How to Love a Forest

The Bittersweet Work of Tending a Changing World

How to Love a Forest

The Bittersweet Work of Tending a Changing World

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Available September 10, 2024

A tender, fearless debut by a forester writing in the tradition of Suzanne Simard, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Robert Macfarlane.

Only those who love trees should cut them, writes forester Ethan Tapper. In How to Love a Forest, he asks what it means to live in a time in which ecosystems are in retreat and extinctions rattle the bones of the earth. How do we respond to the harmful legacies of the past? How do we use our species' incredible power to heal rather than to harm?

Tapper walks us through the fragile and resilient community that is a forest. He introduces us to wolf trees and spring ephemerals, and to the mysterious creatures of the rhizosphere and the necrosphere. He helps us reimagine what forests are and what it means to care for them. This world, Tapper writes, is degraded by people who do too much and by those who do nothing. As the ecosystems that sustain all life struggle, we straddle two worlds: a status quo that treats them as commodities and opposing claims that the only true expression of love for the natural world is to leave it alone.

Proffering a more complex vision, Tapper argues that the actions we must take to protect ecosystems are often counterintuitive, uncomfortable, even heartbreaking. With striking prose, he shows how bittersweet acts--like loving deer and hunting them, loving trees and felling them--can be expressions of compassion. Tapper weaves a new land ethic for the modern world, reminding us that what is simple is rarely true, and what is necessary is rarely easy.


"Beautifully written, full of scenes those of us who live in and love the forests of the northeast will recognize immediately." 

--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and other books

"Rarely has our personal responsibility for the natural world that supports us been so eloquently articulated. Ecological wisdom abounds in Ethan Tapper's story of restoration: wisdom that needs to be spread far, wide, and fast. His ironic yet accurate message? To save a forest, trees need to die. Read this book and find out why." 

--Doug Tallamy, author of Nature's Best Hope

"How do we fix a broken world? With patience and love, Ethan Tapper reveals the hidden historical forces that have sculpted our landscapes, and proves that, given enough wisdom and labor, we can still restore our degraded forests. If Aldo Leopold were a twenty-first-century Vermont forester with one good eye and a contemporary understanding of power and privilege, this might be the sort of book he'd write." 

--Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter and Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet 

"I read a lot of books about science and nature, yet rarely do I find a book that feels so welcoming and accessible while also delivering important and novel information; I wrote in the margins on each page exclamations of wonder and awe, and I learned many new concepts about forest ecology. Tapper takes a wide view back into the history of human disturbance in nature, and a philosophical overview of how we can work toward a more mutualistic relationship with the forests in the future. This is a manifesto against apathy, for as Tapper came to realize in his early days as a forester, there's 'nothing radical about doing nothing.' Tapper offers insights and suggestions for how to love a forest sustainably."

--Frances Cannon, interdisciplinary writer, editor, educator, and artist; Mellon Science and Nature Writing Fellow at Kenyon College 

"With strong prose, Ethan Tapper creates an impassioned argument for why each of us should create a more holistic and responsible relationship with our forests--not solely the trees, but the incredible diversity of organisms that exist within them." 

--Tom Wessels, author of Reading the Forested Landscape 

"Forests are a place so many of us find peace, inspiration, and balance, yet the complexity of our relationships with these ecosystems and the reciprocal role we play as stewards is seldom acknowledged. How to Love a Forest bravely and eloquently explores the powerful connections made and restored by engaging fully with the ecology, wonders, and challenges found in our forests, providing an important perspective of love, care, and action so needed at a time of unprecedented change." 

--Tony D'Amato, professor of Silviculture and Applied Forest Ecology, and Forestry Program director, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont 

"This is an unforgettable story from an important new voice in nature writing. The book could only have come from the deep experience of a working forester and the big heart of a gifted writer. Ethan Tapper's book is a love story for our time, beautiful and revolutionary. It left me filled with hope, seeing the forest and the world around me with new eyes." 

--Philip Lee, author of Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River

"With visceral personal experience and a deep sense of history, Ethan Tapper describes the rich life of a forest. Alongside him, we feel the pulse of the Vermont forest at Bear Island as he's working to restore it to health. His book sensitively draws together forest history and social history. The two meet in this personal story of life and place. How to Love a Forest is itself a vibrant life and a rich education." 

--David A. Taylor, writer, filmmaker, and author of Ginseng, the Divine Root: The Curious History of the Plant That Captivated the World 

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9798889830559
  • eBook ISBN 9798889830566
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 229
  • Publication Date September 10, 2024