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Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 19, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Because trees make so many more aspects of our lives possible and pleasurable than we realize, Wells felt compelled to reintroduce us to these miraculous sentries, companions, and providers, entities that make the earth both bountiful and beautiful. Long considered sacred by diverse cultures, trees are crucial in this time of accelerated climate change, thanks to their ability to counteract the deleterious impact of carbon emissions. Trees offer shade, shelter, and quiet; medicine and food; and building materials for everything from houses to books. Trees are wreathed with lore and continue to yield scientific discoveries, yet, Wells observes, “We can even live on a street named for a particular tree and not be able to identify the tree itself.” To rectify this loss of invaluable knowledge, Wells portrays 100 trees, beginning with acacia and ending with yew, in a tree album containing lovely drawings and pithy essays. Cinnamon, ginkgo, “small and spiny” frankincense, mahogany, Osage orange, sycamore—all are succinctly described and celebrated in this warmly informative, fun-to-browse book of colorful tree histories. --Donna Seaman

About the Author

Diana Wells is the author of 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names and 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names, has written for Friends Journal, and is contributing editor of the journal Greenprints. Born in Jerusalem, she has lived in England and Italy and holds an honors degree in history from Oxford University. She now lives with her husband on a farm in Pennsylvania.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156512491X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124912
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diana Wells is the author of 100 flowers and How They Got Their Names and contributing editor to the journal Greenprints. Born in Jerusalem, she has lived in England and Italy and holds an honors degree in history from Oxford University. She now lives with her husband, an artist, on a farm in Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
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Thank you Diana Wells.
lady lake
I bought a bunch of books to use on my android phone and have not read them all yet, but I only bought ones I am sure I will love.
Linda C. Jacobson
If you appreciate trees, you will enjoy this book very much.
Leeann Root

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By PersnicketyRPh on March 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Diana Wells' Lives of the Trees is a fine book. I believe it to be well researched. Every chapter has interesting comments on a species or family of trees. The chapters are, however, short. I was expecting more in-depth reporting of the trees than in books that I currently own. Not certain why that expectation was there except I had read a very positive review and my hopes were high. Too high, in fact. A glance at Ms. Wells' bibliography shows that her subject is well researched, but one book there, Don Peattie's A Natural History of Trees, which I currently own and treasure, shows the limitations of her work. Where Peattie's writing is eloquent and poetic at times (indeed I challenge anyone to point to a better writer of non-fiction) Well's is prosaic and common. Also, at least so far in my reading, every interesting aspect of Wells' book is already in Peattie's. Many details of Peattie's book, however, are absent from Wells'. For instance, in the chapter on Cherry, Wells does not even discuss the Black Cherry, that most august, and beautiful of cabinet woods. She speaks of the blossoms in Japan, the fruit of the Bing, but not one of the most treasured hardwoods in our forest. I am flummoxed as to why.
So why not just get Peattie's? Of course you could have both, as I have. But if you only want one, make it Peattie's.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Harold Wolf TOP 50 REVIEWER on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Diana Wells gives readers historical and endearing facts about trees, not just the scientific details. There is a bit of that, but not enough to call it a field guide for identification. This is for the literary enjoyment of those in tune with trees and wishing more facts about the character of individual trees. Their personality.

"LIVES OF THE TREES" includes much about name origins, folklore, alternate names, and past uses of the trees or their parts. 100 different tree chapters describe specie roots nearly lost or unknown facts about the different types. For example honey bees were brought to North America to pollinate apple trees. The bees became known as "White Man's Flies" by the Native American Indians. And their is a connection to the American Red Bud tree from the Judas Tree. There are antidotes of relationships with different trees to Biblical scriptures, Shakespeare writings, Greek & Roman culture, and so much more.

This is by far the most interesting non-fiction tree book I have ever read. Of course my reading went instantly to recognizable tree names of the USA Midwest, where I live. Found were fascinating facts never heard or read elsewhere. Then, returning to page one, a trip through pages of trees seen in other areas, finding delightful reading so much more interesting than the typical educational or scientific dry stuff provided for those seriously growing trees.

Book also includes Heather Lovett drawings of leaves and fruit/nut/seed pod for each variety. A wonderful 1/2 page illustration on every 2nd or 3rd page. There is a bibliography for the more serious tree specialist and an index for finding those bits of interest you'll be telling your friends about, or reading to them. Better yet, if you have a nature friend, buy them a copy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christoph Topher on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a fantastic book. I'm a professional furniture maker and I work in all types of different woods. Each wood has it's own distinct charecteristics, smell, color, texture, density, etc. This was a good book for me, as I like to have little bits of information and stories to pass along to my clients regarding their order.

Anyone wanting to know bits of trivia or snippets of history regarding trees will love this. It's a great handbook, and a fun and relaxing read weather you've got 2 minutes or 2 hours.

Many thanks to the author and publisher for assembling such a useful book outside the realm of a manual or botanical text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Theresa Houtman on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One does not need to be a botanist or even a tree-hugger to love this book. This is a concise history of a number of trees, how they got their names, myths and facts, occurrences in literature and many other fascinating bits of information on common and not so common trees. I loved it and bought several copies as gifts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Oppenheim on March 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a plant lover I have always wondered about both the folklore and scientific background of the plants I love.
Though the scientific information is attainable it is so often hard to understand unless you are a botanist. The folklore has always been hard to obtain. This wonderfullly written book by Ms. Wells combines both in a compendium of scientific fact and cultural history together.
Simply magnificent! A "must have. for any botanist, arborist, or gardener.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Trees are a part of life, at times worshiped as the connection between heaven and earth, and always used for survival, but what do we really know about them? Diana Wells has produced a collection about trees that will astonish, inform and entertain. The specimens she chose to research are often recognizable to this reader, but some are not. To know more about them, to trace the travels of a tree around the world, to know how it landed in a particular area and then flourished, reveals much of humanities's need to explore and acquire.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought a bunch of books to use on my android phone and have not read them all yet, but I only bought ones I am sure I will love. Thanks!
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