From asking what a tree is, to studying their evolution, their uses, and discussing their extreme importance in the ecology of the world, Tudge gives an overview – and in many cases a deeper analysis – of the world of trees. This includes the evolution of wood and questions as to the reason why there is such a preponderance of trees at the equator, while there are relatively few as you move closer to the poles.
The book’s contents is split into four broad topics:
- What Is a Tree?
- All the Trees in the World
- The Life of Trees
- Trees and Us
A handy glossary is also provided at the back of the book to explain terminology like monocot, eudicot, etc. and to serve as a reminder to the reader. This is one aspect of the book which I also enjoyed – Tudge trusts the reader enough to follow the contents of the book without backtracking the whole time and giving explanations or definitions of specific terms over and over again. (This backtracking and repetition is one of my pet peeves with a lot of documentaries shown on TV.) In The Secret Life of Trees, Tudge also gets enough into the nitty-gritty of the subject without letting the book become a scientific treatise. It truly is a “love-letter to trees” as the Financial Times so aptly described it. That said, this is not a light read, but quite a dense text. It is well worth it, though – and you don’t have to be a botany buff to enjoy it.
The Secret Life of Trees also has a cover adapted from one of Arthur Rackham’s artworks (“In the Forest with a Barrel”), which, for me, just perfects this package of fascinating facts.
I can highly recommend The Secret Lives of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter to readers who are interested in botany, the natural world, and those who simply love trees. It really does give one a better understanding of the natural world around you and I’ll definitely reread this volume in the future.
Tudge, C. (2006). The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter. Penguin Press Science Series, Penguin.