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The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Colin Tudge
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Nov 2005 Allen Lane Science
The age of trees often inspires awe, from the redwoods of California to English oaks. We wonder how they live so long, and how they really work - after all, trees provide us with air to breathe, fruits to eat, and wood to build with - and they do the same for thousands of creatures and plants. "The Secret Life of Trees" explores the way trees work and what they are, finding out how they communicate, how they tell the time, how they came to exist, and much more. Strange and surprising, this witty and informative book will make everyone fall in love with the trees around them.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; illustrated edition edition (3 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713996986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713996982
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Magnificent. Tudge wanders trailing astonishing facts and lore behind him. -- The Oldie

One of those books you want everyone to have already read. -- Sunday Telegraph

Wonderful, invaluable and timely. Tudge is as illuminating a guide as one could wish for. -- Daily Mail

About the Author

Colin Tudge started his first tree nursery in his garden aged 11, becoming an accomplished cacti grower by the age of eighteen and marking his life-long interest in trees. Always interested in plants and animals, he studied zoology at Cambridge and then began writing about science, first as features editor at the New Scientist and then as a documentary maker for the BBC. Now a full-time writer, he appears regularly as a public speaker, particularly for the British Council and is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and visiting Research Fellow at the Centre of Philosophy at the London School of Economics. His books include The Variety of Life: A Survey and Celebration of All the Creatures that have Ever Lived and So Shall We Reap. The Secret Life of Trees brings together Colin Tudge's knowledge of trees and his fascination with them, built up from trips to the rainforest in Costa Rica, Panama and Brazil, to his time India, New Zealand, China, the United States ! and his own back garden. He is unable to choose a favourite tree, believing that variety's the thing.

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First Sentence
'I never stopped thinking like a child,' said Einstein. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arboreal trilogy 3 May 2006
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
"I never met a Tudge I didn't like" is a fitting adage for this wide-ranging author. Having written an "unauthorised biography" of life, the impact of agriculture on human development and other works, Tudge has created a masterpiece of science writing. No longer can we claim that we can't "see the woods for the trees" since he has detailed the mechanics of both in exquisite detail. At) least so far as we know now. If nothing else is clear from this book, what we don't know about the mechanisms of trees far exceeds what we've learned. Trees, so ubiquitous in their presence and so meaningful in our lives, remain a great mystery to be solved. In three almost independent segments, he spells out what is known and what needs to be revealed.

He opens with one of the most understated definitions in science writing: "a tree is a big plant with a stick up the middle". From this simplistic opening, he then develops an image of how complex that "stick" and "plant" combination is in the final product. This complexity didn't appear from nowhere - the author explains how evolution built it from simple beginnings. Most readers will be familiar with the fact that 46 chromosome are needed to make a human. Trees, through various mechanisms, may develop hundreds of chromosomes depending on conditions. The structure of a single tree almost pales against the variety of trees growing around our planet. Tall trees, spreading ones, trees that we often call "shrubs" - which are merely superbly adapted to their local environment - all reflect the immense diversity trees have developed over the ages. Although generally divided into but two forms, conifers and "flowering" trees, they comprise thousands of species, many probably still unknown.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Delight 18 July 2007
I have said before that I am a fan of Colin Tudge's writing and my enthusiasm is increased by this lovely book.

It is always a pleasure to read a book by someone who loves what they are writing about, and Tudge's admiration for trees comes through so clearly in this work. He manages to cover pretty much everything, ranging effortlessly across the botany of trees, covering (surprisingly thorughly) all the major families, noting their particular features, the curious nature of some reproductive techniques (and some really are curious!) and touching on the economic and historical importance of some species.

Finally he looks at the ecological role of trees and how they fit into the jigsaw of life in a wider sense.

I cannot see how this book could be improved - the writing is fluid and entertaining and the science clearly explained. A wonderful gift to anyone interested in the natural world. Certainly I now look much more closely at the hedgerows and woods that I pass while walking the dog!

Highly recommended.
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98 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very refreshing read 21 July 2006
This is one of those amazing books that has so much depth and richness to it that it makes it impossible to praise it enough. The book is quirky, full of interesting insights and facts, it's a historical/scientific document that serves to open our eyes to the wonders of nature. It covers all you could wish to learn about the subject and cannot fail to impress the reader with it's inventiveness and sheer creativity on the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Life of Trees 8 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`The Secret Life of Trees' is a pretty comprehensive popular science book that explore the various aspects of tree life around the world. It is written in plain language and if you have read other popular science book then you will slip right into this with ease. Part 1 looks at what makes a tree, from their basic make-up, to more in depth genetics, Part 2 (the driest part for me overall) looks at the various species around the world, how they are catalogued and how they function in their environments, Part 3 explores why trees live where they do, why they behave as they do, how they interact with each other and other animal species and a whole host of other information. This was the most fascinating part overall. Finally, Part 4 looks at the future of trees and how they can be utilised better and how we can care for them more for the benefit of the trees and society at large. This book has some wonderful phrases in it that make it all the more delightful to read, for example it says `Asokas are said to blossom more vigorously when given a good kicking by young women. Don't we all.' This and other similar phrases make a dry science book more enjoyable and raise a smile as you progress through the pages. If trees have even remotely interested you then I'd recommend this book, you will be amazed at the science and behaviour behind these seemingly benign organisms and you will never look at them in the same way again. A rare treat in a book.

Dedicated to Stephen A. Haines whose reviews inspired me to read some amazing science books and who will be greatly missed.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For Tree Lovers Everywhere 8 April 2007
I loved this book.

More of a text book than anything else, but full of amazing facts about trees that occasionally made me stop reading and tell people what I had just read.

I now want to own land and plant trees and save as many endangered species as possible before they are lost for good.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A very different approach to trees and very readable for the most part. I am an amateur botanist so enjoyed the book enormously but the general reader may find some parts a little... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Midge
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
An expensive book for second hand. I am told price is relevant to rarity. Must be very rare as price for second hand is almost 50% more than when new. Reasonable condition.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Marie A. Hancocvk
4.0 out of 5 stars All you ever wanted to know about trees
Comprehensive, clear, illuminating. Although not purchased for myself, I had to read it once I dipped in. Glad I did
Published 6 months ago by EllJamJo
5.0 out of 5 stars Dad loves It
I think my Father likes plants better than most people, the older i get the more i see why, this book opened his eyes to the complex ecological niche that trees fulfil in the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by M. Rance
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Great book for those with a passion for tress as well as the casual reader. I great insight into the trees of the world and their origins. Read more
Published 9 months ago by morris173
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on trees
Full of interesting facts that you would otherwise not be aware of. A few chapters are quite scientific but once through these the book is very readable and one which I will read... Read more
Published 15 months ago by A. SAGAR
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret life of trees.
Great book for anyone remotely interested in trees and their history. Difficult concepts brilliantly explained. Read more
Published 15 months ago by gm.kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars My obligation to read this is still unfulfilled :(
I was given this by a cherished parent in 2007 - I have tried (and tried!) to read it but find it too dry and heavy for my ditsy, grasshopper mind! Read more
Published 16 months ago by Rowan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Secret Revealed
The simple and unacademic look of the cover belies the fact that it is a book crammed full with everything you could wish to know about trees. Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2010 by Geoffrey Curtis
4.0 out of 5 stars Trees are at the heart of things
This is a totally illuminating and fascinating book. It's not, however, a book that I sat down and read from the beginning to the end, it's just too dense and too specialised for... Read more
Published on 1 Oct 2010 by Eileen Shaw
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