In recent years a good deal of attention has been paid to the E.O. Wilson concept of biophilia, of restoring an integrated relationship with nature, particularly as it relates to trees. The spiritual and physical benefits of the ancient Japanese practice of forest bathing are widely advocated in the west. The promotion of the healing bond between humans and trees is being advocated by practitioners such as Julia Plevin and Diana Beresford-Kroeger with a proselytizing fervour that serves to increase devotional adherence and popularity.
A comparison with religious observance is not unwarranted as ritual and ceremonial practices in the forest are advocated, and actual communion with trees is claimed by the staunchest of believers.
As a naturalist who has spent his entire lifetime exploring forests and woodlands, I can vouch for the restorative aspects of trees, both physical and spiritual.
Trees of Life, therefore, is a book for its time. Max Adams selects eighty species to celebrate the ancestral and contemporary connection between trees and humans. And I find it hard to argue with his choices.
The book is broken down into chapters, so that trees of different types are covered as a group. Permit me to give just a couple of examples: From Apple to Walnut: the fruit and nut bearers and Sugar and Spice: a cook's bounty.
The text is succinct and informative, often with historical context, and the illustrations are nothing short of spectacular, from high quality modern photographs to reproductions of ancient lithographs and paintings. The book is at once a source of knowledge, a reflection on the state of the world's tree cover, and a visual delight.
It is critical when considering trees that one think not only of their utilitarian value, indeed not principally of their commercial uses, but their role in the maintenance of clean air, the provision of oxygen and as the repository of biodiversity. This is done in the final chapter, entitled Trees for the Planet.
No one will read this book and come away unmoved. Much news is given to the destruction of ancient forests, especially rainforests both tropical and temperate, and the world needs to be concerned and rise up against this trend.
This may be the book that inspires political action to save the planet. I hope so!
Trees of Life - Princeton University Press
Author - Max Adams
Hardcover - US$29.95 - ISBN: 9780691212739
Publishing date: 2 March 2021
272 pages - 200+ colour plates and illustrations
8 x 11 inches (20 x 27.5 cm)