Top 10 Non-Fiction Books on Trees and Forests

When we compiled our last Top 10 list on National Forest non-fiction books in honor of our new publication, we realized there were many great books on forests that did not fit that category.  So we created this list of the best books we have read about specific tree species and forests.  Some of the selections are history, some biology, some biography, and some ecology (or a mix of all four).  Click here to see all of our Top 10 lists, including quite a few other book lists. 

10. Beyond the Aspen Grove (1970) by Ann Zwinger

Quaking aspen trees are special, not just because they grow huge clonal stands or turn beautiful colors in the autumn

9. Oak: The Frame of Civilization (2005) by William Bryant Logan

From Eurasia to North America, the many species of oak trees have been essential to humankind

8. The Bristlecone Book: A Natural History of the World’s Oldest Trees (2007) by Ronald M. Lanner

An in-depth look at the oldest single-stem trees on the planet—Great Basin bristlecone pines

7. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter (2005) by Colin Tudge

A great introduction to dendrology full of fun facts and figures

6. Tales from the Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life  (2001) by David W. Wolfe

The visible parts of forests would never grow without the activity of trillions of microorganisms in the soil

5. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation (2012) by Eric Rutkow

The history of forests in the U.S., including the huge impact of chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease

4. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (2016) by Peter Wohlleben

Unable to move, trees use pheromones and other means for intraspecific and interspecific communication; the author also published Forest Walking in 2022

3. The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed (2005) by John Vaillant

Basically about a mutant Sitka spruce tree that was killed, this well-written story is hard to put down

2. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring (2007) by Richard Preston

Mostly set in Redwood National Park, this book focuses on the people who research the tallest trees in the world

…and finally our #1 non-fiction book on trees and forests:

1. A Sand County Almanac (1949) by Aldo Leopold

The greatest ecologist of the twentieth century, Aldo Leopold worked in Gila National Forest as a young man where the events of the seminal essay “Thinking Like a Mountain” took place

Honorable Mentions

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History (2010) by Diane Wells

A beautifully illustrated sampling of information on common trees from around the world

Tree: A Life Story (2004) by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady

The life cycle of a single tree, beautifully narrated and illustrated

What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses (2012) by Daniel Chamovitz

An excellent summation of decades of little-known research on plants of all sizes

The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (2012) by David George Haskell

A detailed look at the activity in a small patch of old-growth forest in Tennessee

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