“…a welcome entry in the world of nature writers. 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. He avoids terms like “nature deficit disorder” and refuses to scold the bug-fearing masses. His pitch is more old-fashioned, grounded in aesthetics as much as science.” from James Gorman’s review in The New York Times.
“Haskell’s observational powers are impressive, his descriptions evocative, his knowledge wide-ranging, and his conclusions thoughtful and generous. Very much a contemporary biologist in his familiarity with genetics and population ecology, he also has the voracious synthetic imagination of a 19th-century naturalist. Most important, Mr. Haskell is a sensitive writer, conjuring with careful precision the worlds he observes and delighting the reader with insightful turns of phrase.” from Hugh Raffles’ review in The Wall Street Journal.
“David Haskell’s The Forest Unseen is a ‘nature book,’ and a great one, but it’s also and less obviously a book about human nature. You can’t read its lyrical, tactile prose without confronting the whole question of our place in the natural order, and of what we’re doing here. If we want to last much longer on this planet, we’ll have to learn to think differently and more deeply about those things, and Haskell can be one of our guides.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
“In The Forest Unseen, biologist David George Haskell surveys a tiny kingdom, a mere square meter of land in Tennessee’s Cumberland [Plateau]. Yet, as he demonstrates in lyrical and intricate detail, within the borders of this miniature landscape, we can find the unfolding story of life on Earth. Haskell tends his kingdom through the shifting seasons of a year, focusing not on the showy megafauna but on the small and fundamental forest dwellers, from glimmering lichen to slow-moving slugs. He writes with a scientist’s meticulous attention to detail and a poet’s way with words. As he spins his tales of the tiny and the ordinary, we see the big picture issues, from evolution to climate change, unfold in the everyday world.” From the Judges’ Citation for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Award (runner-up)
“David George Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complexity and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.” Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University
“David Haskell’s wonderful book…has been mentioned here before, but it taught me so many things about trees, leaves, light, snails, flowers, little mammals, twigs, buttercups, photons, and on and on, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It’s not like I don’t read other books, I just can’t stop thinking about this one.” Robert Krulwich, National Geographic Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich
“The Forest Unseen is simply one of the best natural history cum science books I’ve read in years.” from The Inverse Square Blog by Thomas Levenson, Professor of Science Writing and director of the graduate program in science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Haskell breaks man’s isolation and sad loneliness. He lodges humankind in place, and afterward days and thoughts bloom. He is a wonderful and learned writer, and The Forest Unseen is bright with light: its beams bring understanding and inspiration.” Samuel Pickering, writing in the Sewanee Review (Fall, 2013).
“David Haskell writes beautifully about nature, but as well, writes brilliantly about the ideas that closely examining the natural world inspire in an intelligent and perceptive human being. You can read this beautiful book simply to learn a great deal about a wide range of creatures and plants that we often take for granted…You can also read this book simply for the sheer beauty of the writing, and the brilliance of its descriptive passages. Haskell has extended beyond scientific or nature writing with a poetic and spiritual grace and the power of contemplative thought to create something very special and uniquely his own.” from David Wilk’s discussion on WritersCast
“An extraordinary, intimate view of life… Exceptional observations of the biological world…” Kirkus Reviews: Starred Review for “books of remarkable merit.”
“The Forest Unseen provides a panoply of appreciations unrivaled in recent popular ecological writing.” from Michael Buozis’ essay in The Philadelphia Review of Books.
“…as beautiful a book as I’ve read in years…I can’t remember the last time I encountered so much spiritual wisdom, ecological intelligence and contagious love for the grandeur of life…” from David Cook’s review and interview in the Chattanooga Times Free Press
“a naturalist’s work of art…lyrical” from Amber Lanier Nagle’s interview in Get Out Chattanooga.
“Nature has always challenged writers to write their best. In this latest flurry of nature-loving books, belle-lettrism thrives. And, at moments, there is a quality that one can only call “spiritual”. One is uplifted. The mood, however, is generally elegiac. Enjoy it while it’s still there, these writers imply – with what Shakespeare calls a “falling tone”: a mixture of wonder and melancholy at what may, in a generation or two, be lost.” from John Sutherland’s essay Into the Wild in the Financial Times.
