10 Best Tree and Forestry Reference Books and Guides

Most Valuable Forest and Tree Books

Here are ten excellent tree and forest reference books, most still in print, that can make the job of managing trees easier and enhance the pleasure of forest and tree education. One book will even give you an edge in preparing for and landing a good forestry job.

These books were selected because they have proven to be of great help to the forest and tree user. I also selected them for their simplicity and easy reading. They are often referred to and quoted from by tree lovers, ​foresters, and forest owners and are good despite their publishing date.

Best Forest History Book

American Canopy turns North American forest history on its head and into a delightful story that transcends forest agency and industry publications. Eric Rutkow fleshes out little-known but significant historical events to form an intriguing account of trees in the United States.

Most Comprehensive Book on Individual Trees

Dr. Michael A. Dirr, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, has compiled arguably two of the most useful (and beautiful) books on landscape trees available. Widely used by arborists and urban foresters, Trees and Shrubs ​and ​Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates describe the most appropriate woody plants to plant under conditions defined by site location and desired characteristics demanded by the planter. 

Best Beginning Forest Owner Manual

This James Fazio reference is the best "beginning" book on forestry and woodland management I have found to date. It provides practical information on everything from controlling woods road erosion to identifying tree insects to inventorying your trees. Some recommended forest practices have improved since the 1985 book was published but most information is sound and has stood the test of time. Buy the book used if you can't find it new! 

Best Tree Leaf Identification Series

This book is easy to use by anyone who is generally familiar with tree identification and available in Eastern and Western US editions. It is a product of the United States Forest Service's Chief dendrologist and tree identification expert. You can identify a tree by using four keys including leaf shape, flowers, fruit, ​and autumn color including a "thumb tab" of botanical shapes. 

Best Book on Growing Christmas Trees

Lewis Hill has written the most popular how-to Christmas tree book in print. Hill covers it all: selecting and preparing a site; cultivating and maintaining production and harvest; finding wholesale and retail markets; plus he includes a grower's calendar and a list of associations. This is a great first book on growing Christmas trees. 

Best Book on Obtaining Forestry Degrees and Jobs

This book by Christopher M. White is in many forestry agency and forest industry libraries. It should be every forestry student's first book to purchase. It is the best book I have found describing what a forestry career is like and can help you find a job in the woods. A must buy when looking for a job in forestry. ​

Best Book on Urban Tree Facts

Arthur Plotnik, in consultation with The Morton Arboretum, brings the tree lover a different kind of tree identification book - a book that brilliantly transcends traditional and oftentimes dry tree texts. I often check to see what Mr. Plotnik has to say about a tree beyond the technical prose of more prescriptive texts. This book explores interesting and much more readable tree facts. 

Best Information on Favorite North American Landscape Trees

Guy Sternberg and Jim Wilson's book "Native Trees for North American Landscapes: From the Altantic to the Rockies" highlights 96 common native American trees for inclusion in your landscape. The trees are individually reviewed with a wealth of information including range, seasonal and physiological descriptions. Each tree's habitat and associated assets and problems are discussed. I love the final comments which share some of the most interesting "facts" on each tree. ​

Best Practical Book on Arboriculture

I bought my first edition copy of this well written and well-organized tree care guide early in my career. This book simply but thoroughly describes the latest in new woody landscape plant selection and maintenance practices, There is enough scientific and technical background for training Urban Foresters and Arborists in the practice of arboriculture. This 3rd Edition is an all-in-one reference book that informs using recommended practices on the basis of research.

Best "all you need to know about a tree" Book

If you are a tree lover and would enjoy a great read dealing with tree ecology and physiology, this is your book. I often use this book to explain tree biology simply but precisely and comprehensively. It is the most interesting book I have read on the treatment of the individual tree to an educated but non-technical reader.