National Geographic Reminds Us Why It Is the Perfect Time to Head ‘Into the Forest’ [REVIEW]

Green trees
Trees are nature’s history keepers. (Photo courtesy Canva)

As adults, I think we forget about the magic of trees. When we are children, we scale them to touch the sky, lay beneath them to dream, and build houses in their branches to plan epic adventures. Yet as life goes on, they can blend in with the wallpaper of our lives. But in Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s new book from National Geographic, Into the Forest, she teaches us about the secret language of trees and how extraordinary they really are.

Susan Tyler Hitchcock's INTO THE FOREST
National Geographic

In Nat Geo’s grand tradition, this book is jam packed with stunning photographs. It is amazing how gorgeous one tree can be on its own, such as a flaming red Japanese maple. But when we gaze at an entire grove of aspens with their golden leaves which seem to glitter in the sunlight, they are simply breathtaking. Each tree is beautiful in its own way, and this book features 185 photos that will undoubtedly wow you.

Beyond that, Hitchcock takes our examination of these amazing plants from a panoramic view to a microscopic one, teaching us how their transport cells change based on the season, how the rings of a tree come in so many varied patterns, and how they provide a detailed history of the places in which they grow. I found it fascinating that in one case, the logs used on an ancient wooden walkway in England revealed that they are even older than Stonehenge by a thousand years!

Within the six chapters of this book, Hitchcock takes us deep down forest paths and prods us to take a closer look at the vast acres of foliage, from their sprawling root systems to their thick trunks and agile treetops. Some of them, like the aforementioned aspens, are actually one living organism, each a clone of the other. We truly gain a deeper appreciation of these “arboreal wonders.”

Flipping through this book is like taking a meandering hike through nature alongside a smart, thoughtful guide whose love for her subject is indisputable and infectious. By the time you finish perusing its pages, you’ll find your appreciation for trees has grown. As an added benefit, the beauty of the wood will relax and restore you. And I dare say you will soon find yourself reaching for your camping gear and gassing up your car to head Into the Forest yourself.

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Susan Tyler Hitchcock has been writing all her life. Her first book, Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager’s Year, was published by Harper & Row in 1980.

Since then, she has authored 12 more books of her own, ranging from a memoir about a year-long sailing trip with her husband and two small children to a cultural history of Frankenstein’s monster, continuing work she began while earning her PhD in English at the University of Virginia.

In 2001 she began working as a book editor for National Geographic, focusing on nature and science especially. In that role, she has developed dozens of new titles and contributed writing for many of them. She is thrilled that National Geographic will publish her next book, Into the Forest, in 2022.

She lives in the country south of Charlottesville, in the house she and her husband built. She tends a garden of flowers and vegetables and roams the forest nearly every day.

Follow her on Twitter.

Susan Tyler Hitchcock
Susan Tyler Hitchcock

By Susan Tyler Hitchcock
352 pp. National Geographic. $35.

Purchase Into the Forest: The Secret Language of Trees direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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