaves and branches of the trees, maybe some bird nests, but nothing very interesting. Just about every canopy, at every level, is a startlingly diverse ecosystem. Preston compares the experience of the original tree climbers to that of Jacques Cousteau, discovering a new world with his scuba equipment.

The book is described as “narrative nonfiction,” which means Preston uses some of the story telling tools of fiction to build an arc. And there were times when I felt genuine tension in reading the book. I can guess the general circumstances of even a very well-done thriller, but there were times reading this book I had no idea how an event would turn out. We’re carried through the lives, loves, and losses of all the people involved in this research.

Having said that, I’d have liked the book to focus more on the science and a little less on the personalities. At least a guide for further reading (or viewing -- there have been TV documentaries about Sillett and canopy research). I liked that scientific research isn’t all glamorous (particularly anything involving Australian leech forests) and that scientists sometimes have messy personalities. But I would have liked more about the canopy itself.
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(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
angmoon, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by angmoon)
Extremely engaging story. Descriptive, humorous, frightening and awe inspiring. An enjoyable read that is worthy of a second and maybe a third time. Will make you want to visit these amazing and spiritual trees and/or will create an intense desire to climb.
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njcur, April 14, 2009 (view all comments by njcur)
What a fascinating world there is at the tops of trees! Who knew?! Very entertaining, informative,suspenseful, and captivating. I highly recommend it.
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(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
 1-5 of 5

Product Details

A Story of Passion and Daring
Random House Trade
Preston, Richard
Trees & Forests - General
Plants - General
Forest canopies.
Coast redwood - California, Northern
Coast redwood - Ecology -
Plants - Trees
General science
Nature Studies-Trees
Earth Sciences
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
February 2008
Grade Level:
7.94x5.16x.70 in. .50 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Botany » Trees and Shrubs
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Forests
Science and Mathematics » Geology » Earth Sciences
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Trees
Science and Mathematics » Physics

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812975598 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "[Signature]Reviewed by John VaillantIn this radical departure from Preston's bestsellers on catastrophic diseases (The Demon in the Freezer, etc.), he journeys into the perpendicular universe of the world's tallest trees. Mostly California redwoods, they are the colossal remnants of a lost world, some predating the fall of Rome. Suspended in their crowns, hundreds of feet above the forest floor, is a primeval kingdom of plants and animals that only a handful of people have ever seen. Now, thanks to Preston and a custom-made tree-climbing apparatus called a 'spider rig,' we get to see it, too.According to Preston, it wasn't until the 1980s that humans made the first forays into the tops of 'supertall' trees, in excess of 350 feet high. The people who pioneered their exploration are a rarefied bunch — equal parts acrobat, adventurer and scientist. The book revolves around botanist Steve Sillett, an exceptional athlete with a tormented soul who found his calling while making a borderline suicidal 'free' climb to the top of an enormous redwood in 1987, where he discovered a world of startling complexity and richness. More than 30 stories above the ground, he found himself surrounded by a latticework of fused branches hung with gardens of ferns and trees bearing no relation to their host. In this Tolkienesque realm of sky and wind, lichens abound while voles and salamanders live and breed without awareness of the earth below. At almost the exact moment that Sillett was having his epiphany in the redwood canopy, Michael Taylor, the unfocused son of a wealthy real estate developer, had a revelation in another redwood forest 200 miles to the south. Taylor, who had a paralyzing fear of heights, decided to go in search of the world's tallest tree. Their obsessive quests led these young men into a potent friendship and the discovery of some of the most extraordinary creatures that have ever lived. Preston's tireless research, crystalline writing style and narrative gifts are well suited to the subject. Sillett, Taylor and their cohorts, who include a Canadian botanist named Marie Antoine, are fascinating, often deeply wounded characters. Their collective passion and intensity have illuminated one of the most vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems on this continent. Preston adds a personal twist by mastering the arcane tree climber's art of 'skywalking' and partnering with Sillett and Antoine on some of their most ambitious ascents. As impressive as this is, Preston's cameo appearance disrupts the flow of the main narrative and somewhat dilutes its considerable power.John Vaillant is the author of The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed (Norton) and winner of the Canadian Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction (2005)." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "I wondered, would Preston's latest book, The Wild Trees: The Passion and the Daring, a nonfiction work about the scientists who devote their professional and personal lives to the study of botany, offer sufficient thrills to hold my interest throughout? The answer is a decided yes. Wild Trees owned me almost from the start....This is a journey that I encourage you to take." (read the CSM review)
"Review" by , "What Preston offers is a glimpse into the lives of these angel-headed hipsters, who took root, found meaning and flourished in a digitized, cataloged and oversubscribed world. Turn the pages and you'll find your obsession growing with theirs, until finally their zonked-out wonder becomes your own. So rest easy, drop your ropes and climbing gear and wrap your arms about this book. It's easier than hugging a redwood."
"Review" by , "Preston's hands-on perspective, suspenseful chronicling of the adventures of these vividly portrayed redwood experts, and glorious descriptions of the tall trees' splendor and ecological significance make for a transfixing read."
"Review" by , "As illustrated by Andrew Joslin, whose plain line drawings of redwood structure are astonishing, The Wild Trees presents its subjects as 'the blue whales of the plant kingdom.' Mr. Preston writes that 'in order to see a giant tree you need a magnifying glass,' and this book is fascinating in its keen, inquisitive account of the redwoods' biosphere."
"Review" by , "The Wild Trees reads like a fast-paced magazine article, more Outside magazine action than forest floor poetry. Read it and you'll want to head for the coast to contemplate these magnificent trees for yourself."
"Review" by , "[W]hen Preston includes his own personal climbing exploits, it comes off as unnecessary and self-serving. When he sticks to science, though, he is without rivals in his ability to relate complex biological systems to a lay audience."
"Review" by , "Preston was clearly moved by his experiences — the thoughtful and engaging narrative is informed by a satisfying touch of spirituality — and he brilliantly shares his ardor for the arboreal. (Grade: A-)"
"Review" by , "The Wild Trees is an entertaining account of the tallest redwoods and the amazing wild gardens that flourish in the treetops. It's also the story of some young people who became so emotionally attached to the trees that they redirected their own lives."
"Review" by , "[A]n absorbing, precise, pleasurable new book that is perfect for, well, reading aloft — if not in a tree, then at least in a hammock under one....Like a good glass of wine, the eccentrics in his story pair well with the outer limits of nature."
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