Biography: David George Haskell
David Haskell is a writer and biologist. His latest book, Sounds Wild and Broken (Viking), is an Editor’s Choice at the New York Times and explores the story of sound on Earth. Starting with the origins of animal song and traversing the whole arc of Earth history, he illuminates and celebrates the emergence, diversification, and loss of the sounds of our world, including human music and language.
The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (Viking, 2012), was winner of the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, winner of the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature, runner-up for the 2013 PEN E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and winner, in its Chinese translation, of the 2016 Dapeng Nature Writing Award. A profile by James Gorman in The New York Times said of Haskell that he “thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist”. E. O. Wilson wrote that The Forest Unseen was “a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry.” The Forest Unseen has been translated into a dozen languages.
In 2017 he published The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors (Viking), a study of the many ways that trees and humans are connected. The book was winner of the 2020 Iris Book Award and 2018 John Burroughs Medal, named one of the Best Science Books of 2017 by NPR’s Science Friday, selected as Favorite Science Books of 2017 by Brain Pickings, and in the 10 Best Environment, Climate Science and Conservation Books of 2017 at Forbes.com. Deborah Blum, Pulitzer winner, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, and director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT wrote of The Songs of Trees, “Haskell may be the finest literary nature writer working today. The Songs of Trees – compelling, lyrical, wise – is a case in point.”
Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree was described by Sir Peter Crane, FRS, as “‘eclectic, brilliant and beautifully written” and by Kate Humble in The Radio Times Best Books of 2021 as “My favourite book of the year”.
Haskell has also written guest essays for The New York Times, Emergence Magazine, Scientific American, and other media. With colleagues at Emergence Magazine he has created multi-media experiences with an emphasis on integration of text and sounds from the more-than-human world.
Haskell holds degrees from the University of Oxford (BA) and from Cornell University (PhD). He is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of the South, where he served as Chair of Biology. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, a 2014-2015 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, and an Elective Member of the American Ornithologists’ Union. His scientific research on animal ecology, evolution, and conservation has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the World Wildlife Fund, among others. He has served on the boards and advisory committees of local and national land conservation groups. Haskell’s classes have received national attention for the innovative ways they combine action in the community with contemplative practice. In 2009, the Carnegie and CASE Foundations named him Professor of the Year for Tennessee, an award given to college professors who have achieved national distinction and whose work shows “extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching.” The Oxford American featured him in 2011 as one of the southern U.S.’s most creative teachers. His teaching has been profiled in USA Today, The Tennesseean, and other newspapers.
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