German Literature Month Review: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Translated by Jane Billinghurst


My Interest

I enjoy a few nature books most years. This one caught my eye because my son works for a tree service and devoured our Audubon Field Guide to Trees of North America not long after he started work. I saw this book and decided to read it to see if it was worth giving his as an extra Christmas gift. It is among 2 or 3 contenders for that honor so there could be more tree book reviews later. My verdict is–I think he would read it. He isn’t a big reader but when it really interests him he will read. This is a nonfiction book and that would normally be ok with him only if it was about a rapper or maybe an artist.

My other interest was, by chance, seeing the word “fungi” in a quick look-through of the book. I am fascinated by mushrooms and forests teem with them. This part of the story, I thought, might be really interesting.

Thanks to blogger Lizzy’s Literary Life for bringing this gem to my attention. Why not be nice and click and read her review, too? Bloggers love visitors!

The Story

Forester Wohlleben loves trees. His life’s work is in a forest in Germany. He is a scientist so he pays very close attention to the details the trees in his forest. Happily, he is also a very good writer (and Billinghurst is a very good translator) so reading about such details is a joy and not a struggle. He makes the forest come as alive to the reader as it is to him. So, the fungi I was looking forward to were just icing on a very nice cake of a nature book.

What Wohleben describes is the lifespan of trees. Not as in 6th grade science class and ring-counting and all that, but about communities of trees, families of trees, the socio-economic strata of trees, the gentrification of forests, the urban decay of forests, the street kids, street gangs, and, cooperative development agencies of the forests–none of which are people. Wohleben’s study of trees has let him understand the language of trees–their interpersonal communication. He explains how the different players in the forest community fulfill their roles, putting it all into such expressive and readable prose that I read over 60 pages in one sitting.

Here are a few very short, illustrative glimpses into what Wohleben has discovered:

“Spruce store essential oils in their needles and, and bark, which act like antifreeze.”

“Then there are the weevils. They look a bit like tiny elephants that have lost their enormous ears.”

Here is a typical prose passage to give you a feel for the joy of reading this book:

“And what if an oak gets a deep wound or a wide crack in its trunk as a result of a lightening strike? That doesn’t matter to the oak, because its wood is permeated with substances that discourage fungi and severely slow down fungal decomposition…Even severely damaged trees with major branches broken off can grow replacement crows and live for a few hundred years longer” (p. 97, Kindle Edition).

Unexpectedly, I have a new possible favorite nonfiction book of the year. It was simply that good.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Translated by Jane Billinghurst.

Added bonus: This book also works for Nonfiction November and Novellas in November (they include nonfiction novellas).  Though it is maybe a tad long for a true novella, it reads as quickly as one.


Novellas in November? Nonfiction November? Both?

Two great reading events just in time for my long Thanksgiving to New Year’s break! I’m back in graduate school for one year doing a certificate for my job and it has taken up most of my reading time since late August. It will be a relief to be able read what I want. I already signed up for German Lit Month, but have gotten nowhere with that one. Maybe I can find a short novel in translation and get a “two for” out of it? I do that. It’s all just for fun.


Novellas in November (Cathy) or Novellas in November (Rebecca) is new-to-me, but sounds perfect for the fiction I will read in November. Here’s their weekly theme schedule, if you want to play along. The theme starts on Monday.

2–8 November: Contemporary fiction (Cathy)

9–15 November: Nonfiction novellas (Rebecca)

16–22 November: Literature in translation (Cathy)

23–29 November: Short classics (Rebecca)



Nonfiction November is perfect, too, for the stack of new nonfiction titles I’ve recently bought. Katie @ Doing Dewey, Julie @ Julz Reads, Leann @ Shelf Aware, and Rennie @ What’s NonFiction? are hosting this nonfiction reading challenge. (There is also a Goodreads Group with the same title,)

Here is their weekly theme schedule:

Week 1: (November 2-6) – Your Year in Nonfiction

The first week you may write a post about the nonfiction you’ve read so far this year.

My 2019 Year in Nonfiction post.

Week 2: (November 9-13) -Book Pairing (nonfiction to fiction)


2019 Pairings post.

Week 3: (November 16-20) –Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

Not sure about this one? Here’s my post from last year to give you an idea.

Expert Recommendations of Royal Books

Week 4: (November 23-27) –New to My TBR

If you are new to the world of reading challenges, TBR just means your “To Be Read” list/pile/shelf.

2019 New to My TBR



Remember, November is also German Literature Month! My announcement post is here.


But wait! There’s more! It’s also Aus Reading Month! Post coming later this week!

Will you be joining in? Leave me a comment and tell me your plans!


German Literature Month! November 2020

This year I’ve really enjoyed participating in various reading challenges! Irish Literature, Spanish Literature, literature of women writers in translation–you name it! So, having studied a tiny bit of German, why not do German Literature Month–I mean, it’s their 10th Anniversary! So, I’ll join in to help celebrate.

What I’ve Already Read Translated From German

Inkheart is wonderful–my daughter and I talked about it over a decade after listening to it together. The Swiss Family Robinson was so good–I’m glad I tossed back my brother’s Scholastic version from the 1960s and read the unabridged version. It was wonderful. I honestly cannot remember if I read ALL of All Quiet on the Western Front or just excepts. No matter, I’ve “read it” and won’t be picking it up for this challenge. Did anyone else watch the t.v. version with The Walton’s Richard Thomas (“John-Boy”) in the lead?


What I Might Read

These are the only books written in German and Translated into English that I am aware of owning right now. Given the reality of this year, both are a long shot at best.

A Couple I May Try


The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky

Käsebier Takes Berlin by Gabriele Tergit

The Turncoat by Siegfired Lenz–there is a Read Along for this title, the week of November 22–28.


You can read all about the challenge and how it works at Lizzy’s Literary Life. Also go and visit Beauty is a Sleeping Cat--the other host of the challenge. Possibly the best blog title ever!