Roger McDonald reviews 'The Songs of Trees: Stories from nature’s great connectors' by David George Haskell

The Songs of Trees takes its title from something that might not actually happen. Do trees sing? The notion runs through the American biologist David George Haskell’s second book in twisty directions, like a half-caught melody. (His first book was The Forest Unseen, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013.)

Don’t trees just make sounds, crackling in the frost, growling in the wind, banging their branches against each other? Isn’t singing what birds and people do, something other than the involuntary reaction of, say, pine needles (in Haskell’s words) as they ‘harrow the wind, fracturing it with thousands of unyielding tines, scoring the air with violent grooves’? Isn’t song more an intelligent, artistic assembly of melody and feeling, a form (even for birds) of heightened, directed speech?

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Published in October 2017, no. 395

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