Tree book hits funny bone

Tobin Mitnick's Must Love Trees offers a quirky celebration of all things arboreal

Cover of the book "Must Love Trees: An Unconventional Guide," by Tobin Mitnick
Mitnick’s lively guide puts trees exactly where they belong: at the center of our universe. Courtesy Rock Point.

Unlike banana peels and hand buzzers, trees aren’t exactly known as a source of laughs. But in his debut book, Must Love Trees: An Unconventional Guide, Tobin Mitnick finds plenty of funny in the forest, along with much to admire and, yes, adore about trees.

An actor, comedian, and writer (don’t miss his essay about redwoods and religion in our magazine), Mitnick is perhaps best known as the social media maestro behind @JewsLoveTrees. Fans of his TikTok musings will appreciate his book’s similar mix of surprising tree facts, clever pop culture references, and approachable charm. Yet unlike his quick-hit videos, here Mitnick has room to detail his dendrophilia across more than 200 pages, divided into three sections, plus a handy, witty glossary. (“Xylem: The cells that transport water and nutrients. Also, the obvious choice for a tree-centered nightclub name.”)

As promised, the guide offers an “unconventional” take on trees, with the first section focused on Mitnick’s person experiences with his woody pals. He details his masochistic obsession with bonsai, maps the chapters of his love life on a redwood tree’s rings, and rates the “hug-sperience” of wrapping his arms around various tree species. (Coast redwoods get an A+ for providing a “fire-resistant shmoopie-fest” reminiscent of hugging Nana.) Mitnick also delights in dishing unpopular opinions about trees, defending the “unholy monstrosity” known as the Bradford pear, skewering the beloved sycamore’s ability to fully coat a car in pollen, and deriding Joshua trees and palms as “fibrous arrangements” with no memory.   

Author Tobin Mitnick hugs a coast redwood tree.
The squishy bark of a coast redwood receives high “huggability” marks. Courtesy @JewsLoveTrees.

But the book isn’t all cheeky rants and fanciful ratings. Mitnick takes pains to include a short scientific section outlining the basics of tree botany, biology, and ecology. Though he gives readers a free pass to skip this educational interlude, anyone wishing to impress their next date with memorable dendro facts should keep reading. What potential romantic partner wouldn’t want to know the difference between sugary watery sap, frustratingly sticky pitch, and hard fossilized amber, a.k.a., “the place where dinosaurs come from”?

In the book’s largest section, Mitnick re-imagines 100 notable tree species as high school archetypes attending “Tree High North America.” He nails the coast redwood persona, evoking an irresistible class president and QB, “throwing completion after completion against his worthy but inferior competitor Douglas-fir.” The giant sequoia also gets a page in the proverbial yearbook, appearing as the big guy with a heart of gold. Mitnick’s otherwise droll description contains this sad line: “You can find him enjoying the game in the stands with a host of pals—sugar pine, ponderosa pine, black oak, and others—because he’s a giving tree who might not have all that much time left on this earth because of, well, ‘how things are going.’ ” 

For all its lighthearted fun, Must Love Trees is dotted with such sobering reminders of the threats facing the forests—evidence that as much as he enjoys jokes about Pinus crisus (Chris Pine), Mitnick is stone-cold serious about the need to cherish and protect the planet’s charismatic megaflora. Absorb enough of his pleas into your xylem and the book’s title takes on a deeper meaning: If we humans want these trees to keep doing their bizarre, beautiful, amazeballs thing, we gotta start showing them more love.

About the author

Kristina Malsberger works to enliven the conversation around conservation as the Writer/Storyteller & Editor at Save the Redwoods League.

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