cover of book

The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree
by Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Paper: 978-0-226-76396-5 | Cloth: 978-0-226-76382-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-76401-6
Library of Congress Classification ML1015.G9G53 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 787.8719


Guitars inspire cult-like devotion: an aficionado can tell you precisely when and where their favorite instrument was made, the wood it is made from, and that wood’s unique effect on the instrument’s sound. In The Guitar, Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren follow that fascination around the globe as they trace guitars all the way back to the tree. The authors take us to guitar factories, port cities, log booms, remote sawmills, Indigenous lands, and distant rainforests, on a quest for behind-the-scenes stories and insights into how guitars are made, where the much-cherished guitar timbers ultimately come from, and the people and skills that craft those timbers along the way.

Gibson and Warren interview hundreds of people to give us a first-hand account of the ins and outs of production methods, timber milling, and forest custodianship in diverse corners of the world, including the Pacific Northwest, Madagascar, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Japan, China, Hawaii, and Australia. They unlock surprising insights into longer arcs of world history: on the human exploitation of nature, colonialism, industrial capitalism, cultural tensions, and seismic upheavals. But the authors also strike a hopeful note, offering a parable of wider resonance—of the incredible but underappreciated skill and care that goes into growing forests and felling trees, milling timber, and making enchanting musical instruments, set against the human tendency to reform our use (and abuse) of natural resources only when it may be too late. The Guitar promises to resonate with anyone who has ever fallen in love with a guitar. 

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