The forest unseen A year's watch in nature

David George Haskell

Book - 2012

In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world. Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life. Each short chapter begins with a simple observation: a salamander scuttling across the leaf litter; the first blossom of spring wildflowers. From these, Haskell spins a web of biology and ecology, explaining the science that binds together the tiniest microbes and the largest mammals and describing the ecosystems that have cycled for thousands--sometimes millions--of years. Each visit to the forest presents a nature story in miniature as Haskell... elegantly teases out the intricate relationships that order the creatures and plants that call it home. Written with grace and empathy, The Forest Unseen is a grand tour of nature in all its profundity.--From publisher description.

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New York : Viking 2012.
Main Author
David George Haskell (-)
Physical Description
iv, 268 p. ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Preface
  • January 1st-Partnerships
  • January 17thùKepler's Gift
  • January 21stùThe Experiment
  • January 30thùWinter Plants
  • February 2ndùFootprints
  • February 16thùMoss
  • February 28thùSalamander
  • March 13thùHepatica
  • March 13thùSnails
  • March 25thùSpring Ephemerals
  • April 2ndùChainsaw
  • April 2ndùFlowers
  • April 8thùXylem
  • April 14thùMoth
  • April 16thùSunrise Birds
  • April 22ndùWalking Seeds
  • April 29thùEarthquake
  • May 7thùWind
  • May 18thùHerbivory
  • May 25thùRipples
  • June 2ndùQuest
  • June 10thùFerns
  • June 20thùA Tangle
  • July 2ndùFungi
  • July 13thùFireflies
  • July 27thùSunfleck
  • August 1st-Eft and Coyote
  • August 8thùEarthstar
  • August 26thùKatydid
  • September 21stùMedicine
  • September 23rdùCaterpillar
  • September 23rdùVulture
  • September 26thùMigrants
  • October 5thùAlarm Waves
  • October 14thùSamara
  • October 29thùFaces
  • November 5thùLight
  • November 15thùSharp-shinned Hawk
  • November 21stùTwigs
  • December 3rdùLitter
  • December 6thùUnderground Bestiary
  • December 26thùTreetops
  • December 31stùWatching
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

The Buddhist mandala is a spiritual representation of the universe, a visual mantra that aids in meditation. In this book, biologist Haskell (Univ. of the South, Tennessee) invokes the metaphor of the mandala to contemplate the complexity of nature found in one square meter of old growth forest. Over a calendar year, Haskell visited the "mandala" weekly to listen and observe. Crawling through the leaf litter, with magnifying glass in hand, Haskell discovers the hidden world of mosquitoes, caterpillars, liverworts, and fungi. Descriptions from the bizarre "Swiss Army knife" mouthparts of the tick to the fantastic 50,000 pulses of sound per second of the katydid illuminate the wonders of this small plot of land. Writing in prose reminiscent of Thoreau, Haskell captures the impact of seasonal change in 40-plus essays that intertwine natural history and philosophy. The recognition that humans are part of the whole is what sets this book apart from most other ecology texts. Forest Unseen, with an extensive bibliography for each chapter, invites the reader to hear the song of the wren with fresh ears. Summing Up: Recommended. All collections, all readers. B. A. Losoff University of Colorado at Boulder

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In the tradition of many fine backyard naturalists from Thoreau onward, biologist Haskell focuses on one square meter in the Tennessee forest near his home for a year of intense ecological study. He considers the subtle changes to his mandala (a term chosen for its representation of a universe within a small space) with careful attention, resisting the urge to focus on dramatic turns and instead patiently seeking out plants like the hepatica, noting its bud, flower, and fruit. Lured down to the ground in search of the most infinitesimal alterations, he observes caterpillars and katydids, earthworms and ants. Playful similes assert themselves: Hickories are sports cars; Maples are all-wheel-drive passenger cars. He sees triumph against great odds in the production of syrup and the evolution of taste buds in an insect's failure to thrive in a bed made of the New York Times. (Pulped balsam fir is the culprit.) With appreciation for both the forest and scientific study, Haskell demonstrates that this is how we learn, with patience and respect for all the earth has to teach.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Over the course of a year, University of the South biology professor Haskell makes frequent pilgrimages to a meter-wide spot along a slope in an old-growth Tennessee forest. During his visits, he peeks beneath the leaf litter, shivers at the howls of coyotes, and watches the light change as he gazes up at the green canopy of July or November's bare twigs. Turning the patch of forest into his own natural laboratory, he reveals the science behind these moments of beauty, delighting in the resourcefulness of spring wildflowers and musing on the ecological partnerships that sustain lichens and other creatures. Throughout, Haskell shows the complexity and interdependence of the natural world, in which even the golf balls thwacked from a nearby green play a role. The Buddhist art of the mandala becomes a central reference point for the project, which contemplates the importance of close observation of the world around us. In the end, Haskell finds that even 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. This informative and inspiring meditation will give curious readers a few new things to pay attention to when walking through the woods. Agent: Alice Martell, the Martell Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Following the example of monks and writers, award-winning teacher (and sometimes poet) Haskell (biology, Univ. of the South) turns his gaze to the small things-insects, plants, and birds-living in a single square meter of one of Tennessee's old-growth forests. He returns to the same patch of forest over the course of a year and, in a series of vignettes, draws readers' attention to the quiet details of the place. For instance, he sees a chickadee shiver for warmth in the wintertime and a mosquito feast to stomach-swelling proportions in the spring. Haskell uses these moments to remind readers of their position in a shared, common ecosystem that reaches far beyond the forest. VERDICT Haskell brings the aspects of forest life that most often go unnoticed to the forefront with vibrant detail as he easily moves from microscopic to global observations. His book should prove engaging for a variety of audiences-from serious readers of nature writing to casual readers of nonfiction. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/11.]-Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.