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Tree (Object Lessons)

Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Tree explores the forms, uses, and alliances of this living object's entanglement with humanity, from antiquity to the present. Trees tower over us and yet fade into background. Their lifespan outstrips ours, and yet their wisdom remains inscrutable, treasured up in the heartwood. They serve us in many ways-as keel, lodgepole, and execution site-and yet to become human, we had to come down from their limbs. In this book Matthew Battles follows the tree's branches across art, poetry, and landscape, marking the edges of imagination with wildness and shadow. Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
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Table of Contents

Part One: Feral Trees The Tree of Heaven In a Dappled World A branching Heuristic Part Two: Garden and Forest In the Tree Museum From Ailanthus to Apple The Charter of the Forests Part Three: A Dark Abundance The Tree and/in History With and Without Us Notes Index

Promotional Information

Explores via art and literature our complicated material and economic entanglements with trees and their products.

About the Author

Matthew Battles is Associate Director of the metaLAB and Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, USA. His previous publications include Library: an Unquiet History (2004), The Sovereignties of Invention (2012) and Library Beyond the Book (2014).


What astonishingly good writing! What a joy of a book. What a mind, this Matthew Battles. As he writes about trees, Battles could as well be describing his own wild mind: 'uncanny, possessed of depths and mystery, and feral in ways beyond my ken, . . . overspilling with dark abundance, . . . richly disruptive to one's daily commute.' * Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change (2016) and Piano Tide: A Novel (2016) * Battles ... shows how trees-and perhaps more importantly our relationships with trees-are incredibly complicated. Even dappling-that wonderful light that comes through a tree's leaves-is not as simple as it seems ... He makes clear that trees and their data have important stories to tell. That is if we let them. * PopMatters *

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