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The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature Hardcover – March 15, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"Very much a contemporary biologist in his familiarity with genetics and population ecology, he also has the voracious synthetic imagination of a 19th-century naturalist. ...a sensitive writer, conjuring with careful precision the worlds he observes and delighting the reader with insightful turns of phrase." The Wall Street Journal.

"...as beautiful a book as I've read in years...I can't remember the last time I encountered so much spiritual wisdom, ecological intelligence and contagious love for the grandeur of life..." Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Brimming with sensual details, when Haskell's modest patch of turf removes its glasses, it's as sexy as Marian the Librarian." Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

"An extraordinary, intimate view of life... Exceptional observations of the biological world..." Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review for "books of remarkable merit."

"Mixing poetry with natural history, he follows subtle scientific threads...to conclusions of gratifying breadth." Conservation Magazine.

 “Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complex and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.”
(Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University )

 “In the style of Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Thoreau, David Haskell has captured the beauty and intricacy of evolution in these pages. For those who are looking for inspiration to spend more time in the wild, this book is the perfect companion. Haskell’s vast knowledge of the forest and all its creatures is the perfect guide to exploring wilderness. The prose is a perfect match for the poetic tranquility found through the study of nature. A true naturalist’s manifesto.” 
(Greg Graffin, author of Anarchy Evolution )

 "David Haskell trains his eye on a single square meter of the Cumberland Plateau, and manages in the process to see the whole living planet as clearly as any writer in many years. Each chapter will teach you something new!"
(Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet )

“…a welcome entry in the world of nature writers. He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.” The New York Times

About the Author

David Haskell is a professor of biology at the University of the South and was named the Carnegie-CASE professor of the year in Tennessee in 2009. In addition to his scholarly work, he has published essays and poetry. He lives with his wife in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 56273rd edition (March 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002337X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023370
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barbara Harris on May 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One of the best natural history oriented books I've read in the past several years. Using a one square meter patch of Tennessee old growth forest as the object of his contemplation, and returning to it frequently throughout the year, the author shows us natural phenomena we'd otherwise have overlooked. Haskell emphasizes the interconnectedness of humble organisms such as fungi and soil-inhabiting arthropods as well as the more familiar birds and mammals we're more likely to notice.You will be inspired to take a much closer look during your next outing into nature.
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Great book. I read, re-read and then bought the hard back copy to have one for the shelves. Will continue to re-read. Extremely well written and insightful. Each paragraph is charged with poetic information and deep understanding of the eco-system. I found the book absorbing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Outstanding, a joy to read. The story is presented as a series of daily observances of a small section of old growth forest. Each daily narrative is driven by what was taking place during each visit.The author clearly explains these goings on and how they effect the larger ecosystem, from season to season, fungus to large mammals.
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By mary on October 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am giving this book to my most discerning, nature-loving friends. In thoughtful, short essays, the author teaches us to observe the interconnections of nature. He interweaves botany with many levels of poetic associations with other realms of knowledge such as history and philosophy. I love this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Forest Unseen" is full of the most insightful observations I've seen in a book of it's nature. David Haskell has the background plus the forests love to describe in minute detail what lies hidden from our view. His passion is contagious and even for nature lovers and teachers, there's much to be learned from this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I rushed to buy this book after a friend described the project to me: carefully observing a small plot of soil in a Tennessee forest for a year, and exploring all the interconnections thus revealed. And indeed there's much to be learned from this book, both spiritually and scientifically And yet it becomes a bit tedious, I think because the writing style often lapses into the flat and pedantic. It's not particularly inspired nature writing. This book needs ot be put in a crisper.
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David Haskell does a masterful job of describing complex natural systems in very readable and accessible terms. His writing transports the reader to that seemingly tranquil spot in the old growth forest, only to discover fascinating layers of physiological and ecological activity and interrelationships.
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Format: Hardcover
Haskell's "The Forest Unseen" is a wonderful approach to 'nature writ small'. I very much enjoyed his focus on a small patch of ground through the seasons. It is too bad that some of his writing appears to suffer from the vertebrate bias that is so pervasive in our society, and even within university biology departments. For example, he writes "The soil's food web reaches its zenith in the shrew. Only owls will eat shrews; everything else gives them a wide berth..." A truly unbiased biologist would never forget that all vertebrates are food for an enormous diversity of invertebrates. I'm sure there are lice, fleas, mites, and ticks that feed on shrews regularly (not sure if a shrew ever slows down long enough for a mosquito to get a bite but maybe a blackfly or a no-see-um could drink some shrew blood). That these animals don't kill shrews matters little when tracking energy and nutrient flow through a food web. When a shrew dies it is the blowflies that find them first, or perhaps some lucky carrion beetles. Well over a dozen species of animals consider shrews to be food but because these animals are not vertebrates they are second-class citizens and often ignored. Haskell does include mentions here and there of invertebrates in his study plot and I hope one or more chapters I have yet to read will go into greater depth into their fascinating lives [After having finished the book, I withdraw this criticism, Haskell devoted entire, well written, chapters to inverts]. This issue aside, Haskell's book is a wonderful read and should excite many that one doesn't need to travel to exotic nature refuges - within a single square meter of many backyards there is enough diversity and biological wonder to keep you enthralled for a long long time.
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