Review: The Long, Long Life of Trees, by Fiona Stafford


Published by: Yale University Press

Publication Date: 2nd August 2016 (UK), 27th September 2016 (USA)

Price: Hardback – £11.89 (UK), $30.00 (USA); Kindle – £11.30 (UK)

I.S.B.N.: 9780300207330

The usual disclaimer: I received this book in return for an honest review.


A lyrical tribute to the diversity of trees, their physical beauty, their special characteristics and uses, and their ever-evolving meanings

Since the beginnings of history trees have served humankind in countless useful ways, but our relationship with trees has many dimensions beyond mere practicality. Trees are so entwined with human experience that diverse species have inspired their own stories, myths, songs, poems, paintings, and spiritual meanings. Some have achieved status as religious, cultural, or national symbols.

In this beautifully illustrated volume Fiona Stafford offers intimate, detailed explorations of seventeen common trees, from ash and apple to pine, oak, cypress, and willow. The author also pays homage to particular trees, such as the fabled Ankerwyke Yew, under which Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn, and the spectacular cherry trees of Washington, D.C. Stafford discusses practical uses of wood past and present, tree diseases and environmental threats, and trees’ potential contributions toward slowing global climate change. Brimming with unusual topics and intriguing facts, this book celebrates trees and their long, long lives as our inspiring and beloved natural companions.

Fiona Stafford is professor of English language and literature, University of Oxford. She is author and presenter of two highly acclaimed series for BBC Radio 3 titled The Meaning of Trees. She lives in Bucks, UK.

My Review

I like trees; have I ever mentioned that I like trees? Well I do. There’s something very soothing about wandering about under the branches of trees. It’s possibly because the air seems cooler and more refreshing, or possibly because I can avoid people when I hide in the woods. Whichever it is, I like trees. Unfortunately I keep forgetting which is which. It’s a terrible curse, to love something but not know its name.

I really enjoyed this book; it was a meandering, lyrical paean to trees in all their variety, and the illustrations were quite delightful, although I think a few colour photos wouldn’t go amiss. I enjoyed the discussion of historical trees, the cultural significance of trees and their uses. It made me want to go out and play in the woods again, something I haven’t done for a while because I’ve been avoiding people and the summer holidays have only just ended; the woods were infested with children until last weekend.

5/5 Most definitely recommended


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