Author Archives: David George Haskell

Pulitzer Finalist: Sounds Wild and Broken

Sounds Wild and Broken is a Pulitzer Finalist.

I’m shocked and honored that the judges selected the book as one of three finalists for the 2023 Pulitzer in General Nonfiction. 

The book is now out in paperback in the US (Penguin), the UK (Faber), and ANZ (Black Inc). It is also available in many local libraries.

“Haskell serves as an irresistible guide in this nuanced and meditative paean” The New York Times Book Review “New Paperback” recommendations.

I’m so grateful for your support of this work. 

Some other books that have blown my mind recently:
Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage by Rachel Gross, Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu, How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler, Of Sound Mind by Nina Kraus, and The Cat’s Meow: How Cats Evolved from the Savanna to your Sofa by Jonathan B. Losos. On the fiction side of things, A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, Dr. No by Percival Everett, and Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem trilogy.

This is a post on my Ramble blog. I’m also sending this email to my newsletter list. If you’re subscribed to both I apologize for double posting. The newsletter goes out 2-3 times per year. The blog has additional material.

Sounds Wild and Broken is out in paperback in the US tomorrow.

As an avid reader of Penguin books, I’m delighted and honored to be part of the little bird’s flock. Pre-orders are open online and at your local bookstore.

Editor’s Choice in The New York Times Book Review

Finalist for PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

Book of the Day in The Guardian

“This is how scientific writing should be, and almost never is: suffused with wonder and pathos, throbbing with the music of the wild. Haskell conducts a magnificent symphony here. He shows us – no, lets us hear – that we are resonant animals in a thrillingly resonant universe, and that our fulfilment depends on finding the frequency that will make us resonate with everything else. His superb book sent me on my way singing, and trying to join in with the songs I heard on the way.” Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast and Being a Human

My upcoming public events. I’d love to see you at one of these! All events are in person unless otherwise noted.

Wendell Gilley Museum and Southwest Harbor Public Library. Online. Register here. March 21st, 2023.

World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. Atlantic Center for the Arts, FL. Keynote. March 23-26, 2023.

Parks & Greenspace Conference, Atlanta. Panel with Sally Bethea and Hannah Palmer. March 27, 2023.

Emory University, Center for Mind, Brain and Culture. Public lecture. April 3rd, 2023.

Gwinnett County Public Library, GA. Online. Register here. April 6, 2023

Humanities Center at California State University, Chico. 20th April, 2023.

Eugene Natural History Society and Native Plant Society of Oregon. April 21, 2023.

British Library, London. May 25th 7-8:30pm.

Society of Ethnobiology and Society for Economic Botany conference. Panel on nonfiction writing and publishing. Emory University, Atlanta. June 5th, 2023.

Highlands Biological Station, North Carolina. July 27th, 2023.

This is a Ramble blog post. If you’re subscribed to this and my newsletter, I apologize for double posting. This newsletter goes out 2-3 times per year. The blog has additional material.

Signed books and bookplates: Sounds Wild and Broken

In gratitude for the support of my readers, I’m offering signed and inscribed copies of Sounds Wild and Broken. You can get a signed copy or a bookplate here, perfect for all lovers of nature and music!

If you’ve enjoyed the book already, I’d be grateful if you could share your thoughts with your friends and family, and via social media. The holiday season is hugely important in the life of any book and testimony from readers is the very best way for people to hear about new works. Here are links to shareable pages and posts: WebsiteFacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

I’m so thankful to all my readers for your support. In Sounds Wild and Broken I celebrate and elevate the diverse sounds and creative forces of the living Earth. It means the world to me when people join me in these explorations. Thank you!

For books without inscriptions, here are a few links to the book at some of my favorite indie bookstores: Point Reyes BooksParnassus BooksMalaprops Books, and Eagle Eye Books. For links to online retailers see my publisher’s page in the US. The book is sold in the UK by Faber and in Australia by Black Inc.

For UK readers, Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree is out in paperback. It is currently on sale at Blackwell’s and other shops. Blackwell’s also ships free to the US.

If you’re looking for additional ideas for books to read or give, here are a few that I’ve enjoyed reading in the last year: How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy, Being a Human by Charles Foster, The Rise and Reign of the Mammals by Steve Brusatte, Bitch by Lucy Cooke, Sonorous Desert by Kim Haines-Eitzen, When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà, Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller, English Pastoral by James Rebanks, Of Sound Mind by Nina Kraus, and Life on the Rocks by Juli Berwald. 

