Book Review: The Man Who Planted Trees


Full Title = The Man Who Planted Trees, A Story of Lost Groves, The Science of Trees, and a Plan to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins. This is NOT the allegorical tale of the same name by the French author, Jean Giono. This is the modern-day, non-fiction account of David Milarch, who survived a near-death experience, then proceeded to advocate for the trees over the next 20+ years.

To be honest, I found this book fascinating, but it’s not for everyone. It’s mostly scientific inquiry — but with a significant spiritual element. (Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive, but there are many who adhere to one camp or the other who would argue otherwise.)

Also, check out that cover quote: “The most hopeful book I’ve read in years.” Agreed… if you can get beyond the depressing analysis of where things currently stand on Planet Earth, there are elements one might describe as, “hopeful.” Once you go all the way down, the only direction left is up!

Stick THAT on your bumper and park it! (A real saying… right?)

Two comparisons to help you decide if this book is for you:

  1. Going completely old school, Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee, one of my favorite writers, walks much the same line: Practical, science-minded journalist follows a passionate, polarizing environmentalist protagonist on a quest to save our planet. Archdruid is more debate while Trees is more documentary,  but both draw you in while presenting the protagonists and their arguments in a more palatable (but still compelling) way than they would have, if left to their own divisive devices. In fact, my greatest criticism of Trees is that the penultimate chapter serves more as the author’s thesis (kind of a preachy, “Here’s what we must now do” statement) than a satisfying conclusion. (“Here’s how things turned out.”) I wanted more resolution for David (which would have further inspired me), not homework from Jim. Having said that — there is some of my desired resolution/inspiration. Enough? You decide. (Heh heh. Homework from Chad! Sorry…)
  2. Based on the blogged recommendation of a Campfire Tales follower, I recently read The Martian, by Andy Weir. That novel is almost entirely a “survival by science” scenario, with barely enough plot to hold the science together and legitimately call it fiction, like a chocolate chip cookie that is nearly all chip. (Mmmm…. melty chocolate…. What were we talking about? Oh yeah!) Trees reminds me of that kind of survival tale, presenting a global crisis through the story of one man’s awakening on a desolated planet — starting with a gripping scenario that almost defies any possible solution — then methodically reaching a (hypothetically) plausible conclusion, one genius scientific solution at a time.


This book qualifies as a true Campfire Tales classic = transformative nature experience told as personal narrative (well, kinda…) with LOTS of trees! After you read it, please let me know what you think.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Man Who Planted Trees

  1. It sounds like this book is a must have for Jaguar Creeks musty library!!
    Good review Chad. It’s not a book that I would gravitate towards, but your review totally piqued my interest.


    • Thank you Gavin! I’m hoping to expand a little on the contents in another post soon, but I should have explained that the man’s mission is to help reforest the earth with clones of Champion trees (the largest of each species). The events described take place mostly in the U.S. with a strong emphasis on Ireland, but there’s a very global appeal to the book.


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