The Hidden Life of Trees – Book Review

You will discover wonders great and small in a forest.

Surely, a book entitled The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate would draw the interest of anyone who admires trees.

Trees have always fascinated me. I was a tree hugger (literally) long before I became an environmentalist. I observe trees and wonder about things like what it is like to live in the same spot for hundreds of years or to have another tree fall on you during a storm and stay there.

I came across The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben while browsing the Volumes of Pleasure book table during a break at the Central Coast Bioneers conference last November. The title was intriguing. After flipping to the table of contents and scanning the names of the chapters, I smiled and bought the book.

Book Review

Reading The Hidden Life of Trees will give you an opportunity to get to know trees and forests up close and personal. Wohlleben delivers his observations comingled with science facts in easy to read chunks of 12 pages or less over the course of 36 chapters.

Prepare yourself to be entertained and informed, maybe even amazed by some of the things you will read about in this book. I was.

The Hidden Life of Trees Book Cover

For instance, do you know that when a predator starts nibbling on its leaves some trees will begin pumping toxins into their leaves to discourage the nibbler? In addition, the tree under assault will release a scent to warn nearby trees of the danger so they, too, can pump toxins into their own leaves.

Are you aware that fungal networks connect trees to other trees allowing them to share nutrients and information or that they perform other services like filtering out heavy metals in the soil and protecting trees against bacterial attacks? In return, the fungi receive food from the trees in the form of sugar and carbohydrates.

Have you ever considered the challenges facing trees planted in parks and next to streets? These trees are not only separated from their family members, their roots must navigate around concrete, pipes, and other obstructions, and they are constantly in danger of having their limbs cut off.

Wohlleben reinforces the interconnectedness of nature and the importance of biodiversity throughout the book and gives a realistic view of what actually occurs in a forest.

“The forest ecosystem is held in a delicate balance. Every being has its niche and its function, which contribute to the well-being of all. Nature is often described like that, or something along those lines; however, that is, unfortunately, false.”

Did you see that coming?

“For out there under the trees, the law of the jungle rules. Every species wants to survive, and each takes from the others what it needs. All are basically ruthless, and the only reason everything doesn’t collapse is because there are safeguards against those who demand more than their due. And one final limitation is an organism’s own genetics: an organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life and dies out.”

Hmm, perhaps humans could learn a thing or two from trees.

The Bottom Line

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester who has written several books about trees. To my knowledge, The Hidden Life of Trees is the first one translated into English making it accessible to millions of people who cannot read in German, including me.

Wohlleben writes in a lyrical and engaging way. As you are reading the book, you can imagine yourself strolling with him through the forest conversing about tree parents and their children or sitting on a tree stump talking about how trees act as carbon dioxide vacuums.

One thing that you will notice as you are reading The Hidden Life of Trees is that Wohlleben writes about trees as beings with thoughts and feelings. Attributing human characteristics to non-humans is called anthropomorphism. A familiar example is treating your pet like a family member.

Apparently, some people believe that anthropomorphizing plants and animals detracts from science or maybe they just think it is silly. To me, that is a shortsighted view.

I believe that Wohlleben’s use of anthropomorphic terms to describe trees and other forest denizens probably contributed to the book becoming a best seller. By writing a book that is easy for people to relate to and fun to read, he has made learning about trees and forests appealing to a wide audience.

Perhaps after being introduced to trees in The Hidden Life of Trees, you and other readers will be inclined to do some further reading or research about trees, get to know trees in your own community, or take action to protect an old growth forest at risk of destruction. Regardless, you will come away having gained knowledge and at least one interesting tidbit to share with your friends.

Reading The Hidden Life of Trees is a delightful and informative experience you do not want to miss.

Featured Image at Top: Beech Tree Forest Canopy in Germany during the Summer – Photo Credit Shutterstock/ Alexandra Theile

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The Resilient Investor – Book Review

Invest in your best life.

You will never look at the word investment in the same way after reading The Resilient Investor. Investing is about more than money, it is about your life.

The full title of the book by financial advisors Hal Brill, Michael Kramer, and Christopher Peck is The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money. That should give you a clue this is not your typical investment 101 book and you will not be learning how to get rich by investing in the stock market. What you will gain is a broader perspective about investing and a toolkit to help you create your own resilient investment plan.

The Resilient Investor Book CoverI was interested in reading this book for two reasons. First, I was curious. I wondered if it was possible for three money guys to speak about non-financial matters in an understandable and useful way? Second, I wanted to learn more about investing in people, communities, and companies that are taking the long view and working towards keeping Earth habitable now and in the future.

Book Review

“Does the challenge of making informed decisions about your life seem far more complex today than it did even a short time ago? Does the future—your own and that of the world—feel highly uncertain, perhaps even precarious? We can sense you there, nodding in agreement.”

When I read the first few sentences of The Resilient Investor (above), I thought, “Yes that is exactly how I feel.”

Before reading this book, I would have automatically associated money with the word investment but I think the authors’ expanded version is much more useful because it encompasses your whole life and that is what is important.

“…try this on for size: investing is something that we all do by directing our time, attention, energy, or money in ways that move us toward our future dreams, using a diverse range of strategies.”

Readers as you move through the book you will learn about the Resilient Investing Map (RIM), a handy tool for making notes and organizing your thoughts about what you want to keep doing, stop doing, or start doing when it comes to investing in your life. You can work on your own RIM as you read the book, read the whole book and then use the RIM, or skip the RIM entirely and use your own method. I am taking the middle approach. I have read the book and now I am doing my RIM.

You will learn how to recognize your real net worth and about close to home, global, and evolutionary investment strategies (remember it is not just about money). A discussion of possible future scenarios encompasses a full spectrum of outcomes from doom and gloom to a bright new world. These scenarios combined with various investor profiles will help you identify your own worldview, where you stand, and what is important to you.

To help you evaluate your own situation and create a resilient investing plan the authors provide a step-by-step guide and examples from their own lives.

The book wraps up with a review of sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) an approach that screens investments for environmental, social, and governance factors as well as traditional return on investment financial measures.

The Bottom Line

Not surprisingly, tax season is what led me to read The Resilient Investor and write a review about it this April. I do not know about you, but money is usually on my mind when I am collecting and organizing information for our income tax returns. To me, this seems like the ideal time to expand my thinking about investing and to create my own resilient investing plan. I hope you think so, too.

The authors of The Resilient Investor, Hal Brill, Michael Kramer, and Christopher Peck are managing partners of Natural Investments, a B Corporation specializing in sustainable, responsible investments. Jim Cummings is a writer who works with Natural Investments and is the editor of the book.

Admittedly, Brill, Kramer, and Peck are not a diverse trio. They describe themselves as “three college-educated white guys who all co-own a specialty investment company.” However, they do have decades of resilient living and investing experience and a compelling vision for a resilient future.

The book is short (less than 200 pages) making it easy to read and carry around. The writing style is conversational and straightforward. A companion website offers more information and downloadable blank and example RIMs.

“In the end, despite our continued positing that the idea of investing needs to be expanded, there comes a time to drop the distinctions that divide our daily lives into categories. There is only one activity that we are all engaged with all the time: we are simply trying to live our lives the best we can.”

Reader Note: I first learned about The Resilient Investor while reading a newsletter from Natural Investments. Our financial advisor is a member of the Natural Investments team. When I asked him about the book, he offered to give me a copy. I chose to invest my time in writing this review because I think readers may find the book informative and useful.

Featured Image at Top: Purple Flower in a Metal Spring with Loose Petals on a Wood Surface – Photo Credit Shutterstock/Alta Oosthuizen

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