“Under Haskell’s magnifying glass, what to us looks like an unremarkable forest floor takes on the exquisite, layered intricacy of a Faberge egg, its color and texture more vivid than photographs… Brimming with sensual details, when Haskell’s modest patch of turf removes its glasses, it’s as sexy as Marian the Librarian.” from Gina Webb’s review in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
“…a moving contemplation of the nature of the world around us… By restricting his gaze, Haskell succeeds in opening a larger window onto the wonders of natural science. Ecology doesn’t have to be a broad, arm-waving attempt to understand the entire planet. It can be a journey into insight begun in your own backyard.” From Alexandra Witze’s review in The Dallas Morning News.
“Vivid imagery is at the heart of this book, which mixes science with lushly figurative language” from Sharman Apt Russell’s review in OnEarth.
“…the most lucid contemplation I’ve encountered on the place of humans and human activity in the ecosystems in which we live.” from Devan McGranahan’s review in Natural Areas Journal.
“It’s not all beauty of course. Haskell…watches through a magnifying lens as a pregnant mosquito lands on his hand, feeds and flies away. I had to fight the urge to swat his literary mosquito, but Haskell resists and moves smoothly from the mosquito’s life cycle and the West Nile Virus…he segues from blood flowing through mosquitoes to calcium flowing from snail shells to birds’ eggs and sulfur flowing from fossil coal to acid rain.” from Rich Bailey’s review in the Chattanooga Pulse.
“Haskell’s stunning meditation on a patch of old-growth forest gives insight into all of nature” from Michael Ray Taylor’s review in Chapter 16.
“Mixing poetry with natural history, he follows subtle scientific threads…to conclusions of gratifying breadth.” from Eric Wagner’s review in Conservation Magazine.
“In his entirely captivating new book The Forest Unseen, he devotes a year of his attention to a one-square-meter patch of old growth forest in Tennessee, sifting through its dirt and loam, probing its nooks and crannies, pouring over its rocks with a magnifying glass and a good deal of unassuming wisdom. As in the best natural histories, there’s a good deal of highly detailed learning as well, adroitly distilled by our author in little asides seemingly designed to make every reader wish they were lucky enough to be students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of the South.” from Steve Donoghue’s review in Open Letters Monthly.
“Throughout, Haskell shows the complexity and interdependence of the natural world… this tiny scrap of woods contains a teeming soup of life beyond the comprehension of our limited human senses. Yet for him, this awareness of his own “ignorance” is a joyful one, the web of life for him transcendentally tangled… informative and inspiring meditation…” Publishers Weekly Review.
“His observations — of lichens, snowflakes, salamanders and more — are deftly interwoven with the science. His account is fascinating…” Nature. Feb 23 Books in Brief.
“…a good natural-history writer takes science and makes it more accessible. In doing so, Haskell has done a worthy job of fleshing out Blake.” from David D. Williams’ review in The Seattle Times.
“David Haskell trains his eye on a single square meter of the Cumberland Plateau, and manages in the process to see the whole living planet as clearly as any writer in many years. Each chapter will teach you something new!” Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“In the style of my favorite naturalist writers of all time Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Thoreau, David Haskell has captured the beauty and intricacy of evolution in these pages. His writing enhances the beauty of eastern forests. For those who are looking for inspiration to spend more time in the wild, David’s book is the perfect companion. His vast knowledge of the forest and all its creatures is the perfect guide to exploring wilderness. David’s prose is a perfect match for the poetic tranquility found through the study of nature. A true naturalist’s manifesto.” Greg Graffin, author of Anarchy Evolution, punk musician, and professor at Cornell University.
“In the tradition of many fine backyard naturalists from Walden Pond onward, biologist Haskell focuses on one square meter in the Tennessee forest near his home for a year of intense ecological study … With appreciation for both the forest and for scientific study, Haskell demonstrates that this is how we learn, with patience and respect for all the earth has to teach.” Booklist.