It is a book that has sold more than 350,000 copies worldwide. About chopping and stacking wood. If you think that sounds unbelievable you are not alone, Lars Mytting think so too. And he wrote it.
Lars Mytting is a Norwegian author and journalist born in 1968. While he had written two previous novels it was with Norwegian Wood – Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way his career really took off. “We have a great culture for it (wood burning; our note) in Norway, with great affection both for the work itself and the atmosphere when sitting around the stove. We use enormous amounts of firewood, so much that it makes a big part of the energy plan in our country, and correctly used it is a very clean, renewable energy. So there is a lot to be said, really, but what really inspired me most to write, is how firewood makes a connection between man, nature and the seasons. There is a level of philosophy and love in it too”, Lars says when asked how come he decided a book about firewood was what the world needed.
The book has been said to include everything you need to know about wood, but were afraid to ask. And it is a comprehensive read, in Norway cutting and stacking wood is no laughing matter. Lars remembers a time when, during a Norwegian television show where they were stacking wood, suddenly complaints started pouring in. “Norway is split in two distinct schools: Bark up or down. Bark up is rigorously enforced along the coast, where the downpour comes as rain. Bark is water repellent, so it will drip off and not get into the wood. This is really an obsolete problem, because it is just to add a roof and the problem will be gone, but people stick to it anyway. In the inner parts of the country it will come as snow, and we also need 2-3 times more wood because it is colder. So we usually stack with bark down because it is easier to build a big, sturdy stack that way. There is also a notion that it dries better with the bark down, but that is not true, since it dries through the ends. Myself, I am a bark down- person. I have tried to stack bark up, but it does not feel right for me.”
But the power of the topic seems to go deeper than just a cultural love for wood in Norway, wherever the book has been released it has been a huge success. “A fascination with wood fires is deeply embedded in us, I think. We have sat around the campfire for tens of thousands of years, it has protected us against the cold and wild animals, and it must have left a mark on us. But far more important is the connection it gives us with the forest, the ability to use muscle and steel and good tools. And to modern, eco-conscious or self-sufficiency-oriented person I think it also is of great interest – just think of the very small infrastructure it needs compared to any other alternative - the power all comes from huge installations”, Lars says. Even so, he was still not expecting the enormous reception the book has received, be that in Norway or the world in general. “We started with a small print run and to our surprise it was sold out quickly. But think of it - everyone enjoys the cherished moment around the fire, and everyone knows someone that loves chopping wood. It proved a popular gift for the practical man who had only got ties and socks as Christmas presents during the last ten-fifteen years or so. I heard of many chaps that got four-five books for Christmas - they measured their reputation as woodsmen not if they got a book, but in how many they got.”
As a closing note Lars offers some advice on picking out tools, for the readers who have read the book and wants head out and starting chopping and burning wood right away, “buy the best, something that will last for years. There is a tremendous difference in the balance and feeling in a good axe versus a cheap imitation, even an inexperienced user will feel it anyway. (we recommend Gransfors Bruk Axes) Also, the craftsmanship for example of a good blacksmith is very enjoyable, not two axes are exactly the same, and the good Swedish brands are not extremely expensive either. You will build a wonderful patina on such tools - your work in the forest will be visible as a number of small scars and you will be reminded of many fine and laborious days.”
Source: Quercus Publishing