I began reading The Hidden Life of Trees shortly after I purchased it in November 2016. I was enthralled by it but for some reason, stopped reading it. After many starts and stops since then, I finally finished it this morning.
The book is not a long book. The book is not at all difficult to read. What the book is, is unbelievable in parts. It’s written as science and has notes for evidence (that I did not pursue) but there is definitely a lot of anthropomorphism throughout the book. The article titled Pitfalls of Anthropomorphism: The Hidden Life of Trees on The Odd Website explains why this is a problem far better than I can.
So, did I enjoy the book? I did. I read about a chapter a day for a while and then when on a walk, could see what the author was talking about. For instance, I always wondered how coniferous trees stayed green all year and in the book, Wohlleben explains that coniferous trees do shed their leaves, but not all at once. I noticed this that afternoon when passing a chain linked fence with thousands of pine needles hanging from it. (Of course I knew that pine needles fell off pine trees, but I think I needed that nudge to actually see it).
This happened many times over the course of reading the book this year. Not being a scientist, this book was written for me and if I am to be honest, I kind of liked the anthropomorphism. After all, I’ve named at least two trees in my life, and loved even more.
The impetus for wanting to finish the book this year was because I’d read The Overstory a couple of years ago and one of the characters in that book was based on a scientist whose work was cited often in The Hidden Life of Trees and who wrote a note at the end of the book. In The Overstory, the character wrote a book similar to The Hidden Life of Trees.
I’m glad I read it, I’m equally glad I finally finished it. Will I re-read it at some point? Probably not. Will I read Wohlleben’s other books? Probably not.
2 thoughts on “Thoughts on The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben”
You gave me you copy of Understory at the end of June 2020 as we set out in the van to move from DC to Seattle. I read it every night before falling asleep. Not many books that I remember in such detail – the characters, the scenes, the science. I now have “my own” tree that I look at every morning as I drink my caffeine. I think it’s a sycamore. We’re on the 6th floor so I look straight into the canopy (bare branches now): hummingbirds, crows, small birds, and a pair of old racoons living in the trunk, every year teaching their babes how to climb down for the evening’s activities. Thanks, Dona 🙂
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I’m really happy that you liked The Understory, Catherine. I wonder if you’d have had the same reaction if you’d read it in a different setting. After all, you were headed in the same direction as several of the characters.