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The Wild Trees

Jack Glaser, associate professor of public policy | December 10, 2009

To help me sleep at night, I usually turn to fiction, ideally a compelling novel.  But some nonfiction can take me away from my day-to-day thoughts just as effectively.  Richard Preston’s The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring is such a book.  It intertwines the personal stories of some young adventurers who find a passion for tracking down (and climbing and cataloging) the world’s tallest trees.  The stories are captivating, as are the facts about these mammoth organisms, most of which are redwoods within a few hundred miles of Berkeley.  Reading the book is also a humbling experience on many levels.  First, Preston is such a gifted researcher and writer, one can’t help but admire his skills.  Second, the tree enthusiasts are marvelously passionate.  Third, with all the technology available to humans, finding the tallest tree in the world still turns out to be something that takes years of painstaking, hard work.  Finally, the trees themselves are just so magnificent, and they have whole ecosystems in their canopes that were not understood until recently.  Reading this book is the kind of humbling experience that is refreshing and inspiring, kind of like… standing at the base of a redwood, looking up.

Comments to “The Wild Trees

  1. I just read Richard Preston’s book! He really changed the way I see trees and nature itself.

  2. I just read Richard Preston’s book! It really changes the way I think of trees and nature itself.

  3. i just read Richard Preston’s book! It really changed the way i look at trees and nature itself.


  4. I’ve never experienced a massive tree such as a redwood. They do sound very awe inspiring. I hope some day to experience them for real but in the mean time this book sounds like at least a second best.

  5. I have seen the book and I found the stories very amusing and inspiring. If I were not afraid of heights I would have followed suit, but I just can’t bear the thought of being up in those mammoth trees. It’s a daredevil’s job, I tell you.
    James Locke

  6. I am amazed by people who really have the passion for studying and appreciating nature, including old trees. I am also thankful that there are people like Preston who use their writing skills not just for profit but for recording peoples interests and passions. He is indeed a very good writer, for it is quite a task to weave these particular topic into very interesting prose.

    Erin Leeds

  7. Probably one of the reasons why Preston’s writings are simply superb is that he does very extensive research and interviews, both for his fiction and non-fiction books. One more non-fiction book that is also well-received by avid readers is “The Hot Zone”. This non-fiction material which revolves around the deadly Ebola virus came out 13 years before “The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring”.

    Lauren Danes

  8. Trees, especially the old ones have always been a source of fascination to me. Probably because of their awesomeness and the many centuries that they have lived and stayed rooted on the ground. Whenever I walk within our university grounds, I cannot help but reminisce our good old days as young struggling students. As I do this, I always look up to one of the oldest trees, amazed and awed by the thought that this same tree has been a witness to the many sad and happy events that had unfolded in a young students life.

    Jamie Lore

  9. I had seen photographs of the giant redwoods, but I never appreciated how incredible these trees are until I visited my brother in Santa Rosa. To see them in person is truly awe inspiring.

  10. I hope this book would serve as a wake-up call for people whose attitude showed indifference towards tress and environment. This book truly shows that trees have stories.

  11. I salute the author for having picked such a significant subject for a book. People are often too busy about other things that they neglect to appreciate nature. This book provides so much information not just about trees but also about peoples role to take care of trees.

  12. Having informed about why it has been a humbling experience reading the book, I have developed certain ideas on what the story might be. I rarely pick books or novels to read, only those which will interest and excite me. About this one, I think I have that feeling of interest on trying to get a copy and read. After that, I could probably realize if I would totally agree with you on saying that it is indeed humbling to read it.

  13. Education should be interesting for the young. For the adults, there is a much more important reason for learning something new. Whether it is a course or program that allows for ongoing education or a new course that will shift one’s career into something totally new, we must find the best schools that offer these programs by visiting the best websites for this purpose.

    • I admire Preston for taking the initiative to research about the tallest trees and the tree enthusiasts for without their passion and determination, they wouldn’t have been able to produce this book about their experiences in climbing the tallest trees.

  14. The study of nature has always been one of the most interesting topics that has been integrated in the lessons that have been taught to the children.

    This is a unique book about the tallest trees and if they are going to be used as motivation for young children, I am sure they would be enjoyable and interesting aside from being very enlightening for them.

  15. I have a picture that I took with one of these Redwood’s before and I looked like an ant compared to that thing. Those are some truly massive trees.

  16. The wild trees is an adventure story told as nonfiction. Richard Preston actually learned the techniques and became an expert tree climber himself, which shows just how much he respects the subject matter. This book is a ground breaker and is top of my list.

  17. I’ve always enjoyed this one…especially the calming effect it can have before bed. Nothing like reading by candlelight and dozing off….ahhh.

  18. Lovely post! Okay after reading this post, I am so getting that book by Richard Preston.

  19. Yea, I love trees too. I’m always amazed at the flora and fauna that can be found on each individual one when you look.

  20. I am normally a passionate reader of Richard Presto’s books. But for one reason I didn’t know this book before. So, I think I have to take a look into it after reading your article. 🙂

  21. Many of us are basically clueless, Before one dose off to sleep, always think of the stuff or condition that you want happen in your life, if you want to be rich and famous imagine or picture that in your mind, eg: living in a huge house with the car of your dreams etc etc

    This is where the subconscious will act upon and take the last portion of what the conscious mind think about and make it happen.

    I always can’t wait for bed time as that is where I tell my subconscious of what I want in my life and it will always come true.

    Final Note: As long as you don’t think of negative stuff or failures before you sleep or think about how unlucky you’re, you should be fine.

  22. I find reading some kinds of things will definitely put me to sleep, but I want to go to sleep right away, just crawl into bed and start to pray. Better than sleeping pills for me. If I wake up, same thing. Shameful I know, but it works for me.

    Funny, I guess my mind runs away sometimes. I thought “mammoth organisms” was reading “mammoth orgasms” 🙂 and wondered what that has to do with climbing trees. Wow. But those trees are beautiful to be sure.

  23. “mammoth organisms”

    WOW! I never thought of trees that way. Whenever somebody called something ‘organisms’ I always thought about protozoans and bacteria and whatnot. But these 200 foot tall trees are also ‘organisms’ and I completely forgot about it!

  24. I too find it difficult to turn my mind ‘off’ at night and I resort to relaxation music. Reading makes my mind race.. so that doesn’t work for me 🙁

    • @ Colleen,

      That’s probably because you read the wrong kind of books. Sure if you read Science Fiction or something, your mind is bound to race and stop you from falling asleep.

      I remember those days when I would read my favorite professor’s lecture notes and I’m bound to fall asleep within minutes 🙂

  25. Through reading certain kinds of books, you not only enrich your stock knowledge but also relax your mind. Therefore, people who say that books are boring are great liars. Thanks to this post and it helped my mind to be clarified.

  26. I’ve always enjoyed this one…especially the calming effect it can have before bed. Nothing like reading by candlelight and dozing off….ahhh.

  27. The book is very good, and fascinating. I’ve read it twice actually. It’s different second time through.

    After hiking in the redwoods, I found a couple of the trees, and posted the photos on a webpage so other folks could see, since Preston included no images between the covers. My name is linked to the page. Terex Titan and others. The page is relatively new online, and if you find it of interest, maybe email it to friends who read the book or who enjoy redwoods. Taylor just started a website with photos too.

    MDV ~ Oregon

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