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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.