2023 Book Recommendations

We asked the NNRG staff and board — notorious for thinking about forests as much off-the-clock as on — for the best forestry, nature, PNW, and environment-related books they read this year. The resulting list has some real gems! Scroll down to read the whole list. 

The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods

Author: Greg King
Pick from: NNRG Executive Director Seth Zuckerman (and seconded by board chair Christine Johnson!)

Seth says: “For Greg King, the struggle to save ancient redwood forests was intensely personal, and he brings that intensity to this book. One strand in this book is memoir, rooted in his work as a journalist and activist striving to protect astounding groves of old-growth redwoods that were threatened by the junk-bond millionaire Charles Hurwitz in the 1980s and ’90s. The other strand is a quest to understand, given public clamor for a substantial primordial redwood refuge in the early 20th century, why only smaller groves were ever set aside for preservation. The answer, surprisingly, has something to do with the hidden agenda of Save the Redwoods League. He documents its origin as a greenwashing front for captains of industry, who relied on the millennium-old trees as a strategic raw material — a cautionary tale as forest offsets are again used to greenwash greenhouse gas emissions.”

Find it at your local library – or here!

The Man Who Planted Trees

Author: Jean Giono
Pick from: NNRG Director of Forestry Kirk Hanson

“A timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzéard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

Since its first publication, the book has sold over a quarter of a million copies and inspired countless numbers of people around the world to take action and plant trees.”

Find it here!

When Money Grew on Trees: A. B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron

Author: Greg Gordon
Pick from: NNRG Board Member Chris Larson

“Born in the timber colony of New Brunswick, Maine, in 1848, Andrew Benoni Hammond got off to an inauspicious start as a teenage lumberjack. By his death in 1934, Hammond had built an empire of wood that stretched from Puget Sound to Arizona—and in the process had reshaped the American West and the nation’s way of doing business. When Money Grew on Trees follows Hammond from the rough-and-tumble world of mid-nineteenth-century New Brunswick to frontier Montana and the forests of Northern California—from lowly lumberjack to unrivaled timber baron.”

Find it here!

Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds 

Author: Bernd Heinrich
Pick from: NNRG Lead Forester Jaal Maan

“Heinrich’s passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven follows an exotic journey—from New England to Germany, and from Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic—offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature. Each new discovery and insight into raven behavior is thrilling to read, at once lyrical and scientific.”

Find it here!

White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree

Author: John Pastor
Pick from: NNRG Board Member Ben Hayes

“America was built on white pine. From the 1600s through the Civil War and beyond, it was used to build the nation’s ships and houses, barns, and bridges. It became a symbol of independence, adorning the Americans’ flag at Bunker Hill, and an economic engine, generating three times more wealth than the California gold rush. Yet this popularity came at a cost: by the end of the 19th century, clear cutting had decimated much of America’s white pine forests. In White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree, ecologist and writer John Pastor takes readers on walk through history, connecting the white pine forests that remain today to a legacy of destruction and renewal.”

Find it here!

The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth

Author: Elizabeth Rush
Pick from: NNRG Board Chair Christine Johnson

“In 2019, fifty-seven scientists and crew set out onboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Their destination: Thwaites Glacier. Their goal: to learn as much as possible about this mysterious place, never before visited by humans, and believed to be both rapidly deteriorating and capable of making a catastrophic impact on global sea-level rise.

In The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush documents their voyage, offering the sublime—seeing an iceberg for the first time; the staggering waves of the Drake Passage; the torqued, unfamiliar contours of Thwaites—alongside the workaday moments of this groundbreaking expedition. A ping-pong tournament at sea. Long hours in the lab. All the effort that goes into caring for and protecting human life in a place that is inhospitable to it. Along the way, she takes readers on a personal journey around a more intimate question: What does it mean to bring a child into the world at this time of radical change?”

Find it here!

My Life My Trees

Author: Richard Baker
Pick from: NNRG Director of Forestry Kirk Hanson

“The author, a conservationist, forester, and founder of Men of the Trees, was responsible for planting over 26 trillion trees during his lifetime. His work created an awareness of our physical and spiritual dependence on forests and the urgent need for reclamation and reforestation of our wastelands. This book, written when he was 80, tells his life story.”

Find it here!

The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth

Author: Greg Gordon
Pick from: NNRG Director of Programs Rowan Braybrook

“For the last fifty years, the trees of the boreal forest have been moving north. Ben Rawlence’s The Treeline takes us along this critical frontier of our warming planet from Norway to Siberia, Alaska to Greenland, Canada to Sweden to meet the scientists, residents and trees confronting huge geological changes. Only the hardest species survive at these latitudes including the ice-loving Dahurian larch of Siberia, the antiseptic Spruce that purifies our atmosphere, the Downy birch conquering Scandinavia, the healing Balsam poplar that Native Americans use as a cure-all and the noble Scots Pine that lives longer when surrounded by its family. It is a journey of wonder and awe at the incredible creativity and resilience of these species and the mysterious workings of the forest upon which we rely for the air we breathe.”

Find it here!

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World

Author: Barry Lopez
Pick from: NNRG Board Member Ben Hayes

“An ardent steward of the land, fearless traveler, and unrivaled observer of nature and culture, Barry Lopez died after a long illness on Christmas Day 2020. The previous summer, a wildfire had consumed much of what was dear to him in his home place and the community around it—a tragic reminder of the climate change of which he’d long warned.

At once a cri de coeur and a memoir of both pain and wonder, this remarkable collection of essays adds indelibly to Lopez’s legacy, and includes previously unpublished works, some written in the months before his death.”

Find it here!

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