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3 Works 397 Members 10 Reviews

About the Author

Eric Rutkow, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, has worked as a lawyer on environmental issues. He splits his time between New York and New Haven, Connecticut, where he is pursuing a doctorate in American history at Yale.American Canopy is his first book.
Image credit: R.J. Julia

Works by Eric Rutkow


Common Knowledge




This is both a book about trees and American history. It's also an interesting read.
Catherine.Cox | 7 other reviews | Jun 17, 2024 |
An interesting angle from which to approach American history: trees, forests, the lumber industry, and ultimately the ecology movement. Well written and well researched. (Of necessity, near the end it sort of loses focus on American trees and forests because our interaction with these things now occurs on a global stage due to international trade in wood products.)
Treebeard_404 | 7 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
This is a nonfiction book about how the abundance of trees in the U.S. intersected with development of our nation. An interesting topic and one that worked very well for large sections of the book and less well in others. I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Rutkow writes about how valued trees were to European settlers. They were used for housing, fencing, furniture, etc. But also for ship building - especially exciting was the abundance of very tall straight trees that could be used for masts. He talks about trees used for food (apple, orange, chestnut, etc.) He moves into talking about lumber mills and paper mills and the progression of mindset from "the trees are there for us to use in whatever way we need", to conservation, to environmentalism. I also was interested in the section about the American Chestnut and the Elm tree that were decimated by introduced fungi.

As you can see, he casts a wide net and covers a lot of topics. I preferred those that really kept trees as the focus. Some of the chapters were too much about politics. And it was also sad, though not a new idea, to delve in to all the ways we've ruined our forests. The long section on paper mills lost my interest.

Overall, I am glad I read this book, but it wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be. Or maybe I just wanted a different focus than the author chose. Either way, it's a soft recommendation from me.
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1 vote
japaul22 | 7 other reviews | Apr 1, 2023 |
Three books in one, this, and at least one of them is on topic. The first and longest book concerns itself with nineteenth-century efforts to build a Pan-American railroad. Although this topic has a reasonable claim to be useful backstory to a book which purports to be about the Pan-American Highway, it deserves perhaps twenty-five pages instead of its bloated, tangent-ridden course which includes everything from a mini-history of Trans-Mississippi railroading to chapter-and-verse on Central American and Mexican politics of the period. The second section, on the United States' Good Roads Movement, is even less relevant and should have been omitted entirely. Finally, 200 pages in, we get to the Pan-American Highway, and the book is good thereafter. I have no complaints about the author's scholarship or writing style (well, except that why does he keep referring to "Panama and Central America--which part of East Africa does he think Panama's in, anyway?). Getting all these excrescences out of the book would have given him space to write about the course of the highway in South America, about which he says next to nothing. This book could have been a 200-page foccaccia oizza instead of a 360-page lump of unleavened dough.… (more)
Big_Bang_Gorilla | 1 other review | Jan 19, 2022 |



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