Brenda Cooper

Reading Recommendation: Overstory, by Richard Powers

Every once in a while, a book’s ideas and presentation will wake me from sound sleep and make me fumble out of bed and grab coffee at an odd hour.  This does not happen often anymore; as a writer I am often ever-so-slightly distanced by being able to see the bones of a book. But not by this book.

The Overstory pulled me in and held me.  Richard Powers has clearly been reading the same books I have (The 6th Extinction, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, The Hidden Life of Trees, more…). I turned these ideas into science fiction with Wilders, and shortly, Keepers.  Richard Powers turned them into a powerful work of high-art fiction, with a mild speculative undertone.  It’s really, really good.

Powers’s prose is excellent.  He’s as good as Barbara Kingsolver or Ursula LeGuin. There are beautiful sentences and brilliantly executed ideas and subtly transmitted emotion and information.  All of the things I read great literary fiction for.

Perhaps the best book I’ve read so far this year. Note that I recommend you buy it in hardcover. It’ a beautiful book.  I consume much of my fiction in audio, but this book is one I wanted to feel in my hands, to thumb, to stop stare at sentences and admire them. Audio does not allow you to see the shape of sentences.

Even as pretty as they are, none of his sentences are as beautiful as the trees and people he is writing about, although they make those trees and those people luminescent. That is the work of a truly skilled writer.