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Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England Paperback – September 20, 2005

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Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England + Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape + Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The etchings in Reading the Forested Landscape are fabulous and the text is more entertaining than The Disney Channel. (Brian Downey - Peterborough, NH Transcript)

Tom Wessels evokes ancient logging roads from the weathered scars on trees deep in the New England forest.....he brings alive the intricate, interwoven, and ever-changing story of his region. I feel grateful for this illuminating and beautifully written book. (John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home)

From the Inside Flap

A full and wholly original portrait of New England's forests, tracing their evolution from pre-colonial days to the present through a study of the patterns we see today. Read this book, is many fans have said, and no walk in the woods will ever be the same.

Most books and courses on natural history focus on the identification of one small aspect of the complex world outside our doors. We may know how to identify our neighborhood trees but not know why pine are dominant in one place and maple in another; we may notice fungus growing on a beech trunk but not know the devastating impact of blights on our forests over the centuries. Tom Wessels, who has spent more than twenty years interpreting New England's landscape and teaching others to see "the forest for the trees," argues that by coming to a fuller understanding of our home ground, we achieve a greater sense of place.

An intrepid sleuth and articulate tutor, Wessels teaches us to read a landscape the way we might solve a mystery. Each chapter addresses a form of forest disturbance common in New England--fire, logging, and blight are examples--and depicts it in an extraordinary, full-page etching. Studying Wessels's descriptions of forest scenes in conjunction with Cohen's visual portraits teaches us to identify disturbance patterns and, in turn, to take our discoveries outside and read the history written in the character of the land.

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Product Details

  • Series: Nature
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Countryman Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881504203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881504200
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.7 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By I. Westray on July 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reading the Forested Landscape, first of all, plainly deserves readers outside of New England. While the particular forests the book looks at are in the northeast, Tom Wessels' approach and style won't be lost on anyone with an interest in natural history. Give this as a gift to a birding friend, or for someone to keep in their cabin.
The bedrock of the book is patient, graceful storytelling. At the outset of each chapter, Wessels shows us a simple print of a forest. He asks us to wonder what made that forest, and then he leads us, in unaffected voice, through his thinking as he answers that question. Why is this maple here? Are the trees here fire damaged? Wessels describes the outlines from which we can read a larger story. Each chapter is a little mystery, in a sense. Those little puzzles are fun.
It's apparent how carefully Forested Landscape was crafted. This isn't just a collection of portraits; the chapters progress from one to the next intelligently. For example, you learn how to recognize a fire in one chapter; at the beginning of the next, Wessels starts by asking whether a similar fire has taken place in this new spot. That's a simple transition, but it really helps you stay in the flow of the writing. The author's smart enough to reinforce what you've learned at the same time that he's establishing continuity in the larger story. This book reads through wonderfully.
And there's a bigger picture you're reading toward, too. Each chapter also includes a broader natural history subject related to its particular forest. You've seen a few trees, and you've puzzled out the sort of setting you're looking at; now, by touching on a bigger natural historical theme, you place that forest in the natural world as a whole.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Craig L. Howe on December 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a guide to understanding clues that explain the varied forest patterns of Central New England.
Each chapter focuses on a single form of disturbance - either man made or natural - that impacts the region's forests. The chapters focus on logging, pasture abandonment, fire, beaver activity, blow downs, forest blights, topography and substrate and their impact on the plants located near these disturbances.
Each chapter discusses the disturbance and then in a section entitled "A Look Back" the disturbance is related to the site's natural history. This new way of seeing a forest and its history adds to my walks in the woods. I feel a connection, a reverence, an enhancement and an inclusion that was not part of my previous walks. Although most of my hikes are in the Green Mountains of Vermont, I am convinced this process of reading the forest can be applied to any woodland in North America.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. Broderick VINE VOICE on January 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This brief and readable book advertises upfront that it focuses on New England, but I believe it will benefit anyone who wants to understand and interpret temperate forest landscapes anywhere. The book is a series of chapters focusing on different topics. Each chapter is headed by an etching of a particular scene. The chapter explores all the small minutiae of the scene, and instructs you in recognizing what they can tell you about it. Some of the things you can learn about (specific to New England in some cases) include: What the size of the rocks in a stone fence tells you about past land use; what the number of dead trees in an abandoned beaver pond can tell you; the meaning of a group of gnarled, twisted, and stunted apple trees in a field. The only thing that restrains my enthusiasm about the book is it's great strength--The etchings. I'd prefer to see photographs, particularly detailed closeups of some of the things discussed. The book contains blowups of portions of the etchings, and these do help. But I'd like to see the etchings supplemented by photos of real occurrences, showing real color.
Nevertheless, highly recommended!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book provides an excellent introduction to forest ecology. Wessels begins each chapter with an etching that captures a typical feature of northern forest. He then guides us to understanding what one can learn from the etching through asking key questions and making more detailed observations. The book focuses on central New England forests, which he defines as reaching roughly from the Southern half of Vermont to the Northern half of Massachusetts, and stretching eastwards to the coast of Maine. The book will help even beginners understand more about the forests surrounding them, although it helps if readers can at least recognize a beech tree from a maple or a pine before they start. The book is full of so many details that one reading through it is not enough; this is a book to dip into over and over again as one explores the forest. The book includes a number of useful appendices, covering such varied topics as a chronology of New England history, key kinds of evidence to look for in the woods, common woody and non-woody plants, a glossary, and a bibliography.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Anne Hoffmann on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am blessed to own some woodland in New England, and my forester recommended this book.
The author writes with the same love for the land that I have, but with much more knowledge. He really enjoys the wonderful details that exist in a forest, and he illuminates them with clear explanations of how the landscape has evolved. The general tone of the book is one of guided investigation for the curious, so there is a great deal of warmth in it.
I don't know how well it works for those who do not have a basic knowledge of trees. If you are not already familiar with the different kinds of tree, you may want a tree identification book too.
I can't give this book five stars because the illustrations were not as helpful as I would have liked. I wanted color and a better sense of the textures. Illustrations of indicator plants would have been a big bonus in the appendix, and I wish they had been provided.
For a more technical book, see Working with Your Woodland by Mollie Beattie. It contains more information and is geared to the landowner, but it doesn't have nearly as much soul. For example, Wessels' book describes stumps with a keen loving eye. They barely get a mention in Beattie's book, and their significance is lost.
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Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England
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