The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees: The Ash in Human Culture and History

by Robert Penn

Rating: ***

I enjoyed parts of this book immensely, it was reassuring to realise that woodworking craftsman are still surviving, thriving and passing their generations-old knowledge down. Penn writes charmingly about the wood to the extent that it's almost tactile as you read. The technical sections I found a little heavy-going and I did lose my thread a bit with some of his in-depth explanations to gauge various elements of wood. There could certainly have been more diagrams to support these especially for readers like myself. I agree with other reviewers that the title is slightly disingenuous as he, himself, does not actually make anything but visits others, who are all interesting characters and make the narrative, but I do think the title could be adapted. I found the history of the ash fascinating and the book certainly taught me about the tree. I did find some of the writing veered into self-indulgent, pastoral musings which I felt were a little forced but a nice, little read nonetheless.


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