From the Book Jacket: Like many of us, historians have long been guilty of taking trees for granted.  Yet the history of trees in America is no less remarkable than the history of the United States itself--from the majestic white pines of New England, which were coveted by the British Crown for use as masts in navy warships, to the orange groves of California, which lured settlers west.... America--if indeed it existed--would be a very different place without its millions of acres of trees. As American Canopy shows, trees were essential to the early years of the republic and indivisible from the country's rise as both an empire and a civilization.  As symbols of liberty, community, and civilization, trees are perhaps the loudest silent figures in our country's history....  Today, few people think about where timber comes from, but most of us share a sense that to destroy trees is to destroy part of ourselves and endanger the future.  

Awards and Distinctions

Winner of the Association of American Publishers’ 2012 PROSE (Professional and Scholarly Excellence) Award for U.S. History

Finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award, 2013

Smithsonian Magazine's Top Books of 2012 Book Club Selection, 2012

New York Times Match Book selection in Science and Nature, 2017

Selected Reviews

"A deeply fascinating survey of American history through a particularly interesting angle." --Pulitzer Prize-Winner Anthony Doerr, The Boston Globe

"Rutkow is clearly enraptured by his topic and, like another great popular historian, David McCullough, has a knack for making the reader enraptured as well. He tells history's story as just that: a story, not a boring lecture." --Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune

"Rutkow has cut through America’s use and love of trees to reveal the rings of our nation’s history and the people who have helped shape it." --The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Sound and enlightening." --Colin Woodard, The Washington Post

"Broad-ranging, engaging...[Rutkow's] stories yield an original and often surprising take on American history." --Gerard Helferich, The Wall Street Journal

"[A] richly-distilled cultural history of our even-handed and comprehensive history that could not be more relevant." --Tal McThenia, Bloomberg Businessweek

"Rutkow’s unique, eye-opening history helps us see clearly both the forest and the trees. —Donna Seaman, Booklist Starred Review

"For those who see our history through the traditional categories of politics, economics, and culture, a delightful feast awaits.  In this remarkably inventive book, Eric Rutkow looks at our national experience through the lens of our magnificent trees, showing their extraordinary importance in shaping how we lived, thrived, and expanded as a people.  A beautifully written, devilishly original piece of work." --Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Oshinsky

"Both delightful and enlightening--a book filled with fascinations and surprises about a subject I had never though about (much less read about) before.  That it's written with such charm and grace only intensifies its appeal." --Best-selling historian Daniel Okrent

"American Canopy marks the debut of an uncommonly gifted young historian and writer.  Ranging across four centuries of history, Eric Rutkow shows the manifold ways in which trees--and woodland--and wood--have shaped the contours of American life and culture.  And because he has managed to build the story around gripping events and lively characters, the book entertains as much as it informs.  All in all, a remarkable performance!" --Bancroft Prize Winner and National Book Award Finalist John Demos

"In American Canopy, Eric Rutkow works a wonderful magic.  He takes the most obvious of things--trees--and weaves an astounding and complex narrative that ranges across American history." --Pulitzer Prize Finalist S.C. Gwynne

"Right from its quietly shocking prelude--the cavalier and surprisingly recent murder of the oldest living thing in North America--Eric Rutkow's splendid saga shows, through a chain of stories and biographical sketches that are intimate, fresh, and often startling, how trees have shaped every aspect of our national life.  Here is the tree as symbol and as tool, as companion and enemy, as a tonic for our spirits and the indispensable ingredient of our every enterprise from the colonization voyages to the transcontinental railroad to Levittown.  The result, both fascinating and valuable, is a short of shadow history of America.  Toward the end of his finest novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes that the 'vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.' American Canopy retrieves those trees and does full-rigged (on tall, white-pine masts) justice to the dream." --Richard Snow, former editor in chief of American Heritage

Selected Media Appearances

Diane Rehm Show, May 2012 (full hour)

The Lewis Lapham Podcast, Bloomberg Network, August 2012

The Diane Rehm Show, “U.S. Forests and Trees,” July 2014