Summer Read: Six Million Trees by Kristel Derkowski

Any ideas what to do for the upcoming summer? Entice yourselves with a brand-new, summer read written by one our Carleton Architecture alum and graduate!

book title

About the author, Kristel Derkowski:


Portrait of author, Kristel Derkowski. Image by: Arron Griffioen

To pay her way through architecture school, Kristel Derkowski spent her summers working as a tree planter in remote labour camps across Canada. After graduating from Carleton in 2014 she went back to work in northern Ontario, where she experienced a few overly-wild adventures, possibly left the realm of sanity, and then wrote a book about it.

Six Million Trees is a brutally honest true story about hard work, bad living conditions, and the incredible community that thrives within them. Spanning three summers of tree planting in three different provinces (and three years of architecture school and three different continents), it’s mostly a memoir about a different way of life. It’s funny, fast-paced, and a little bit strange — following a group of young people who struggle together through the bugs and thorns and thunderstorms, through life-threatening injuries and illnesses, and through the kind of mental struggle that makes you question everything.

On the first day it was released, this highly anticipated book made it to #7 in New Releases, #21 in Books overall, and #2 in Biography/Memoir on Amazon.

Check out Kristel’s book here:

A Carleton legacy:

In the architecture school community, Kristel Derkowski was famous for being part of the worst accident ever to occur in the Building 22 Woodshop (which happens to be described in her memoir). Also known for constructing massive and sometimes illegal installations completely outside of the Studio curriculum. And also for showing up to a final fourth-year studio critique with literally zero of the requirements (… and still passing the course).

Book excerpt:

(Ch 18)

Day 29: that was when my shovel broke and started clinking. Something inside of the hollow steel shaft came loose, some little metal nut, so that every time I stabbed the ground my shovel went like:


That’s what it kept saying to me—every six seconds, or so:


And meanwhile, lungs heavy with phlegm, and orange brain fluid leaking from one nostril


Cranky elbows and that old splintering shin


And the buzzing of deerflies and the heaviness of ten more hours


And I’m not moving fast enough


Not moving fast enough and only ten more hours


Not moving fast enough and—


It was Mandog who said, as a rookie, what he learned:


That you can’t change the volume of the voice inside your head.


And me, I tried to change the volume because I wanted it to shut the fuck up.


And what I found was this:


It’s not nice to hear your internal monologue as though it’s yelling in your ears—


But it’s even worse to hear your internal monologue


In a stream of frantic whispering


When you’re alone for ten hours—


Don’t let your mind start whispering to you


Because that’s gotta be what drives people crazy.

Excerpt from:


Tree planting in a clear-cut forest. Image by Kristel Derkowski.


Silhouettes of tree-planters. Image by Kristel Derkowski.


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