Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Review:- William Bryant LOGAN – “Oak – The Frame of Civilization”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- Borrowed from Helen
ISBN: - 0 393 047773 3
Pages: - 335pp
Genre: - Non-Fiction -
How I came across it: - Suggested by Helen
Rating: - ***** **

One sentence summary:- Ink, ships, bread, works of art, houses, swords, saddles and a wide variety of other things have at some time had their origins in the oak tree and this book traces the relationship between the Oak tree and humans.

General comments:-
A fascinating and highly enjoyable account from which I learned a lot. I had not, for example, appreciated that acorns were probably the staple food of many early cultures.


…What is special about oaks?... ‘Nothing’ … oaks never overspecialized… . The persistent, the common, the various, the adaptable has value in itself. The oak’s distinction is its insistence and its flexibility. It specializes in not specializing.

Since the glaciers last retreated… there have been but two versions of the world: the world made with wood and the world made with coal and oil. One lasted twelve to fifteen millennia; the other has lasted about 250 years so far.

To discover the world that made us, look at what it has left us – half-timbered houses; Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings executed in oak gall ink; Viking Age oaken ships buried with the dead; Bronze Age oak log coffins; ancient barrels, casks, vats, and tuns; wine corks and truffles; fossil leaves from thirty million years ago that just might be from the first oaks; layers and layers of what botanists call “pollen rain”; living oaks over five hundred years old and the black hulks of oaks that drowned beneath the rising seas ten thousand years ago, trees that don’t have even a branch until ninety feet up the trunk.

AUTHOR Notes:- William Bryant Logan is a certified arborist and the author of three books, including ‘Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of Earth’ which has been made into a feature documentary.

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