Treehouses: The Art And Craft Of Living Out On A Limb, by Peter Nelson
When one reads a lot of books about the same subject , it is clear when someone has an odd personal approach to the subject that is well worth reflecting upon. The author is clearly a fan of treehouses–enough to have written a couple of books on the subject–and this book is an odd hybrid that is nonetheless an enjoyable read even if it is somewhat strange. That is not to say that the book is any worse for being odd, not least because the author exposes a great deal of his own personal experience in the building of treehouses and it becomes clear to the reader that he is not in fact a very skilled constructor of treehouses, which makes it easier for the rest of us to enjoy with him the efforts of those who are more skilled in such trades. It is also worthwhile to reflect upon the fact that treehouses as structures have a long history and that they have been enjoyed by people ranging from the inhabitants of Oceania and Southeast Asia on the one hand to European chapel-building monks to Queen Victoria (who visited one still extant treehouse in England when she was young).
This relatively short book of a bit more than 100 large pages could have really used a table of contents to make its contents more plain, but alas, it lacks that. The book begins with a personal introduction and then provides a brief history of treehouses around the world, including the Swiss Family Robinson in literature. After that there is a section on children’s treehouses. This leads to a discussion of finding the right tree in which to put a treehouse as well as construction and the task of getting the structure aloft whether one is doing a one-tree or two-tree (or more) treehouse. A lengthy case study of the Saltspring Island treehouse, which the author participated in the building of, follows this, with details on what was done by whom on which day of the week-and-a-half build. After this there is a discussion of treehouses of the world, including one dramatic effort that wrecked a marriage and ended its builder in jail and ended up taking six years rather than three days to build as well as numerous other less dramatic builds. The book then ends with a brief discussion of the modest scope a treehouse can have as well as photo credits.
What worth is it to reflect upon what this book is about? For one, the author provides wise advice that it is harder to estimate the time and materials that will be involved in creating a treehouse than one may think. This encourages the reader to estimate more time and materials (and cost) than one might first guess so as not to be disappointed when it requires more effort than one first believes it will. This is in general a wise policy when it comes to estimating the amount of time and effort it will take to do anything, for that matter. It is also worthwhile to note that our interests are not ours alone. The fact that people live in trees all around the world and enjoy staying temporarily in trees all around the world even if they do not want to live there all the time should remind us that it is not all that unusual to enjoy spending time in the trees above it all, as it were. The author shows a variety of trees and construction materials and approaches that shows how to live in trees and how it can be done in a reasonable fashion, and that is enough to make this book an enjoyable one.
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