I’m posting this to my blog, Ramble. If you’re subscribed to my newsletter (which goes out 2-3 times per year) I apologize for double posting.

Sounds Wild and Broken published today

Dear Ramble blog subscribers,

My next book, Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution’s Creativity, and The Crisis Of Sensory Extinction, is published today. Frogs, orcas, violins, ancient flutes, city noise, rainforests, oceans, the different sonic vibes of continents, and the innovations of baby babble: the book is a joyful celebration of sonic creativity and diversity. I also explore how listening might heal some of the brokenness of our world.

I invite you to join me in the pages of the book. Sounds Wild and Broken is on sale now at your favorite indie bookstore and online here.
(UK readers: publication date is April 21st)

Need some ear food to get a sense of one of the book’s themes? Join me in a 40-minute narrated sonic journey When the Earth Started to Sing with Emergence Magazine. Also available through all podcast platforms. I wrote the narration. Sound design by Matt Mikkelsen, Jonathan Kawchuk. Produced by Emmanuel-Vaughan-Lee.

Here is what early reviews and endorsements of the book say:

Sounds Wild and Broken is a symphony, filled with the music of life. It is fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautifully written.” Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

“A joyous celebration of the music of life… Sparkling prose conveys an urgent message.” Starred review, Kirkus Reviews. Read full review here.

“captivating…The science stories in Sounds Wild and Broken offer one delight after another.” Kathleen Dean Moore reviewing in Scientific American.

“Whether describing the human brain or the ways different conifer forests change the voices and crooked beaks of red crossbills…Haskell speaks a celebratory poetry of nature” Michael Ray Taylor reviewing in Chapter 16.

“With persistent intelligence and understated wit, Haskell uncovers one subtle mystery after another, forming a gorgeous argument for protecting all we long to hear.” Colleen Mondor for Booklist

“Listen to David Haskell:  He will transform the way you hear the world.  Haskell is one of those rare scientists who illuminates his topic—the magnificent natural sonic diversity of our planet, what we have to gain from its richness, what we have to lose from its diminishment—in lyrical, erudite prose that both informs and inspires.  This masterful book is a gift of deep aural understanding and a resplendent read.” Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way

“A stunning call to reinhabit our ancient communion with sound. David George Haskell’s gorgeous prose and deep research meld wonder with intellect, inspiring reverence, delight, and a sense of urgency in protecting aural diversity. The voice of the earth is singing with beauty and need—Haskell shows us the extraordinary gift and responsibility of being available to listen.” Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit, and Mozart’s Starling

“This is how scientific writing should be, and almost never is: suffused with wonder and pathos, throbbing with the music of the wild. Haskell conducts a magnificent symphony here. He shows us – no, lets us hear – that we are resonant animals in a thrillingly resonant universe, and that our fulfilment depends on finding the frequency that will make us resonate with everything else. His superb book sent me on my way singing, and trying to join in with the songs I heard on the way.” Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast and Being a Human

“In Sounds Wild and Broken, David George Haskell once again expands our sensory universe, revealing not only the grand variety of earthly song, music, and speech but the astonishing ways in which sound originates, evolves, and binds us together. His careful listening will sharpen your ears.” Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

“In luminous prose, David Haskell teaches us to hear the beauty and tragedy of the whole history of life on Earth. Sounds Wild and Broken will change the way you listen to nature and to yourself, and may this help us heal our planet before it’s too late.” David Rothenberg, author of Nightingales in Berlin and Why Birds Sing

“This brilliant book—and I don’t use the term lightly—will change the way you hear everything. Haskell takes us deep inside the minds and music of human and non-human life, revealing one marvel after another, and makes a powerful case for conservation that not only preserves species, but the sensory experience of life itself.” Jonathan Meiburg, musician and author of A Most Remarkable Creature

The voices of birds

Dear Friends,

What might we learn from the language of birds? How might we listen to and understand the many meanings of their speech? These are the questions I explore in two pieces published in the new Language issue of the wonderful Emergence Magazine:

The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging
“When bird and human minds connect, a new language is born…”
An essay on many marvels and meanings of bird sounds. The written essay is accompanied on the site by an audio piece in which I narrate the essay alongside the voices of dozens of bird species. To make this sonic experience, I spent several weeks weaving my field recordings with some from Gordon Hempton’s amazing library of sounds. The essay is accompanied by artwork by Obi Kaufman capturing the essence of each birds’ presence.

Five Practices for Listening to the Language of Birds
“When bird language entered my life, I felt that a new sense had been grafted into me…”
A short essay on how to listen to birds, accompanied by Obi Kaufman’s artwork by and an avian soundscape.

In the same Language issue are essays, artwork, interviews, film, and other media by Elizabeth Rush, Robert Macfarlane, Katie Holten, Charles Foster, Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder, Camille Dungy, Paul Kingsnorth, Linda Hogen, Ellen Litwiller, and others.

Many thanks to Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee, Bethany Ritz, Adam Loften, and their colleagues for editorial work and  counsel on my essays.

I have found Emergence Magazine to be an amazing resource to share with students. If you’re a language educator, this current issue has much food for fruitful and expansive discussions about the many natures of language. The magazine’s creative mix of writing, spoken word, visual art, film, and sound design also provides much classroom material for discussions about the relationships between form and content.

I wish you the best, and many wonderful sonic bird encounters, in this summer season.

EM bird image

Trees, ecological memory, and seasonal rituals

CaptureDear Friends,

As the solstice approaches, I write with a few short updates.

Holiday trees and gratitude in The New York Times:
Fir trees, olive oil, yule logs: the aromas of holiday traditions evoke deep memories. I write about the ecological meanings of these experiences today in an op-ed.
Recommended reading short-list for the winter:
The following essays and books are, I think, important and beautiful. Well worth your time:

Two essays by David Abram in the amazing new Emergence Magazine. Magic and the machine and Creaturely migrations on a breathing planet.

To Those Who Were Our First Gods, a new chapbook by poet Nickole Brown.

Lauret Savoy‘s Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape.

Michael McCarthy‘s The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy.

Reader, Come Home. The Fate of the Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf.

The Songs of Trees and The Forest Unseen are both available in paperback:

In local, independent bookstores. Find one at IndieBound
Also: AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million, iBooks

Many thanks! I send my best wishes for the solstice season.


An elder: Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata)

Elevation 12000 feet, on what the current human occupants call Mount Goliath. The oldest known tree in Colorado germinated in the 4th century BCE. Youngsters in many stands are from the 1600s AD.

Do these trees live “a long time”? Perhaps this is the wrong thought. They live not such much a long time, but in a different time. Every creature has its rhythm. For life, time is not one thing, its passage is context-dependent. For the bristlecone pine, a needle ticks its clock on a scale of fifteen cycles of summer sun and water. A sapling builds its woody core through one hundred springs. The trees call us out of our own time scale, drawing the imagination into a tempo incommensurate with our own.

A dusky flycatcher sings from the tree top, the details of the cadences of its song ungraspable by my nerves. But the bird’s nerves live in a different geometry and velocity than mine. Another time. For a bird, and more so for a microbial cell, we are the bristlecones, ancient reminders of a mostly forgotten history.  At any one place in the world: thousands, perhaps millions, of times coexist.

Under the pine roots: Precambrian rocks. Ten billion new moons, a billion winters, a quadrillion cellular divisons.

The pines:



(last photo: rings from fallen tree sliced open in visitor center)


2018 John Burroughs Medal: The Songs of Trees

The Songs of Trees has been awarded the 2018 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing. I’m honored that the book has been recognized in this way and feel very humbled to have the book listed among the list of awardees.

The book was also selected as Best Science Books of 2017 by NPR Science Friday and Favorite Science Books of 2017 by Brain Pickings.

I’m so grateful for the support of my readers. It is an honor and delight to be able to share these stories of the interconnections among trees and people.

Thank you.

And now, back to the woods where the first bloodroots are pushing into the rain-drenched litter.


Autumn at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum

En route to giving a lecture, I stopped by the bonsai collection at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. The trees are in their full autumnal splendor:

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Are these trees pitiful captives? In The Songs of Trees I argue, no, the trees — some hundreds of years old — have exchanged the community of a forest for the community of human care. A merger of lives.