I have always loved trees. Whenever my siblings and I would go to the large park near our home, I would find a tree to sit in. I liked sitting in the large, sturdy pine next to the playground, but often I would clamber into one of the three small Judas trees at the other side of the park. The feeling of the rough bark underneath my fingers and the sight of the branches reaching up into the endless blue sky always entranced me. A year later, when I started a biology course, I realized that trees are not slow and sleepy, but awake and working. And when I read The Hidden Life of Trees—well, I was just blown away.
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World (originally published in German) is a nonfiction book by Peter Wohlleben. Wohlleben is a German forester who worked in civil forestry for more than twenty years. Now, he cares for a beech forest in Hummel, Germany. In his book, he reveals hidden aspects of trees’ lives, exploring concepts like the “wood wide web” and trees’ social lives. In this volume, Wohlleben proves that trees are much, much more than lumber machines.
Throughout The Hidden Life of Trees, Wohlleben explains that trees are deeply social beings. Like humans, they need other trees to help them grow to their full potential. Some trees are so closely interconnected that when one dies, the other dies too. Wohlleben also suggest that trees can think and learn just as well as you and I. Does that mean that trees are conscious? Do they think like we do? Or do they possess a total other level of consciousness that we fail to recognize?
The Hidden Life of Trees is a clear, straightforward book. Wohlleben uses “popular” language, that is to say, the language that you and I use when we speak (in opposition with academic language). Some readers have criticized Wohlleben for using this kind of language, saying that it makes the book seem trivial and weak, but I think that it promotes full understanding of the complicated concepts described in this book. Furthermore, Wohlleben often illustrates his points with stories from his own forest, which makes this book even more of a crystal-clear read.
The Hidden Life of Trees is a spectacular book. Written in a clear and concise style, it opens the doors to a beautiful, slow, and vigorously alive world that we have only just begun to explore.
Middle-grade nonfiction, ages 12 and up.
You can buy this book here.