Having a hard time pushing through these last few weeks of winter? I sure am. The lack of sun, low temperatures, and dearth of green life outside can make life feel pretty bleak this time of year. Using a sunlamp and reading deep in the folds of a cozy comforter help with the first two wintry downers, but my certified black thumb makes buying indoor plants a no-go for me. What could fill my need for nature and greenery without leaving my warm, comfy couch? Books, of course! But not just any books, we’re talking books that simulate the experience of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.
Forest bathing is the practice of taking leisurely, mindful walks in a forest environment and experiencing nature through all the senses. Developed in Japan in the 1980s, studies have shown that forest bathing has remarkable effects on health and well-being.
This all sounded great to me when I first heard about it, so last summer, I read Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, by Dr. Qing Li, and gave forest bathing a try. I don’t know if taking the time to slow down and absorb nature through the senses (I literally gave some trees a hug) lowered my blood pressure or boosted my immune system, but I know I felt calmer and less stressed whenever I did it.
Slowly walking through a lush forest in the summer was a joy for me, but walking among leafless trees in winter’s frigid temperatures doesn’t have nearly the same effect. My solution: read books featuring trees galore in the warmth of my home.
A little silly and a lot unscientific, perhaps, but reading luscious descriptions of leaves and wildlife certainly made me forget about the cold weather outside. So, If you’re looking for books to help you get through the rest of the winter season, try indoor forest bathing through books with these tree-filled titles:
I’ve included a particularly “foresty” quote and a brief summary for each book
Harry’s Trees, by Jon Cohen
“Awakened by the sun, the terminal bud on the beech opened. A hint of green — the beginning of the beginning…A second bud opened. A third, a fourth, dozens, thousands. A wave of sound cascaded from the top of the three to the bottom, as the sun rose and the beech tree came to life. The chirping birds, hidden within the green of the forest, erupted as one.”
Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy–Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key torighting her world. Now it’s time for Harry to let go… ~From the publisher
Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
“It is easy to become besotted with a willow. The Rapunzel of the plant world, this tree appears as a graceful princess bowed down by her lush tresses, waiting on the riverbank for someone just like you to come along and keep her company.”
Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life–but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. ~From the publisher
“In a normal year we would be walking in zestful bounty of a southern mountain spring, through a radiant, productive, newborn world alive with the zip of insects and the fussy twitter of birds — a world bursting with fresh wholesome air and that rich, velvety, lung-filling smell of chlorophyll you get when you push through low, leafy branches.”
Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes–and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.
For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. ~From the publisher
The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohllenben
“I began to notice bizarre root shapes, peculiar growth patterns, and mossy cushions on the bark. Suddenly, I was aware of countless wonders I could hardly explain even to myself.”
Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.
After learning about the complex life of trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again. ~From the publisher
Now, I won’t pretend that reading books about trees will provide the same benefits as true forest bathing, but hopefully, these books will make winter a little more bearable.