The Wild Trees by Richard Preston is a narrative non fiction that follows the first scientists to explore the canopies of redwood forests by climbing into them from the 90s to the the 00s, as well as an amateur botanist trying to find the tallest tree in the world. Interspersed with the story are descriptions of the science and natural history of the redwoods, so anyone who is interested in biology, especially that of the Pacific Northwest, it is sure to be fascinated with the journey through the coastal pacific Northwest and northern California.
I started this book immediately after reading The Lord of the Rings series for a second time, and it was a perfect follow up. Indeed, the lead scientist was himself a Tolkien reader who gave many of the titan redwoods he discovered names from LOTR. In the spirit of Tolkien, the botanists looked at a place in nature that no one else had paid attention to, and were rewarded with the discovery of a whole new ecosystem in the 370 foot high trees.
The book could use more pictures, especially of the redwood forests and the other flora of the area. Much of the plant life described is difficult to visualize simply from reading, especially since lichens play a large part in the scientists’ redwood canopy discoveries. Also, I believe that the stories of the botanists personal lives could have been better told, as there are times when it feels like a soap opera against the background of a forest, minus the juicy parts (the author resorts to rather Victorian language when matters of sex come up).
For best effect, put visiting California’s redwoods on your bucket list; I know I’ll have a new appreciation for the forests there after reading this book.