3.5 stars. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring is a narrative nonfiction account of researchers who climb to the tops of the largest living organisms on the planet, the giant redwoods. Or perhaps it’s the tale of people so obsessed with climbing these trees that they became researchers; I’m not quite certain which it is. Richard Preston starts with an electric account of a first climb up one of these giant trees, replete with white-knuckled fear, a foolhardy leap of faith, and an encounter with hornets.
Had the whole book kept pace with that searing opening, this would have been a fantastic read. As it was, the book soon went off on the tawdry doings of its cast, who were largely so blinded by their obsession with trees that everything else was discarded in their lives. Their exploits, successes, and failures at climbing would have been much better than the neglects of their social lives.
I also would have enjoyed this book much more had it focused on the trees, especially what they found in them and what it felt like to climb up one. Too much of the text was taken up with the quest for the tallest redwood, seemingly replacing knowledge and science with a world record quest. Some pictures would have been a valuable addition as well!
I certainly enjoyed and learned from The Wild Trees, but it could have been so much more.