The Overstory by Richard Powers–Book Review

The Overstory will change your view of trees. 

The Overstory by Richard Powers has me looking at trees in a whole new light.

This 501-page novel is a wonderful, enchanting, and true work of art.

Move this book out from under the overstory of your “To Be Read” pile as soon as you may.

The roots of my love of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Yosemite’s trees go deep.

Between my love affair for the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite, (really all the trees of Yosemite) I have long had a thing for trees.

This appreciation expanded when my Great Pyrenees, Maycee, and I returned to the woods of the UP, in 2022.

The roots of this book run even deeper. 

The book is divided like a tree, into sections–root, trunk, crown, and seeds.

At first, I wondered where the vignettes were going, then in the trunk I began to smile with glee. Things began to make a lot of sense and the magic of storytelling really began to unfold.

The Overstory by Richard Powers is a beautiful book and one of the best-written works I have ever read.

The Overstory by Richard Powers is a beautiful book and one of the best-written works I have ever read.

Without trees, we all die; or maybe not.

The Overstory reminds us that trees are critical to the future of our sustainability. But the author makes this happen without pushing us out the door under the direction to go outside and hug a tree.

Environmentalists rant and rave about how killing the trees is killing the planet.

What Powers writes suggests is that when we do away with what is keeping us alive as humans things will still rejuvenate. Yes, trees and forests; the things that have been around for millions of years, long before us. 


There are inspiring quotes in this book; piercing lines that are true to heart.

“And what do good stories do? … They kill you a little. They turn you into something you weren’t.” pg 412

Amen to that.

This is what reading this book did to me.

At the novel’s end, my heart felt somewhat sickened.

Perhaps this is evidence of the grieving I felt.

Unsettled anger builds from reading what happens to the characters.

The crutch of the argument so-called climate change experts miss about sustainability. 

Apologies to you if you are of the ilk who run around with the words “climate change” vomiting from your lips. 

I do not buy into the nonsense that human beings are capable of destroying the earth the way “science,” says we are doing. As the late Rush Limbaugh used to say often, “They had to quit calling it ‘global warming‘ because temperatures quit rising.” 

Maybe something of an exaggeration, but seldom do I ever buy into the nonsense that spews from the mainstream news agenda and lack of bias in, well, I refuse to call it reporting. But that’s all for another day. 

“Noah took all the animals two by two, and loaded them aboard his escape craft for evacuation. But it’s a funny thing: He left the plants to die. He failed to take the one thing he needed to rebuild life on land, and concentrated on saving the freeloaders!” pg 451

Nearly every society worldwide has some version of the great flood in its history.

In 2012, I recruited a team to work with North and South American archaeoastronomers to create an interactive book for the iPad.

One thing the four primary scholars who wrote books discounting the end of times meme all pointed out is that almost every independent society on the planet has an accounting of a great deluge in its history.

Powers is clearly a science guy.

I don’t know how spiritual he is.

Doesn’t matter.

What’s clear is this: given what Noah didn’t do, things worked out well regardless.

Trees and other fauna have a power we do not understand. Plants, roaches, and Keith Richards, as they say, will survive us all and adapt to this world despite what we do.

Jumping into the briar patch. 

“The year’s clocks are off by a month or two.” pg 452

He dabbles in the climate change, and global warming argument here.

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” pg 488

Richard Powers presents some great arguments in this book by telling a masterful story.

The only issue with sharing this book with others.

The problem with spreading this tale is that the book is more than 500 pages.

In the days when a website filled with emoji text and a lack of intellectual proses, few will read something that long.

But for those who do read and keep reading, I promise, you are in for a treat.

Will I ever read The Overstory again?

I loved The Overstory. Someday, I want to read it once more.

UPDATED in June 2023: Now, instead of reading a tome like The Overstory about trees, I’m spending long periods of time in the woods of Upper Michigan. My world is often full of various sorts of maple, pine, and oak trees.

From saplings barely an inch in diameter to ones I cannot wrap my arms all the way around. I’m learning about how to manage the forest of 40 acres my father bought in 1975  for pennies.

There’s also more to a forest than the trees and that’s what I love most. While I am living off-grid, I’m plugged into the living world around me. And it’s more alive than many of the people I know stuck in urban and suburban environments and feeling loathe they cannot stomach for much longer.

Powers’ writing is rich and colorful.

When characters spend 10 months on a platform in a great redwood out west living 20 stories above the forest floor, you feel like you’re doing the same.

His writing is superb.

I highly recommend this book.

I just wonder, if the intent was to move people to action, if it had to be so long.

But as a fellow writer, don’t know where I could or would cut a single thing.

The writing is poetry and the story’s worth telling from beginning to end.


This is an image of the tree line from the new County Road 510 Bridge near Marquette, Michigan.


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Donald J. Claxton | The Timberlander, a selfie from camping for 13 weeks in 2022 on the Claxton family land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northwest of Marquette.

Donald J. Claxton is
‘The Timberlander’

Hello, I’m Donald J. 

I refer to myself as “The Timberlander” because I love off-grid living and woodworking.

My Great Pyrenees, Maycee, and I enjoy spending our time in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In the UP, I craft, make, grow, run, carve, and generate:

  • Custom crosses
  • Timber frame shelters
  • A garden
  • My water
  • Basswood figurines and ornaments
  • My own power

Check out my crafts for sale in The Timberlander’s Treasures.

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