The Golden Spruce

The Golden Spruce

A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

Book - 2005
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As vividly as Jon Krakauer put readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America's last great forest, where trees grow to eighteen feet in diameter, sunlight never touches the ground, and the chainsaws are always at work.When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night's work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.The tree, a fascinating puzzle to scientists, was sacred to the Haida, a fierce seafaring tribe based in the Queen Charlottes. Vaillant recounts the bloody history of the Haida and the early fur trade, and provides harrowing details of the logging industry, whose omnivorous violence would claim both Hadwin and the golden spruce.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, c2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780393058871
Characteristics: xiii, 255 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Nov 12, 2019

Rec by Dan??

Sep 09, 2018

Fascinating book centered around the cutting down of the famous Golden Spruce in the Queen Charlotte Islands by a white anti-logging fanatic who most likely was mentally ill and made most of what money he had by brilliantly designing logging accesses. The author explores the Haida culture and the tribe's relationship to the Canadian government, British Columbia logging practices, the ecosystem of the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the complicated life of Grant Hadwin, who cut down the tree in an apparent act of protest against corporate logging practices, with a little botany thrown in. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in First Peoples (the Canadian moniker for those that people in the United States call Native Americans) and the Pacific Northwest rain forest ecosystem.

Feb 28, 2018

This nonfiction book is dense and belabors details about logging that make it difficult to get through at times. I was expecting more of an exciting read about Grant Hadwin and the Golden Spruce but it does not feature prominently. Instead of reading the book, I would recommend John Valliant's New Yorker article that is concise, includes the interesting details, and gets to the point:

Jul 21, 2017

I loved this book. I learned about the Haida people and logging. Also what happens when someone with such good intentions goes off the deep end and does something so wrong. I found Grant Hadwin quite fascinating. I also watched the documentary about him and, among other things, was amazed at the house that he built.

Feb 13, 2017

Much ado about nothing. Journalistic style writing.

Aug 14, 2016

This was a really unique and interesting nonfiction, recommended to me by my aunt! The blurb on the book compared it to a Krakauer book, and I'd mostly agree with that. It certainly brought the temperate rainforests of British Columbia alive for me, but John Vaillant also maintains an individual writing style.

The Golden Spruce is not only the story of a singular tree; it's also the story of the Haida people and the history of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest, all intertwined. The old growth trees of the Pacific Northwest are really, really old, so the book begins way, way back, when people were just starting to populate the area. It was very interesting to read about the myths and legends traditionally associated with the golden spruce. I would've appreciated a pronunciation guide, or phonetic spellings of all the words associated with the Haida people... Vaillant provides phonetic spellings for a few of the words, but not many, and they all include a LOT of vowels with not quite enough consonants. For example, the name of the golden spruce is Kiidk'yaas.

There's also a lot of background on the logging industry in British Columbia. It takes a unique person to work in that field: all the loggers interviewed for the book said that they got into the industry because they loved being out in the woods. Yet, their job is to cut down those woods.

Overarchingly, The Golden Spruce is the story of Grant Hadwin. He's a logger who starts to see how logging will end eventually- in the total decimation of Canada's beautiful old-growth forests. I kind of got the feeling from the book that he might have been a little crazy, too. He decides to cut down the golden spruce in protest, to show how valuable a tree can be. I say that he's a little crazy, because in order to do this he had to kayak across dangerous water in Canada in February. I don't know that I'd even want to kayak in Canada in August- too cold!

At times the book felt slightly disjointed, but it did all come together at the end. I found it all pretty interesting, and remained engaged the whole time. There are black and white pictures in the middle of the book, so I had to take to the internet to find a color picture of the golden spruce.

Jun 28, 2016

Well told story, but I would have liked the author to give more details about Hadwin's writings...I can't find any copies of his manifestos.

Dec 05, 2014

This is a fascinating true story about a lumberjack gone rogue. Besides being entertaining, I feel I learned a lot about the history of the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest.

Jul 04, 2013

The Golden Spruce is truly a story of myth, madness and greed.
It gave so much information and at times I felt that it was a manifesto about the destruction of our forests and not pointing out what we are doing to our world and the people doing the destruction not getting it.

Sep 11, 2012

My son and I read this aloud to each other while visiting Haida Gwaii. It gave a depth to our own experience, kept us thinking both sides of the issues faced by our resource extraction society. Highly recommended by us as a well written, thoughtful treatment of a devastating event and the history that led to it

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Jun 26, 2012

spacecat thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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