‘An enchanting piece of nature writing and a meditation on finding connection in a disconnected world’
– Independent
‘A tribute to the power and history of the oak’
– Daily Telegraph
‘A profound meditation on the human need for connection with nature as one man seeks solace beneath the boughs of an ancient oak tree. The tree and its surrounds come to life in shimmering detail, and Canton’s writing has an exquisite, somewhat dreamlike quality.’
– PETER WOHLLEBEN, author of The Hidden Life of Trees

This book is a homage to the oak tree and the important role it plays today, in our landscape and in our lives.

James Canton spent two years sitting with and studying the ancient Honywood Oak. A colossus of a tree, it would have been a sapling when the Magna Carta was signed. Inevitably he needs to slow down in order to appreciate it fully, to tune in to its slower time frame, to connect with the ecosystem that lives around it, inside it and beneath it. 

This leads him to investigate our long-standing dependency on the mighty oak, and how this has developed and morphed into myth and legend. We no longer build our houses and boats from them, use them to fuel our fires; physically, we don’t need them in the same way now. Or do we? 

Scientists are only now beginning to discover the ways in which trees can communicate and support each other through their root systems, yet we have forgotten much of the cultural ties that connect us to the oak. 

Blending personal experience with cultural legacy, The Oak Papers is a meditative and healing book about the lessons we can learn from the natural world, if only we slow down enough to listen.

The Oak Papers by James Canton - front cover

‘James Canton knows so much, writes so well and understands so deeply about the true forest magic and the important place these trees have in it. Knowledge and joy.’

— SARA MAITLAND, author of Gossip from the Forest and A Book of Silence

‘With rare delicacy and precision, James Canton has captured the magnificence and mystique of the oak tree. The Oak Papers is a book of deep knowledge, perception, and love.’

— PHILIP MARSDEN, author of The Summer Isles

‘This is a moving, poetic and life-affirming exploration of the idea that a person can form a rich and rewarding bond with an individual tree. The Oak Papers possesses great sensitivity, real wisdom and a deep mystical power.’

— PATRICK BARKHAM, author of The Butterfly Isles and Wild Child

“A lyrical journey into our deep relationship with trees. Canton shows us how paying attention to our gnarled green elders can reveal rich layers of culture, psychology, and ecology. He is a wise and inspiring guide.”

—DAVID GEORGE HASKELL, Pulitzer finalist, author of The Forest Unseen and The Songs of Trees

James Canton visited the eight-hundred-year-old Honywood Oak during the breakdown of a long-term relationship, finding a sense of peace and calm beneath its branches. He kept diary entries of the experience as he began to observe and understand the oak’s delicate ecosystem.

The Oak Papers looks at our relationship with the natural world through cultural and literary reckonings with trees, myth, folklore and history. Canton also talks to woodsmen and women, arboriculturalists, psychologists and artists to understand our age-old connection with and dependency on oaks.