“[Leland] brings the botanical into direct relationship with the spiritual, using a prose style that is as profound as it is pyrotechnic.” —Jim Warren, Washington and Lee University
Award-winning nature writer John Leland offers a collection of twenty-seven short, poetic essays that marry science and the humanities as the author seeks meaning in trees. Readings in Wood is an investigation of trees and forests and also of wood as a material that people have found essential in the creation of society and culture. Leland views with wit and erudition the natural world and the curious place of human beings as saviors and destroyers of this world.
At once personal memoir, natural history, and cultural criticism, the book reflects Leland’s idiosyncratic vision. As vast as a forest, topics range from tree grain and leaf shape to economic theories, mathematics, and engineering. Readings in Wood is a hybrid testament of science, faith, superstition, and disbelief learned from sitting on tree trunks and peering at leaves and fungi. Leland hopes others will join him in nature’s classroom. Quite aware of the irony, he reminds us, “These leaves you desultorily turn over once hung in a green wood gone to make this book. Touching a book, you touch a tree. I pray that Readings in Wood’s essays, touching you, may justify in some small way the trees who died in their making.”
“This book constitutes a hymn to the technical and the beautiful, a meander through the geography, geology, botany, mathematics and vigor of our plants, especially in the southern Appalachians.” —R. T. Smith, editor, Shenandoah, and writer-in-residence, Washington and Lee University
“Informative, thoughtful, inspiring, and innately entertaining.” —The Midwest Book Review