Book Rec: “Overstory” by Richard Powers


Andrew Fippinger, English Teacher

I’ve just finished Richard Powers’s 2018 novel The Overstory, a 500-page-long, Pulitzer-Prize-winning tome about trees. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Trust me, it is. Although Powers develops a wide cast of finely-drawn characters whose complex narrative arcs deftly weave in and out of one another’s, the novel is first and foremost about the lives of trees and how we humans interact with and, usually, fail to understand them. The novel asks us to think about the world from a perspective that is older and slower than ours, a world in which humans are minor characters, not protagonists. It’s an inspired work of imagination and environmentalism that has made me look at trees and their ecosystems in a new light. Cooped up indoors during this pandemic, I found the experience of reading such an immersive novel about nature to be especially poignant.