In the last couple years, dozens of climate change-related books have been published. Some are hopeful, some despairing, some with a more scientific bent and others of a more philosophical nature. Ecologist Lauren E. Oakes's In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World combines all of these qualities in a magnificent tale about her hunt for the dying yellow cedar in Alaska's remote wilderness. It's based on Oakes's doctoral research project, how she came up with the topic and how she carried out her research. Such a premise may sound dry, but the scientist's breezy writing style and talent for storytelling makes this one of the most engaging climate-centered reads around.
It's also an enlightening look at how science gets done. The story begins with Oakes pondering which scientific questions to ask and the likelihood that she can answer them. It then focuses on team-building as Oakes interviews a diverse group of scrappy and determined scientists to assist her field research. The ambitious crew embarks for Alaska, where they live for several weeks among some of the world's oldest trees. Oakes gets the data she needs to finish her dissertation, but also learns a compelling lesson: "What I do matters in spite of how seemingly insignificant I am in the face of climate change." Engaging and galvanizing, In Search of the Canary Tree is about more than a rare tree--it's about nature's (and humanity's) capacity for resilience in a changing world. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor