My debut memoir, about searching for the Champion trees of British Columbia
A funny, deeply relatable book about one woman’s quest to track some of the world’s biggest trees.
When she first moved back west after nearly a decade away, Amanda Lewis was an overachieving, burned-out book editor most familiar with trees as dead blocks of paper. A dedicated “indoorswoman,” she could barely tell a birch from a beech. But that didn’t stop her from pledging to visit all of the biggest trees in British Columbia, a Canadian province known for its rugged terrain and gigantic trees.
The “Champion” trees on Lewis’s ambitious list ranged from mighty Western red-cedars to towering arbutus (madrone). They lived on remote islands and at the center of dense forests. The only problem? Well, there were many…
Climate change and a pandemic aside, Lewis’s lack of wilderness experience, the upsetting reality of old-growth logging, the ever-changing nature of trees, and the pressures of her one-year timeframe complicated her quest. Burned out again—and realizing that her “checklist” approach to life might be the problem—Lewis reframed her search for trees to something humbler and more meaningful: getting to know forests in an interconnected way.
Weaving in insights from writers and artists, Lewis uncovers what we’re really after when we pursue the big things—revealing that sometimes it’s the smaller joys, the mindsets we have, and the companions we’re with that make us feel more connected to the natural world.
- Biggest and Best: Finding My Literary Champions, a list of the books that influenced Tracking Giants—a blog post for the 49th Shelf
- A Tracking Giants playlist (Apple and Spotify)
- A list of my favourite books about trees
- My Creative Mornings talk about big trees and creativity
- BC Big Tree Registry
Gabriola Island Saturday, December 9, 2023, 1 pm, Gabriola Island Library. Free admission, all welcome.
Gabriola Island Saturday, January 6, 2024, 10 am, a walk and talk in association with Gabriola Land and Trails Trust. Free admission, limited capacity.
Gabriola Island Tuesday, June 6, 2023, 5 pm, Ground Up Cafe, 560 North Road. Free admission. Books for sale courtesy of Nanaimo’s Windowseat Books.
Vancouver Thursday, June 8, 2023, 6 pm. Massy Arts Gallery, 23 East Pender Street. In conversation with Arno Kopecky. Registration is free, open to all, and required for entrance. Books for sale courtesy of Massy Books
Victoria Tuesday, June 13, 2023, 7 pm. Bolen Books, Hillside Centre, 111-1644 Hillside Ave. Triple book launch: “Nature, Nurture, and Rewild.” Join Chef Robin Kort, Carolyn Redl, and Amanda Lewis in conversation with moderator Yvonne Blomer. Everyone welcome, free to attend (Facebook event). Books for sale courtesy of Bolen Books.
Sooke Tuesday, June 20, 2023, 7 pm. Sooke Region Museum, 2070 Phillips Rd. Presentation about Tracking Giants. Free to attend. Books for sale courtesy of Sooke Region Museum. Facebook event.
Metchosin July 7 and 8, 2023, Talk and Walk. Metchosin Council Chambers and Royal Roads.
Sechelt Sunday, August 20, 2023, 9 am. Sunshine Coast Literary Festival.
Salt Spring Island Saturday, September 16, 2023, 2 pm. Salt Spring Island Library.
Toronto Public Library (digital) in conversation with Edith George, Wednesday, September 20, 9 am PT, noon ET. Watch the recording.
Private event, West Vancouver, November 3, 2023.
- BC BESTSELLER for ten consecutive weeks
- #1 AMAZON BESTSELLER in multiple categories
Best book pick
- Featured in the Globe and Mail‘s spring 2023 preview
- A Zoomer Pick: 13 Books About the Biosphere
- Featured in CBC Books’ spring 2023 preview
- Recommended book for Earth Day (Sorensen Books, Monday Magazine) “I think it will become a must-have B.C. tree classic.”
- CBC syndication at 11 stations from Kelowna to Yellowknife and Cape Breton
- Interview with Reseed podcast
- Interview with Tree Lady Talks
- Interview with A Little More Good
- Interview with Thrive LouD
- Interview with Seeking Balance (about creativity, nature, overcoming chronic symptoms, and returning to wholeness)
- Interview with YourForest
- Interview with The Eco-Enthusiast Podcast
- Interview with Telus Talks with Tamara Taggart
- Interview with CBC North by Northwest
- Interview with CBC The Next Chapter
- Interview with Nola Simon on the Hybrid/Remote Centre of Excellence podcast
- Interview with Gail McDonald and Susan Sneath on The Change Zone
- Contributed an op-ed on tree pilgrimage in an age of wildfire to the Opinion section of the Globe and Mail
- Featured in a Fraser Valley Current article about searching for the Chilliwack Giant, a grand fir
- Excerpt in the Georgia Straight
- Q&A and excerpt in The Tyee
- Excerpt in Montecristo
- Featured in the spring 2023 issue of BC BookWorld
- Mentioned in this Global News piece on the nature economy, and BC’s old-growth forests
“Spiked with wit, self-deprecating humour, and a bright, light-beam approach to philosophy, Tracking Giants is dotted with beautiful descriptive passages and local tree history… This is progress, not defeat. The story grows its own captivating heartwood. At its centre is not the tree tracker, but the tree itself, that being connected to a complex system will, with care, outlast all of us, our quests to conquer, our ambitions to be the best and make our mark…. Anyone who reads this book will find themselves looking at trees in a new way, searching the sky for their crowns, and will marvel at not just their beauty, but their necessity. In the end, Lewis is no longer a hunter of Champions, but a champion herself – a champion of trees – no longer a seeker of transformation but a human being in service of something greater.”Quill & Quire
“An entertaining nature memoir about finding community in the forest…. I appreciated her calling out the colonialist mindset of ‘discovering’ big trees, and her conflicting feelings about naming Champion trees…. As a fellow completist, it was refreshing to see Lewis reframe the project to something that would be more enjoyable to her, instead of needing to achieve the biggest or best…. Lewis creates a compelling argument for creating your own path instead of following the one laid out by others.”Geist
“Balancing the personal and the small-p political can be tricky: too much of one risks self-aggrandizement or mawkishness; too much of the other virtue-signalling or stridency. Lewis avoids both extremes. Like all good creative non-fiction, the book borrows from the techniques of fiction, such as plot, rising action, climax, and denouement, as it relates the journey of the protagonist from inception of action to resolution. At the same time, this narrative subverts tradition—both through unconventional plot turns and welcome (often self-deprecating) humour…. More than the memoir of the growth of an amateur tree tracker, Tracking Giants: Big Trees, Tiny Triumphs, and Misadventures in the Forest is very much an instructive account of its time. The book is also at once embedded in the British Columbia landscape and a microcosm of the roiling global village.”The British Columbia Review
Advance praise for Tracking Giants
“In this intimate, open-hearted book of journeys and quests, Amanda Lewis gathers the wisdom of the woods in all its beauty and peril. Tracking Giants is, at its heart, a guide to seeing and being in the world. For those from away, it will also be a personal introduction to one of the most profoundly alive places on earth. For those who live in the Pacific Northwest, it offers the humbling and illuminating experience of being reintroduced to a place you thought you knew well.”John Vaillant, award-winning author of The Golden Spruce
“Fresh, funny, and bursting with vivid detail, Tracking Giants chases trees that can seem as elusive and enigmatic as the snow leopard. This is a quest that questions quests, a journey through forests of the land and mind—and one hell of a good time in the woods that we all depend on.”J.B. MacKinnon, award-winning author of The Once and Future World
“This is a wonderful truant of a book about our relationship with trees, with the precarious earth, with our own unchecked ambition. It begins as a simple solo quest to track some of the world’s biggest trees and emerges as a gorgeous manifesto for plotting a different course entirely. The timing of this book—with its wide roots and radical shoots—is just right.”Kyo Maclear, bestselling author of Birds Art Life
“Tracking Giants is a thought-provoking and very funny tromp through the understory in search of exemplary specimens. But it’s so much more than that, too. Amanda Lewis writes with exquisite perceptiveness about living well in an age of superlative pursuits, about timeless joy discovered beneath some of the earth’s last ancient canopies.”Charlotte Gill, award-winning author of Eating Dirt
“Holy conifers, I love this weird thing! I learned, I laughed, I sighed, I swooned. What an absolutely delightful romp through the forest, delivered with verve, joy, humility, determination, and grace. Amanda Lewis is the baddest of asses and I love this hilarious, heartfelt book and its quirky quest.”Kate Harris, bestselling author of Lands of Lost Borders
“Never mind windmills, if Don Quixote wore hiking boots, maybe his quest would be to find all the giant trees. And like Amanda Lewis, if he were a witty, introspective self-professed nerd getting in and out of ‘Trouble’ (her long-suffering compact car where jams are cranked) maybe he’d write Tracking Giants. Generous, self-deprecating, and wise, this entertaining, informative and inspiring book shows us that if a tree falls in the forest, we need to listen—there are so many reasons why it might fall. It teaches us to see the forest and the trees, to navigate through the thicket of the modern world and ultimately to find ways to care for ourselves and our planet.”Gary Barwin, bestselling author of Yiddish for Pirates and Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted
“A delightful and enlightening journey into the woods in search of superlative trees, Tracking Giants is a wonder-filled reminder that our forests don’t grow to be catalogued and clear-cut but to be enjoyed and cherished—from the biggest trees on down. In a loud world of big machines felling ancient groves, Amanda Lewis treads so softly here, with wit and colour, with care and passion, in an intimate exploration into how nature’s magnificent expressions, regardless of size or title, hold enormous capacity to inspire.”Harley Rustad, author of Lost in the Valley of Death and Big Lonely Doug
“Tracking Giants is a rich and leafy exploration of all things arboreal. Through her quest to visit all of British Columbia’s Champion trees, Amanda Lewis has written her way deep into the heartwood of humans’ intimate connection with our irreplaceable forests.”Michael Christie, award-winning author of Greenwood
“Absolutely engrossing. In Tracking Giants, Amanda Lewis takes us down forest paths that we’ll never want to leave, and gives us new friends in Champion trees. Along the way we’re introduced to the tree species that tower above the Pacific Northwest, which we encounter through history and art and expert botanical voices. On top of that, Tracking Giants is laced with humour. Clearly, Lewis is the perfect hiking companion!”Lyndsie Bourgon, author of Tree Thieves
“Is Tracking Giants an adventure story or a cautionary tale? A critique of pure ambition or a celebration of growth? Maybe it’s a portal to the forests of British Columbia, or an invitation to develop a relationship with that crab-apple tree down the street. It may be a gentle reminder that music makes everything better, or that love is another word for attention. Who knows? All we can say for sure is what Amanda Lewis gets—that good stories are like wild forests: Impossible to classify, and awfully fun to get lost in.”Arno Kopecky, award-winning author of The Environmentalist’s Dilemma
“I’d follow Amanda Lewis into the woods any day for more hilarious misadventures of a big-tree hunter. In her quest to track British Columbia’s Champion trees, she reminds us all to slow the fuck down, let go of expectation, and connect with this planet’s wonders, big and small. Oh, and to always pack snacks. Tracking Giants left me enchanted, informed, and chuckling.”Adria Vasil, bestselling author of the Ecoholic book series
“Tracking Giants is a book of arboreal delights, wisdoms, and many voices that reminds us of the value of slowing down and learning how to see the forest for the trees. You won’t want to miss out on this road trip with Amanda Lewis at the wheel, bombing down forestry backroads with Beastie Boys blasting, bushwhacking in the pursuit of rooted bigness, and ultimately getting lost and found in the beauty of small. Tracking Giants is the road trip without the map, the fascinating new friends you pick up along the way. Get in. Celebrating our arboreal Champions—both huge and small—has never been so much fun.”Trina Moyles, award-winning author of Lookout
“A towering, forest-bath of a book, lush with insight, humour, and wisdom on living a happy, interconnected life. I loved this book!”Carol Shaben, award-winning author of Into the Abyss