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OAK: The Frame of Civilization

William Bryant Logan, Author
William Bryant Logan, Author . Norton $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-04773-8
Reviewed on: 04/18/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-393-32778-6
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There's good reason for the oak being called mighty, writes certified arborist and former New York Times columnist Logan (Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth ) in this sprawling biography of a tree. It's ubiquitous, highly adaptable and was once the most essential tree in the Earth's temperate zones. Easily harvested acorns arguably nurtured people long before they learned to sow and hunt. Oak lumber, readily available and remarkably flexible, once made possible the naval and trading ships of seafaring nations; the same wood, shaped by craftsmen using fundamentally the same tools for thousands of years, was used to craft casks that stored water, wine and food on long voyages and through the seasons. Now, the tree that, according to Logan, once shaped civilizations, providing all "the material necessities for human life," is used primarily in the Western world for wooden pallets and low-end flooring. With this multidisciplinary study's recipe for acorn bread, its paean to the currier's leather-making craft and the cooper's barrel-making skill, and its thumbnail forays into religious rites, natural science and the importance of squirrels and jays, this work is an entertaining and instructive homage to the oak. 30 illus. not seen by PW. (June)

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