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Tree Books

I read a lot fo books about trees.

Here's a curated bibliography...


The Long Long Life of Trees – Fiona Stafford This is a very thorough cultural look at certain trees written by the Professor of English at Oxford University. A lot of it is really interesting and a lot of it went over my head, Stafford

has a pretty exhaustive knowledge of literary and classical works and I don’t! Overall, definitely worth it and a book I return to when I want to know something more than the science of a particular tree.

The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees – Robert Penn I loved this book. Penn comes across as a likeable dude as he takes his Ash tree around the world to be crafted into various traditional and contemporary items, drawing on the rich cultural history of Ash and understandable science.

The Wisdom of Trees – Max Adams More of a ‘dip in’ book to me, Adams is a writer but also manages woodland in the U.K. The book is a lovely mix of cultural and scientific, romantic and practical information, interspersed with quotes and illustrations.

Out of the Woods – Will Cohu My favourite book for tree identification, but I like to have a pocket guide next to me so I can actually see what the trees Cohu is describing so brilliantly look like. Cohu uses vivid imagery to get facts to stick in the mind of an idiot like me.

Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees – Roger Deakin Deakin is a bit of a legend in the natural history writing scene, Robert Macfarlane is a big fan and so after reading his books I moved on to Deakin. This book isn’t easy going, it’s like a warm wooded hug, there is a lot to learn but I found it all a bit much to take in at anything more than small chunks. Beautifully written and wonderfully evoking.

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm – Roger Deakin Deakin lived on Walnut Tree Farm, it sounds like a Tolkien-esque place where animals roam through the bedroom bats live in the roof. This makes Deakin a Gandalf/Bilbo wood elf type character. More romantic and imagery rich philosophical and inspiring nature writing.

The Worm Forgives the Plough – John Stewart Collis I read ‘The Wood’ which is just a chunk of ‘The Worm Forgives The Plough’ produced as one of Penguin’s little Great Ideas books. The book was written during WWII when Collis was put to work clearing and thinning an ash wood. The way he connects with the woods and the people who work and live in it is delightful and insightful and reading a snapshot of rural culture from the mid-20th century.

Consolations of the Forest – Sylvain Tesson Tesson lived in the Siberian Taiga for 6 months in 2011, in a little cabin with minimal contact and amenities. The book is a little pretentious and long, especially for a six-month adventure, but some of this, mostly philosophical, writing about the forest, the life within and world around is inspiring and thought-provoking.

Nightwalk – Chris Yates This book makes me feel all warm and excited about the world outside my door, not those far distant lands we all dream about but literally what is outside the door and over the first hill. A night walk is an excellent thing to do, I’ve not managed a full ‘no torch’ walk like Yates does but I’ll get there as soon as I convince myself demon shark-owls don’t exist.

Feral – George Monbiot This book changed the way I look at the countryside and the animals that live in it. The book uses Rewilding as it’s focus but it is so much more, Monbiot is an entertaining and passionate narrator and we get snippets of adventures he has experienced too which keeps this a page-turner. There are so many interesting theories and disgusting and amazing facts that one read is not enough. Everyone should read this book if you ask me.

Collins Tree Guide – Owen Johnson & David More This is my main Tree reference book, good pics and descriptions, I also use The Wildlife Trust and the Collins Gem pocket Tree guides as well as Tree ID, a great app for the iPhone. Native British Trees – Andy Thompson Another tree guide but a little different. The book covers only native British trees and has a lovely illustration for each one, it covers a brief identification, uses and some cultural information. The Wild Flower Key – Francis Rose Not an easy book to understand for a non-scientist but once you get the Key idea it is OK. This book was recommended to me by the instructor on a foraging course I did, it is a pretty exhaustive reference and identifying tool for all flowering plants.

Flora Britannica – Richard Mabey This book was exactly what I was looking for when I was writing this website. Scientific knowledge is pretty readily available when it comes to trees but I wanted more of the cultural histories of trees and this book is just that. Covering all flora in the U.K both from fact and Matey’s point of view but also from selected members of the public remembering the plants.

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben An inspiring book, I wish I had read it a bit earlier as it is a great introduction to some really interesting ideas about how trees function, concentrating on the relationships they have with each other and presenting them as individuals that have their own personal agenda. This is also where the book frustrates me a little. Trees are amazing the ways they get to where they need to go with regards to growth, protection, assault, reproduction, energy harnessing and storage and the symbiotic relationships they have with other trees and fungi and animals is mind-bogglingly brilliant – so why does Wholleben feel the need to personify the tree so much? They are amazing because they are not human.

Woodland Craft – Ben Law An awesome book, interesting and inspiring. Law covers all you need to know to run your own coppicing woodland as well as how to make charcoal, how to build tools and furniture. A great book to dip into and fantasise you live in the woods as well as following step by step instructions to build or craft something.

Woodland Workshop - Ben Law

Ben's follow up to Woodland Craft, more woodland goodness.

Woodturning and carving specific books. Spon - Barn the Spoon

This is the first book I would recommend if you want to learn spoon carving. Barn is spoon carving royalty and together with Robin Wood MBE set up and runs the might annual SpoonFest in the Peak District.

The book is a work of art itself and covers just enough of the technical, historical and artistic before diving into the designs and techniques.

Swedish Carving Techniques - Willie Sundqvist

Willie is a bit of a legend and this book from 1990, although a bit technical, lay the ground work for most of the modern resurgence of spoon carving.

Wood for Woodturners – Mark Baker Good for identifying wood you have but don’t know what it is.

Turning Hollow Forms – Mark Sanger Inspiring but I’m not so keen on using hidden connections to make hollow vessels.

The Artful Wooden Spoon – Joshua Vogel Lifestyle type book, some useful hints and designs and I used it to build my tool knowledge, but not a great sit down read. 

The Urban Woodsman – Max Bainbridge Another trendy spoon carving book, it sucked me in though, don’t get me wrong. Amid the check shirts and beards are some really useful tips on carving utilitarian items and some beautiful designs, as well as very good finishing techniques – I made a beeswax salve and an ebonising solution from the recipes in this book.

Carving Nature – Frank Fox-Wilson Some amazing hand carved ideas in here, pretty advanced stuff, or maybe I’m just rubbish at it.

Complete Starter Guide to Whittling – Chris Lubkemann My brother gave me this, my first whittling book and I loved following the projects so much I used to take a knife and a piece of basswood into London with me and carve in my lunch breaks.

Turning Green Wood – Michael O’Donnell A really thorough book that takes the time to cover the science of greenwood and how this relates to woodturning. Not often drawn by pages of text in a large format book like this I did actually read it and found it very interesting, understanding things like crotch figuring and stress implications in wood and how that effects the turned outcome. The book also has some great projects to follow.

Two In One Woodturning – Phil Irons I bought this after spending a couple of days with Irons himself, he is a great teacher so I thought I would get his book. The pages are split in half so you can be on a certain project referencing a certain technique at the same time. This is the only woodturning book I keep in the workshop as I seem to be constantly referencing it, does get dusty though.

Around the World in 80 Trees

The Green Wood Companion - Barry Mays

I saw some of Barry's chairs for sale in National Trust Cotehele and was blown away. My wofe bought me this book of his and I love it, so much knowledge and ridiculous attention to detail. It covers the trees, coppicing, tools, projects, foraging, etymology and folklore.

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