A visually alluring book that succeeds well as a coffee table book.
Anything having to do with wood, woodworking, tress and forests catches my attention very quickly. And “The Life & Love of the Forest” is a real eye catcher. It’s a large, visually alluring book with just over 100 full one- and two-page photographs. The photos are grouped into seven sections, each accompanied by reflections from the author: What is a Forest?, Origins, Infinite Variety, Imaginary Places, Personal and Productive, Call it Home and The Future Forest. There’s also a rather lengthy introduction, in which the author sets the tone for the book. Interspersed throughout the book are 14 pages of short one-line quotes.
PUBLISHER: Harry N. Abrams
AUTHOR: Lewis Blackwell
FORMAT: Hardcover, 217 pages
As a living room or den ‘coffee table book’ – which I think is meant to either inspire conversation among like-minded friends or help you pass the time in a leisurely fashion – it works well. Many of the photos in the book are beautiful (and inspiring) – especially those that span double pages.
While for the most part I enjoyed the text – finding much of what the author had to say informative and thought provoking – I did find it like a deep dark forest – very dense. I felt at times like I was listening to someone talking non-stop. It didn’t help that the publisher has chosen a very small font size that, at least for me, quickly led to eye strain.
However I found a lot of similarity in the selection of photos and felt that the placement of the photos in relation to the text was mostly arbitrary. I was curious as to who took the photos and where (as the author writes that the photos are the work of ‘leading nature photographers’. Unfortunately the names of the photographers (and where the photos were taken doesn’t appear next to the photos, but at the back of the book. And, if you look at the photo credits, you’ll find names like “simon’s photo”. “duncan 1890” and “unmask83”. Lewis Blackwell was the creative head of Getty Images and it seems that many (if not all) the photos in the book are simply stock images from Getty. I’ve no problem with using stock photography in a book, but I would have liked to be told so up front.
Again, for the single page quotes I had to flip to the back of the book to find the source. And a lot of the quotes seemed to me to be a tad trivial, for example “Life on earth is inconceivable without trees”.
So, should you pass on this book? Not necessarily so. It’s a lovely book to display in the living room, you can certainly pass a hour or so leisurely scanning the photos, and if you can get past the small font size, the author has some interesting observations to share.
Carl Duguay - [email protected]
Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.